You likely know the drill by now, but just in case you recently popped outta yer mommy, here's the deal, yo: For the measly cost of five bucks in advance ($7 on the night of), you gain access to performances by roughly 100 bands and performers, on a dozen or so stages in clubs that normally feature live music and on outdoor stages constructed specifically for the event. This year, all permits required to close off Congress Street have been approved, thus creating even more room for outdoor stages than usual. Hallelujah!
So whether you rarely get downtown to see live music (if ever there was a night to splurge on a babysitter, this is it), or are a regular who's out to sample new acts or see old favorites, this is one of two times a year (Fall Crawl being the other) when virtually the entire Tucson music scene is on display for your listening/viewing pleasure.
In the words of everybody's pal, Mr. T: "Don't be a fool, stay in -- er, get your ass down to the Club Crawl, dammit!"
Club Crawl begins at 8 p.m. and runs 'til 1 a.m. at venues and stages all along Fourth Avenue and Congress Street on Saturday, April 19. Advance wristbands are available at all Zia Record Exchange locations. For full details check out the handy insert in this very issue of The Weekly.
SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT: For every generation of music-loving teenagers (and beyond), there are bands that capture those very heady years in a sullen sort of way, a band that seems to have read your angst-riddled journal and set it to appropriately dark music.
For my generation it was The Cure and The Smiths, the former capturing the temporary bi-polar nature of nearly everyone at that age, with songs that were either bleak with longing or happy as a boy exploring his first clam, the latter being so utterly and empathetically depressing that it bordered on comedy. For the generation after mine it was Nine Inch Nails, who, along with the times, were even more desperate and violent. The common thread between these bands, and others who capture a similar vibe, is that they are really, really, dark and appeal to those who don't necessarily gravitate toward other similarly dark bands. (Let's face it, goths will listen to anything dark, regardless of whether it's any good. I'm talking about bands that transcend the goth thing to appeal to a wide swath of tastes.)
The current generation has AFI.
Though they began life over a decade ago as a somewhat generic hardcore band, the ensuing years have brought a series of lineup changes, increasingly complex songwriting, and, succumbing to the wishes of one Darth Vader, a cross-over to the dark side.
Longtime fans were nervous as a cat trapped in a daycare center when the band announced they'd signed to major label Dreamworks after a run of releases on indies (most recently Dexter Holland's Nitro imprint), and had enlisted high-profile producers Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) and Jerry Finn (Green Day, Rancid) to twiddle the knobs. Whenever a band signs to a major, their press kit always says of the new album something along the lines of: "(Enter title here) will please longtime fans, while gaining new ones," which usually means, "(Enter title here) has way-too-slick production that will alienate longtime fans, while nobody else will care one way or the other." AFI's latest, Sing the Sorrow, is one of the rare cases in which the press kit is right.
While it's true the new album incorporates elements that weren't there before--electronics and ethereal atmospherics--it still seems like a logical progression in the band's career, rather than a blatant attempt at radio play (which it has, indeed, garnered anyway). Sing the Sorrow is everywhere at once: subdued call and response harmonies explode into giant guitar explosions, innocuous pop-punk songs jerk into bloodcurdling screams, passages of somber Tool-like claustrophobia shift into joyous and catchy choruses. If you count Goths, punks, hardcore kids and anyone with who takes prescription medication--be it Ritalin or Prozac--as fans, the crossover potential is staggering.
And like The Cure, The Smiths, and Nine Inch Nails before them, lyrics like "I know I'll leave a stain because I bleed as we dance/We dance/We all have no chance in this horrid romance" (from "Dancing Through Sunday") ensure lovelorn brooders of all shapes, sizes, and musical tastes will grab hold for the watery-eyed ride.
AFI performs on Tuesday, April 22, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. The show starts at 8 p.m. with opening sets from Time in Malta and The Explosion. Advance tickets are available for $14 at Toxic Ranch and CD City, or online at www.ticketweb.com. Get 'em early, as the show will likely sell out. For more information call 798-3333.
