WORSHIP AT THE TEMPLE: In what we can only hope will become an ongoing holiday-time tradition (this is the second consecutive year), some of the biggest names in local music are banding together for a fundraising extravaganza to benefit community radio station KXCI, along with the art studio and gallery/performance space known around these parts as Solar Culture Gallery.

Returning from last year's lineup are Calexico, whose 2003 album Feast of Wire (Quarterstick/Touch and Go), appeared on just about every year-end best-of list around (including 3 out of 4 of the Weekly's critics' lists); honey-throated chanteuse Neko Case, whose appearance this year is as co-headliner, with her stellar band in tow, as opposed to last year's guest spot, performing with Calexico backing her; and the ever-entertaining one-man fiesta that is Salvador Duran. Also on this year's expanded bill are British blues singer/guitarist/harmonica player Tom Walbank and multi-talented multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Nick Luca.

As with last year's benefit, the show will take place in the rather tony confines of the Temple of Music and Art, which at least one attendee at last year's concert described as "the absolute perfect venue for a Calexico show." (Or, as I heard a KXCI DJ say recently, "They don't call it a temple for nothing.") But be warned: if you're planning on checking it out, you should pick up your tickets, like, yesterday, as the show is guaranteed to sell out.

A Benefit for KXCI and Solar Culture begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330. S. Scott Ave. Advance tickets are available for $15 at KXCI during business hours. For more information, call 623-1000.

FRENCH TICKLER: Regular readers of this column know that we're suckers for any event that juxtaposes disparate performers in unusual, inventive and unexpected ways, and even more so when there's genuine musical risks being taken. The result can run the gamut from train wrecks to positively sublime (call it the Grateful Dead or Howe Gelb school of rock), and it takes some pretty hard-boiled eggs to engage in such an affair, after all.

So, it should go without saying that we're awfully darn excited about a show next week being billed as The French Tourist Investigates Aspects of the Luminous.

Astute scenesters are likely familiar with The Little Rabbits, the French band that visits Tucson semi-regularly to record with producer Jim Waters at his Waterworks West studio, and to perform the occasional show. (The band performed a few weeks ago at Plush. ) That band's Laurent Allinger is the "French Tourist" in the show's title, and here's what attendees can expect: Allinger will be manning the wheels of steel, performing as turntablist, for the entire night. Meanwhile, a host of local luminaries will take turns onstage, musically interacting with him. What makes it especially cool is that the list of participants represents such a multitude of genres, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with turntablism. Performers include Clif Taylor (aka Chick Cashman), Jeff Grubic (aka Mr. Tidypaws), Al Foul, Naim Amor, Al Perry, The Solace Brothers, members of The George Squier Orchestra, plus special surprise guests. It should prove to be interesting and inspired at the very least, occasionally mind-blowing if we're lucky.

The French Tourist Investigates Aspects of the Luminous kicks off at 9:30 p.m. next Thursday, Jan. 8, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover charge is a mere $3. Call 798-1298 for further details.

LOCAL RUMBLINGS: In 2000, more than 187 tribal nations from around the world gathered in Tucson for Thunder in the Desert, which sought to answer the question: Where will your spirit be when the sun rises in 2004? It became the world's largest Native American media-covered event, and was such a moving experience for those who attended that the elders and indigenous communities have asked for it to be repeated an additional three times, to fulfill the sacredness of the number four. The second gathering, again here in Tucson, runs from Wednesday, Dec. 31, to Sunday, Jan. 11, at the Rillito Raceway Park. Future events are set to take place in 2008 and 2012.

The event, open to all, seeks to "showcase the strength, beauty and endurance of (indigenous peoples') spirituality, traditions and cultures," and will feature parades, fashion shows, birds of prey, equestrian events, pow-wows, a midnight friendship dance, elders', veterans', children's and world indigenous people's exhibition days, and concerts.

One of the musicians set to perform several times during the event is violinist and Arizona native Arvel Bird. Though he's experienced in everything from classical to blues, jazz to Irish/Celtic, Cajun to country (he toured for six years as part of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour where, in addition to Campbell, he played alongside Nicolette Larson, Jim Stafford, and the late, great John Hartford; and he later performed with the likes of Tom T. Hall, Ray Price, Clay Walker, and Loretta Lynn), as a solo performer he concentrates largely on performing at Native American fairs, festivals, conventions and pow-wows. And in that growing market his star is rising; last year, his album Fiddle Tunes For The Birds (2001, Singing Wolf) was nominated for two Native American Music Association awards. Currently, he's working on his third collaboration with Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist William Eaton.

For further information about Thunder in the Desert, and when to catch Arvel Bird, log onto htm or call 622-4900. The Rillito Raceway Park is located at 4502 N. First Ave.

CHEAP KILLS: One of the most oft overlooked and underrated current practitioners of blissed-out, '60s-influenced, psychedelic jangle-pop, San Francisco's The Brian Jonestown Massacre makes a local appearance this week, just a few short months after their last one. The band's recorded catalog is awfully damn consistent in both sound and quality, but their live shows can be a bit risky. We've seen 'em numerous times over the years, and our experiences have ranged from delightfully sated to terminally bored. (Sadly, you can't experience a live performance through headphones, with a bong in your hand.) Still, at a mere $4 cover charge, it's a risk worth taking.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre takes the stage at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Jan. 2. The Willowz open the show at 9:30 p.m. Questions? They've got answers at 798-1298.

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