The band emerged out of England in the early '80s as part of the two-tone movement, the name given to the multiracial British ska revivalist camp that also included Madness, The Selecter and The Specials. Releasing only three proper albums in as many years, the Beat was dangerously infectious, with singer Dave Wakeling's croon and Ranking Roger's toasting front and center, and a crack band backing them up (saxophonist Saxa was a veteran of Prince Buster's and Desmond Dekker's bands, and was twice the age of the rest of the Beat's members; guitarist Andy Cox and bassist Dave Steel went on to form Fine Young Cannibals after the Beat ceased to go on). It's one of those bands that doesn't seem to crop up in 21st-century conversation that often, yet when one of its songs comes on a barroom jukebox, everyone seems to simultaneously exclaim, "Oh, I love this song!"
Those songs include the anti-Thatcher treatise "Stand Down Margaret," a killer reworking of Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown," the unsettling but catchy-as-hell "Mirror in the Bathroom," the toasting-heavy gems "Ranking Full Stop" and "Pato and Roger a Go Talk," which features a guest appearance from Pato Banton, the flawless suave pop of "Sole Salvation," and MTV hits "I Confess" and "Save It for Later," the latter of which contains the immortal line, "Just hold my hand while I come -- to a decision on it." I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The English Beat is one of the few bands of that era that doesn't sound the least bit dated (save the Thatcher jabs), and one that I still find myself listening to with regularity 20 years after the fact.
And even though I have no idea how many original members are in the reformed Beat (the show is being promoted as The English Beat/Dave Wakeling, so we've got that much going for us), I do know one thing: I'll be giddy as a teenager in anticipation of finally seeing those songs performed live. I only hope they're still selling those cool mod-girl T-shirts I wanted so badly when I actually was one.
The English Beat performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, January 11 at Backstage, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Advance tickets are available for $12 at Zip's University, Zia Records, online at www.ticketweb.com, and by phone at 1-800-965-4827.
CHERRY ON TOP: Though garage punk label Estrus released its self-titled debut disc last May, The Cherry Valance is an anomaly to the usual Estrus fare. More garish than garage, the band emits pure sleaze rawk in an early-'70s Detroit kinda fashion, or as Solid Donkey's Julia Groves puts it, "They sound like Funhouse-era Stooges, but with a Southern-fried groove thing happening." I concur, and as good as the Valance sounds on record, we all know bands like this are meant to be witnessed live.
Your chance comes at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15 at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Appropriately, Solid Donkey and recent Philly transplants The 440s will open the show. For more info call the friendly folks at the club at 670-9202.
RUN WITH IT: It's rare to find support for local music on Tucson's commercial radio dial these days, which makes 96.1 KLPX-FM DJ Chita ever so refreshing. When she was negotiating with the station previous to her hire, part of the agreement was that during her shift the bigwigs allow her to rattle off a list of gigs happening that night at local venues. Live and Local has been a featured part of her show ever since, airing daily at 3:50 p.m.
Now, though, she's taken the idea one, no, make it two, steps further. First, she started a Web site (www.liveandlocal.net) which provides the same info as the daily radio updates, as well as local music-related links and news. And since she's blessed with a face that allows her entry into the world of television (trust me, most DJs are in radio for a reason), this week sees the debut of the televised version of Live and Local, airing daily at 5:20 p.m. on UPN 18-KTTU, officially making Chita Tucson's Queen of All Media. The TV spots will differ from the radio ones in that they will focus on shows going down on the following night (i.e. Thursday's edition will feature Friday's shows) since it runs later in the evening. And while Chita's quick to thank UPN's Jessica Northey, Claudia Montgomery and the station's production staff for their efforts in getting the show off the ground, we all know none of it would be happening if it weren't for Chita herself.
So the next time you call up KLPX to pester her to play "that one Doors song with the cool organ part," take an extra second to thank her for all of her efforts in promoting local music; she's one of the few who actually cares.
OH MAMA: The unfortunately named mamaSutra is a jazzy funk trio that sounds a bit like a sultrier, slowed down version of Jamiroquai's smooth grooves, but with a stretched-out jam band aesthetic. Thanks largely to loops 'n' samples technology, the band sounds way bigger than it is, and though I'm not an avowed fan of white boy (or girl, as the band's singer and bassist is one Molly Boyles) funk, the trio is just soulful enough to pull it off gracefully. Just the ticket if you're looking to get your weekend groove on.
MamaSutra appears at 9 p.m. on Friday, January 11 at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. Call 623-8600 for cover info and further details.
GOOD NIGHT: Fronted by Nils Frykdahl of now-defunct San rancisco groove-theater combo Idiot Flesh, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum retains that band's sense of artfulness while incorporating a sense of soft-loud dynamics pushed to the furthest extreme. Wandering from minimalist, quiet passages to explosions of sound not for the faint of heart, the band can be downright terrifying in its live sonic juxtapositions.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum appears at 9 p.m. on Saturday, January 12 at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Your $5 admission also includes an opening set by local weirdos Cortex Bomb. For more details call 884-0874.
RIALTO REVIVAL: As of this writing Tucson is short a few venues. For various reasons, Double Zero, Skrappy's and The New West have all, at least temporarily, closed their doors for business. Here's hoping that each can clear up its respective difficulties and soldier onward. (For the record, Vaudeville was closed for a week merely to lay a fancy new wooden floor, and should be reopened for business by the time you read this.)
The Rialto Theatre, meanwhile, hasn't hosted a show in a few weeks, largely due to the lack of bands touring during the holiday season, but they'll make up for it with four shows booked for this week.
Orange County's Kottonmouth Kings are sorta like the Cypress Hill of Nu Rock in that just about every other song boasts about their love for the devil's weed. Still, they frame their passion using a relatively unique rap-rock-reggae palette where most others in the genre merely paint by numbers.
The Kottonmouth Kings appear at 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 10. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Zip's University and all Zia locations.
At it for more than 20 years now, Beausoleil, one of America's premier Cajun bands, was recently nominated for its umpteenth Grammy award. The band, fronted by vocalist and fiddler Michael Doucet, has brought pop influences to the traditional genre, thereby introducing an entire generation of NPR enthusiasts to Cajun music.
Beausoleil appears at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 12. Advance tickets are available for $16 at Hear's Music, CD City, Antigone Books and all Zia locations, online at www.dotucson.com, and by phone at 327-4809. They'll be $20 at the door.
Having stripped down from a quartet to a trio, Kittie has lost none of its venom or bile. Forget the fact that they're girls; the band is far more pummeling than just about any testosterone-fueled outfit in the Nu Rock camp. (In fact, they're really closer to death metal than they are most of the stuff of KFMA's playlist.) If only they'd remembered to actually write some songs, we might have something here.
Kittie, along with openers Ill Nino, Chimera and No One, performs at 8 p.m. on Sunday, January 13. Advance tickets are available for $14 at Zip's University and all Zia locations.
I'm not going to talk anyone into or out of going to see Eric Johnson's Alien Love Child (though if I attempted either, it would be the latter). Those who have a fondness for technical guitar wizards like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai (I don't) have likely had their tickets in hand for weeks already, and to them I say: enjoy.
Eric Johnson's Alien Love Child, plus local opener Warp 3, performs at 8 p.m. on Monday, January 14. Tickets are available for $20.50 in advance at all Zia locations and Zip's University.
All of these shows take place at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. For further details call 798-3333 or log onto www.rialtotheatre.com.