MEMORIAL MUSIC MARATHON: Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and as if you didn't need yet another reason to stay put this weekend, here goes: Man, oh Manischewitz, there's an assload of fine shows worthy of your newly colored money this week. Let's get right to it, shall we?

LEND A HAND: To start, a pair of benefit shows:

Seekers twiddling their radio dials regularly have likely stumbled upon the excellently varied but always edgy sounds to be found at 103.3 FM. That's where you'll find Radio Limbo, a not quite FCC-approved station that at one time or another has played just about everything under the sun. Those same adventurous types have also likely noticed that in recent weeks the station has been off the air. "Why?" you ask. Well, one reason is money, or more accurately the lack of it.

To that end, a nifty lineup will gather this weekend for another one of those fabled Radio Limbo benefit shows. (Anyone but me remember that jaw-dropping version of the Minutemen's "Jesus and Tequila" by Calexico and Al Perry from a Limbo benefit of yore?) This time around, Señor Perry will be headlining the festivities, and the Pork Torta, the Okmoniks and Tucson Puppet Works will also be lending a hand.

The effervescent Chick Cashman will be your host for the evening, set to start at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 23, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. The number there is 622-3535, and there's a $5 suggested donation. While you're at it, bring some extra greenbacks to stock up on Radio Limbo gear--T-shirts, bags, bumperstickers, etc.--because the more money raised, the quicker the station will be back up and running.

The New Vibration is a decidedly New Age-y "free arts and spirit paper" that's been published locally for about nine months now. As with any free paper, funds are tight. (Just ask anyone on the business side of the rag you're now reading; or, for that matter, ask to see my paycheck sometime.) Thus, this week brings together a disparate group of acts for what's being billed as a "Spring Pan Fest," which is a decidedly New Age-y name for a benefit for The New Vibration. Those acts are: locals Sun Zoom Spark, Sugarbush, Manifold, The Squiglee Reks and Austin's Bozart.

It all goes down at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 23, at The Hut, 305 N. Herbert Ave. (at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street). There's a $7 suggested donation at the door. Call 623-3200 for more information.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: If you were planning a trip this weekend to some exotic locale, like Cuba or Zimbabwe (yeah, I know it's a stretch but stick with me here), take off that silly looking SARS mask and head out to the Rialto instead. Touted as a trip around the world without leaving Tucson, the historic downtown theatre is hosting two world music acts, and best of all, they're offering a sweet twofer deal--that's both shows for the price of one, as long as you attend the first and pick up your free tix while you're there--to encourage you to lace up your dancing shoes.

First up, on Friday, May 23, is Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, a 10-piece African band that combines traditional mbira (finger piano) music with electric guitar, bass and horns to arrive at a groove that is undeniable. Mapfumo's sound and political message were reputed to be central to the political uprising in Zimbabwe, which resulted in that nation's independence in 1980. Today, Mapfumo lives in exile in America, but continues to tour regularly with his big-ass band. The message may be political, but the sound is joyous.

Then, two days later, on Sunday, May 25, Valle Son, hailing from the rural village of Pinar del Rio, in western Cuba, makes a rare stateside appearance. The seven-piece, on its first U.S. tour, mines traditional son territory, driven by the clave rhythm, but incorporates elements of mambo and, especially, jazz. And, as is the Cubano way, they toss in an occasional ballad, as well. Muy sexy.

Both shows begin at 8 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets for each are $12 in advance, available at Hear's Music, the Rialto box office, online at, or by phone at 740-1000. Those attending the Thomas Mapfumo show on Friday will receive complimentary tickets for the Valle Son show on Sunday. For further details call 798-3333.

BONEHEAD ALERT: Making a return appearance to town this week in support of their latest album, Slippage (2002, New West) is Slobberbone, who call the somewhat surprisingly music-rich college town of Denton, Texas home (another Denton band, the Riverboat Gamblers, will perform in Tucson next week). The 'Bone merges the sound of two justifiably celebrated '80s bands--the punky rock of the Replacements and the punky twang of Uncle Tupelo--with a decidedly straightforward brand of pure rock and roll. That may sound like a lot to live up to, but, as LL might say, Slobberbone do it, do it, do it well.

Slobberbone performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, May 26. Opening at 9:30 p.m. is Tucson's Love Mound. Questions? Call 798-1298.

LORD HAVE MUSIC: Using only drums, dramatic vocals, and a thick, nearly guitar-like organ sound a la Quasi or the Solace Brothers (plus the occasional bass), Chicago-based oh my god crafts a quirky and infinitely listenable form of art rock on its just-released third album, Interrogations and Confessions (2003, NoVo), the follow-up to its Action Album, one of my favorites of last year. Aside from improved production, the new one is more of the same, and I've got no complaints about that.

Oh my god performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, May 23.

Camp Courageous and Joey Kendal begin the proceedings at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. Call 622-8848 for further details.

FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE: Aside from the fact that it's dark, moody, atmospheric, and boasts an abundance of piano, I have no idea why every critic and his grandma is comparing Pleasure Forever to Nick Cave. I'd instead recommend their new album, Alter (2003, Sub Pop), to those who want to like AFI, but are turned off by that band's slight leanings towards nu-rock. Instead, Pleasure Forever imbue their gloom with the swagger and grit of Iggy, and the dense noise of art-weirdos Cop Shoot Cop. But with, like, lots of piano.

Pleasure Forever perform on Sunday, May 25, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Openers the Starvations and Marscoverta begin at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. That number again is 622-8848.

ALMOST FAMOUS: Fans of Cat Power would do themselves well by checking out this week's performance of Jolie Holland, whose first solo album, Catalpa, was self-released last year. A founding member of the Be Good Tanyas (an ex-one these days), Holland is no mere Chan Marshall copycat (there's a healthy dose of Michelle Shocked's early work in there, too), but chances are, if you like one you'll like the other. Holland sounds like she's spent more time with Harry Smith's American Anthology of Folk Music than Marshall, and therefore sounds slightly more authentic, if less haunted.

Following a feature article in the SF Weekly, one reader wrote, in a letter to the editor: "A friend took me to see Jolie play at the Rite Spot the last evening I was in San Francisco--. Her songs make me want to write my true love a letter, tear my hair out, and sing a song to the open road. She is the spiritual heir of Walt Whitman and I am so pleased to be able to gloat that I saw her before she became famous."

Your chance to make the same claim comes this week, when she performs at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Wednesday, May 28. Amee Chapman and Vanessa Morrison open the show at 9 p.m. For further info call 884-0874.

ON THE BANDWAGON: Following two self-released CDs, Minnesota-based Haley Bonar released her third, --The Size of Planets, last year on Chairkickers', the label owned by Low's Alan Sparhawk. At the tender age of 19, Bonar's songwriting far surpasses her years, reminding of a rootsier Suzanne Vega. She'll appear along with Chairkickers' label mate Rivulets, aka Nathan Amundson (who has been compared to Nick Drake), at 9 p.m. on Monday, May 26, at the Red Room at the Grill, 100 E. Congress St. Call 623-7621 for more information.

Seattle's Camarosmith, which features ex-members of Zeke and Tucson old-schoolers Earl's Family Bombers, blazes into 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, May 28, along with locals the 440s and Wasted Aces. Things should kick off around 9 p.m., and you can call 670-9202 with any questions.

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