I LOVE YOU, TAMMY: What can I say about Tammy? She's such a sweetheart, always there when--huh? Whazzat? Ohhh, the TAMMIES, right.

What can I say about the TAMMIES? You know the drill by now: big ceremony honoring the best the local music scene has to offer, as voted by you, the discriminating listener. 2001 sees the eighth annual shindig and, as in recent years, the emphasis won't be on the award-giving itself, but rather the series of live sets that accompany it. Yes, it's fun to see who won what, but the real kicker is that you'll be treated to performances from a wide representation of Tucson's finest.

George Hawke, the Sand Rubies, Tongue Dried Sun, Creosote, PH8, Los Carnivaleros, Ricky P. and the Blues Monsoon, Matt Mitchell, Mariachi Tapatio and Def Hefer will all splay their wares across the stage of the historic Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m, on Wednesday, July 25. Best of all, the event is completely free for all. Still in doubt? Whip it out to 798-3333.

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': Regular attendees of performances at local venue Solar Culture will want to note that, beginning with a pair of shows scheduled this week, proceedings will now begin promptly at 9 p.m., instead of that whenever-the-bands-feel-like-playing schedule we've all grown accustomed to. The move follows an e-mail poll conducted by SC proprietor Steven Eye wherein folks on the gallery-cum-performance space's mailing list voted for an earlier, more definite start time for shows by a two-to-one margin. With that out of the way, on to those two shows.

From her days in 28th Day 16 years ago to her present incarnation as frontwoman for The Go Luckys, Barbara Manning has retained her sense of self--that voice! those lyrics!--while experimenting with new sonic formulas (notably her baseball-obsessed work with SF Seals and her song cycle The Arsonist Story with Calexico).

While most aging and obscure veterans would tend toward the mellower stuff at this point in their careers, Manning has just released her second album with The Go Luckys, a nifty little slab of decidedly punk-flavored tuneage titled You Should Know By Now (Innerstate). The contrast between Manning's girly-sweet singing and The GL's frenetic fretwork works remarkably well, though the nitpicker would say the vocals could stand to be mixed down just a tad. The well-stickered tour van cover shot should clue you in to the fact that Manning and company have taken Henry Rollins' mantra to heart--they're getting in the van and taking it to the people, one room at a time. Regardless of what genre she's mining at the time, a Barbara Manning show is always a good investment.

Barbara Manning and The Go Luckys appear along with Tucson's Truck at 9 p.m. on Monday, July 23 at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $5 at the door. For more information call 884-0874.

The very next night sees the arrival of two up-and-comers, Jacksonville, Fla.'s The Mercury Program and Champaign-Urbana, Ill.'s The Firebird Band.

As evidenced on their new Tiger Style EP, All the Suits Began to Fall Off, The Mercury Program sounds exactly like Tortoise (I mean, exactly like Tortoise), never mind the press kit claims about their "trademark" vibraphone. Thrill Jockey must not have very good distribution in Florida.

Faring far better: From the ashes of late, lamented emo outfit Braid comes the phoenix that is The Firebird Band. Fronted by former Braid leader Chris Broach, and including Erik Bozek, late of Joan of Arc, the group is still on the road in support of its 2000 full-length, The Setting Sun and Its Satellites (Headhunter/Cargo). In the new band, Broach adds new-wave elements (i.e. keyboard washes and drum machines) to moody, guitar-based rock, à la the dark side of The Cure (though decidedly more angular). Even Broach's reedy voice evokes the younger, as-yet-unpuffy Robert Smith (meant to be a compliment), and while the indie-band-adds-new-wave-touches thing is nearly bordering on cliché by now, the tracks found here are fluid enough to convince you it's not a forced conceit. In short, it works, and it works well.

The Mercury Program and The Firebird Band appear at 9 p.m. sharp on Tuesday, July 24 at Solar Culture. Cover is five bucks, and that number again is 884-0874.

A BUCKET OF BLUES, A BIG-ASS JUG OF WINE, AND THOU: Bob Margolin learned to play guitar while he was growing up in Massachusetts, after first encountering the music of Chuck Berry. So taken was he with the man and his riffage that he decided to do a little hunting and pecking to find from whence it came. The sonic journey led him, of course, to the two Meccas of blues music, Chicago and Memphis.

But it was Muddy Waters, specifically, that really floated his dinghy. In the early '70s, when Margolin was gigging around the Boston area, a former Waters sideman introduced him to his idol and a casual friendship began. When Waters lost a guitarist just before a six-night engagement in Boston, he desperately turned to Margolin to sit in. The arrangement worked out, and "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin began a seven-year stint as Waters' rhythm guitarist. In 1980, he took his schooling and put it to use as leader of his own band, which will perform in town this week.

Bob Margolin performs at 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 19 at Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave (just look for the giant jug of wine out front). Tickets are $10 at the door, with a $3 discount for members of the Tucson Blues Society and KXCI-FM. For further details call 690-0991.

JOHN HENRY WAS A SORE-THROATED MAN: After a couple of releases on smaller labels, D.C.'s Darkest Hour pounded the pavement for a straight 24 hours post-gig to make it to Chicago in time for a scheduled audition for Tony Brummel, head honch of hardcore heavyweight Victory Records. The trip proved worth their trouble; taken with what the band describes as "[the sound] a semi makes when it crashes through the side of a truck stop that doesn't sell mesh hats," Brummel signed the band to Victory two months later. So Sedated, So Secure is scheduled to hit record bins at the beginning of August.

Keeping with the Victory m.o., Darkest Hour is heavy as fuck, all thick riffs that actually provide an unmistakable ambiance with parched-throat screaming over the din courtesy of John Henry (somebody get the guy a lozenge already, willya?). It's more recommended than your average hardcore band, and I'd be willing to wager the live show's a hoot.

Stuff yer ears fulla napkins before you head out to catch Darkest Hour, performing along with headliners Zao ("scenecore"?) and fellow openers The Bled and Sanctified, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 21 at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission costs $8, and you can call 620-1824 for more info.

DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY: Portland, Ore.'s Wow and Flutter's fourth full-length, Better Today Then (Jealous Butcher), sports some of the fanciest packaging that's come across the Soundbites desk in a coon's age. Featuring a letterpressed jacket seemingly hand-sewn together with black thread, and a stamp that must be broken to access the liner notes, the cover is obviously pandering to indier-than-thou packaging fetishists. Still, for those of us with a weakness for that sort of thing, it does pique curiosity.

What's inside, unfortunately, is what you'd expect. Lazy journos have compared the group to just about every goddamn indie rock band in existence (i.e. Low, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Sea and Cake, etc.), which only further raises expectations. But unlike those to whom it's been likened, W&F is, at its core, mind-numbingly boring.

Comparisons to Godpeed You Black Emperor! and Yo La Tengo (both also named in the bio) are far more accurate than those to, say, Sea and Cake (completely misguided and misleading), but again, those two bands have contributed wholly original content to the cultural canon, while Wow and Flutter merely goes through the motions in its attempt to capitalize on Godspeed's lull-becomes-climax concept. The trick, though, is that GYBE! keeps your attention during the "lull" portion of the song, but you're likely to fall asleep while Wow and Flutter tortoises its way to the "climax."

Wow and Flutter appears along with Texas ska-punks Skate or Die at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 20 at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. For further details call 670-9332.

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