BROOKLYN PIZZAZZ: From the currently hallowed rock 'n' roll ground of Brooklyn, N.Y., comes Les Savy Fav, who combine post-punk rhythms with the art-punk jitteriness of Gang of Four. There are fuzzy keyboards, lean and squalling guitar lines, and above all, Tim Harrington spitting literate, intriguingly obtuse, sometimes political rants like "This is the way the well people drink: mouths on the spigots of the sick people's sink." Many have hailed the band gushingly as one of the few who matter today, and those legions have one thing in common: They've witnessed the band's legendary (according to them, anyway) live shows.
Tucson gets the chance to become converted this week, as Les Savy Fav hits the stage of Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, April 23. Amor open the show at 9 p.m., and admission is $6. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-8848.
LOOKING GOOD: If the Edward Hopper painting "Nighthawks at the Diner" were set in a dusty saloon down South instead of an urban corner diner, its soundtrack would be Supermodel (2003, Rustic), the new album from Tucson's Mark Insley.
The tone is set instantly, with the album's opener, "Deep End of the Bar," a clever character study of barflies and their inevitably broken dreams, that contains the lines: "I guess I oughta call Maria just to let her know/See, I went out for some cigarettes about three weeks ago/And I wonder what she misses most, her Camels or her car/But I'm just treadin' water at the deep end of the bar." (The song also, unfortunately, uses the same rhyme twice--"Lone Star" with "bar"--but manages to make up for it by being the only country song I know that references Fellini.)
Elsewhere, there are late-night slowburners ("The Devil's Knocking"), two-step shuffles ("Heart Out in the Snow"), Tom Petty-esque roots-rock ("My Neighbor's Dog"), and gorgeous descending-chord ballads ("Bitter Rose") that are all anchored by solid playing and Insley's versatile voice, which can carry a bit of Steve Earle-ish sandpaper on one song, and croon smoothly, like Chris Isaak, on the next.
Celebrate the release of Supermodel, when Mark Insley performs at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Friday, April 18. The show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets from Love Mound and The Stellas. For further details call 622-3535.
ON THE BANDWAGON: You'd never guess that sunny San Diego could spawn a band like The Black Heart Procession, but then you also wouldn't have guessed that the words "Cusack in '04" would pass anyone's lips, either. Forget Southern California; this is straight-up Southern Gothic: somber, minor key chamber rock that is as beholden to antique pianos and pump organs as it is to guitars and drums.
The Black Heart Procession performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Thursday, April 17. The show begins at 9 p.m. with an opening set from Bartender's Bible. Admission is $10. For more info call 884-0874.
One of the questions I get asked often is, "When is Sam Taylor playing next?" I hope all those people are reading this because the beloved bluesman is making an increasingly rare appearance this week--he ain't getting any younger, y'know--for a pair of shows, along with the L'il Mama herself, electric violinist Heather Hardy. Both shows are at The Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave., the first being a regular ol' Saturday night gig, at 9 p.m. on April 19, and the second, a Boondocks Blues & BBQ at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 20, so come hungry. Admission for Saturday is $6, while the Sunday show is a buck cheaper. Call 690-0991 for further details.
While Belushe's, at 1118 E. Sixth St., normally books only local bands, this week they've got a wacky-ass touring band on the books. The Sound of Urchin is that rare band that artfully straddles the line between comedy rock and songs that could stand on their own, even if you weren't laughing. Jumping genres in the wink of an eye, the foursome incorporates everything from R&B, new wave, thrash metal and lounge jazz into their sonic stew. Still not convinced? The band has toured with Tenacious D, whose Jack Black has called them his favorite band, and Dean Ween, who produced the Urchin's RCA debut, You Are the Best (2002), has declared them "the second greatest band in rock today." They'll be at Belushe's on Sunday, April 20. For more info call 903-9039.
And finally, practitioners of the dying breed of old-school punk rock, San Francisco's Swingin' Utters, will team up for a show this week with actual old-schoolers Youth Brigade, who helped invent the stuff. (Youth Brigade's label, BYO, which stands for Better Youth Organization, turned 20 this year. In related news, I feel old.) Both will appear, along with openers Pistol Grip and Line of Fire, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 21, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway. Call 358-4287 for answers to those itching, burning questions.