VOODOO CITYIs Tucson cursed? In the past few weeks, no fewer than four scheduled high-profile shows--Wilco, The Fall, TV on the Radio and Cat Power--have suffered last-minute cancellations. Let's hope it's not a sign of things to come this summer. As you peruse this week's music section, we recommend taking the Pascal route by crossing your fingers that all shows will go on as planned, just in case. After all, it can't hurt.
GOODBYE, HILLWILLIAMSAs mentioned in this space last week, this week sees one final blowout from local trio The Hillwilliams, who are calling it quits due to singer/guitarist Scott Lema's impending move to Wisconsin later this month. The bumpkins will be joined by a bundle of special guests for the shindig, including Mike Mihina (Love Mound), Ozlo, Neal Bonser (Fourkiller Flats) and Glen Corey (Greyhound Soul). Medics will be on hand to treat band members for alcohol poisoning, as necessary. Best of luck, Scott.
Catch The Hillwilliams for the last time at 11:15 p.m. on Friday, May 28, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is $4. For more information, call 798-1298.
THE ONLY BEAUTIFUL BOMBTaking time off from his duties fronting Waxwing, Rocky Votolato released his second solo album, Suicide Medicine, last year on Second Nature Recordings. Produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, the album is an affecting piece of work, as gorgeous sounding as its subject matter is bleak.
The title track likens the narrator's brain to a bomb whose detonation he can't control, before we learn the root of the problem: "Looks like it's over / Please remember all of the things I never got a chance to say / Like you look smashing in your fourth-grade picture / The one that we hung by the door / In our house that was so beautiful." And while such lines are typical, the album manages to come off more cathartic than maudlin.
Rocky Votolato performs on Tuesday, June 1, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Roy--a Seattle-area band that includes, for this tour, drummer Peter Manson of Eyes of Autumn (previously on the 54¡40' or Fight! label)--opens the 18-and-over show at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. Call 622-8848 for further details.
CONVERT THE CONFUSEDArt-rockers U.S. Maple hold the hard-to-fathom distinction of being one of the most bizarre bands on the notably risk-taking Drag City imprint. The band's early albums were often compared to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, likely because, like Beefheart's, the group's music sounds like it's being improvised. The catch is, it isn't. It's just painstakingly complex.
The Maple's latest album, Purple on Time (2003, Drag City), is said to be its most coherent and listenable yet. In a review published in these pages last year, Brian Mock said that Purple "might just be the U.S. Maple album that converts the confused," while their live show is most often described by folks in the know as "legendary."
See what all the fuss is about when U.S. Maple performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, May 29. Locals The Red Switch and Sugarbush kick things off at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $8. Questions? Give 'em a ring at 798-1298.
REAL DEAL BLUESFat Possum Records is known for giving raw, authentic juke-joint blues performers who are getting up in years their due (as well as the occasional young anomaly, like The Black Keys and our own Bob Log III). This week, the label brings its Fat Possum Juke Joint Caravan Tour to town to flaunt its gritty wares.
The bill is headlined by the electric blues of T-Model Ford and Spam, whose soulful style merges Chicago blues with the Delta blues of Mississippi. Also performing are slide master Cedric Burnside and Kenny Brown, Paul Wine Jones, who combines electric country blues with synchronized guitar and vocal lines, and always-excellent local opener, Tom Walbank. This show is the real deal, folks--the blues just doesn't get much better than this.
The Fat Possum Juke Joint Caravan rolls into Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 30. Advance tickets are available for $7 at the front desk of Hotel Congress or online at hotcong.com; they'll be $9 on the day of the show. For further details, call 622-8848.
FREE MUSICA pair of local retail stores have recently become unlikely venues for live music.
Each Thursday afternoon, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Rainbow Guitars is showcasing a wide variety of local performers in its pleasantly air-conditioned confines. If you're reading this rag on the day it hits the racks (Thursday, May 27), catch Lemonman, described to us in an e-mail as a combination of Pete Townshend and Jonathan Richman, with a fascination for cats and aliens. The next couple weeks will feature performances by the talented country-noir singer/songwriter Cathy Rivers (Thursday, June 3), and Delta blues-on-crystal meth wildman Bob Log III (Thursday, June 10). To top it all off, all shows are free. Rainbow Guitars is located at 2550 N. Campbell Ave., and all questions will be answered by calling 325-3376.
Meanwhile, Green Fire Bookshop will be featuring live music in a folk vein each Tuesday through Thursday night. While a full list of upcoming performers wasn't available at press time, the series kicks off on Tuesday, June 1, with singer/songwriter Kevin Pakulis, winner of this year's Tucson Folk Festival songwriting competition, and Bright and Childers will perform on Wednesday, June 2. You can find out more by calling 408-0677 or logging onto greenfirebooks.com. Additionally, the shop is seeking performers for future showcases. If you're interested in playing, use the above number or the e-mail link at the Web site. Green Fire Bookshop is located at 925 E. Fort Lowell Road. Admission is free, though there will be a tip jar for performers.
A TRIO ARRIVESChicago co-ed trio We Ragazzi combines the slightly yelpy-but-melodic vocals and angular-yet-bluesy guitar riffs of Tony Rolando, the fuzzy keyboards of Colleen Burke and the rhythmically sophisticated drumming of Alianna Kalaba to arrive at a sound that somehow avoids the danceable retroism adopted by most bands with a similar makeup. Though you could certainly dance to some of the songs on their latest album, Wolves With Pretty Lips (2004, Suicide Squeeze), there's a certain jazziness that sets them apart from other bands of their ilk.
We Ragazzi performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, May 31. La Cerca and Les Humanoids open at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5. Call 798-1298 for more info.
BLUESY, BRATTYA buddy of mine in Houston has been singing the praises of that city's Fatal Flying Guilloteens, who specialize in bluesy, bratty garage punk, for some time now. This week, the Estrus band headlines an impressive line-up that also includes fellow Houstonians NTX Electric, which includes members of Japanic; This Moment in Black History, whose dynamic guitar interplay recalls a more punk rock version of Television; and Tucson's The Knockout Pills, who are new labelmates of the Guilloteens.
It all goes down at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, at downtown's newest venue, