SANTANA RETURNS, SORTA: Fuck Carlos Santana! Yeah, I said it: Fuck him! Here's why.

For years, Santana shows at the Pima County Fairgrounds were an annual summer tradition. They were as reliable as Roseanne going under the knife. He came, put on a great show, and Tucsonans turned out in droves. The place was always jam-packed, no matter what state of seeming disrepair his career was in at the time. We stood by our man. And he stood by us, returning summer after summer for our ritual enjoyment.

But then a funny thing happened: Our old pal Carlos collaborated with the likes of Lauryn Hill, Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton and Rob Thomas (FYI, I just flinched having to type that last guy's name) for a comeback album chock-full of adult contemporary, radio-ready, MOR crap, and what do you know, it actually worked! 1999's Supernatural sold roughly a bazillion-and-a-half copies and was awarded more Grammys than Vishnu has arms. Santana was back on top of the charts and the world.

But that same year, a few other funny things happened. Santana began putting on his pants--which he suddenly outgrew--both legs at once; his shit began smelling like roses; and he didn't perform in Tucson that summer. In fact, Mr. Big Shot hasn't returned to Tucson since.

So, fuck him. If he ever does come back, I say we boycott him.

But, then, we all love tradition, don't we? This week brings the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the music of Santana while still supporting my newly imposed boycott of the turncoat himself. The second show in the Sixth Annual Courtyard Concert Series features local 10-piece ensemble Steel Ribbon, led by guitarist Dale Romero, performing all your Santana favorites. The show begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. Advance tickets are available for $10 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City, Enchanted Earthworks, the museum's gift shop or online at They'll be $12 at the door. TMA members will receive a $2 discount. For more information, call 297-9133.

UNAGI IN THE HOUSE: The fact that Eels are appearing at Club Congress this week is quite a coup, as, in most cities, the band plays venues closer in size to the Rialto. In fact, at 2002's South By Southwest, an early slot by the band--at 7 or 8 p.m., when most people are still fueling up on barbecue for the long night ahead--attracted one of the largest crowds at one of SXSW's largest venues.

Reportedly, the band's tour manager tried to talk the band's creative force, E (yes, just E), out of performing at Club Congress because it is too small. But E insisted on playing there, and the rest, as they say, is E-story: Lucky local Eels fans will be treated to an unusually intimate show by the band.

I only wish I was one of them. I'm usually a sucker for the kind of downcast pop songs with charmingly witty lyrics and quirky production that E and his compadres can seemingly churn out in their sleep, but for some reason, I've just never connected with them. The problem (my problem?) is that they're just a bit too wry for me to buy it. I don't feel their passion, and when I'm forced to question a band's sincerity, it's pretty much over for me. Critics and fans alike bellow their praises, and I've tried to figure out what I'm missing, but have been forced to resign myself to the adage that there's no accounting for taste (except, apparently, in the case of Gigli). Still, I just may go to the show and give 'em one more chance to win me over. I just have this gnawing feeling that I'll be jealous of all the ecstatic fans around me who thought they'd never get to see one of their favorite bands in such a small venue.

Eels perform on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. MC Honky (one of E's side projects) will open the show at 8 p.m. Admission is $8. Call 622-8848 for further details.

ON THE BANDWAGON: All I know about Italy's Taxi is that they come highly recommended by the Knockout Pills, who, as a general rule, have superb taste in music. So, if you go see 'em and they suck, blame them, not me. You'll have instant access, too, because the KO Pills are opening the show, as are the Road Levelers. It all goes down around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 10, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. The number to call for more info is 622-3535. And while we're at it, we might as well inform you that, although the club is sticking to only opening its doors for business Wednesday through Sunday, it now opens at 11 a.m. on those days. And it's air-conditioned. And they just got two of those hi-tech plasma TVs--simply perfect this time of year for the career alcoholic with a lousy swamp cooler.

If you can say one thing about the Mr. T Experience, it's that they're reliable. You always know what you're gonna get, and that's the spiky, infectious pop-punk tunes that have made dozens of other bands that came after them a heapin' pile o' cash (Green Day, I'm lookin' at you). Which is really too bad, because these guys have been around since The A-Team was still on in primetime. The mall punks don't know, but the old-schoolers understand.

The Mr. T Experience performs on Sunday, Aug. 10, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress. The show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets by Stay at Home Bomb and the Retainers. Cover is a low, low $6. That number again is 622-8848.

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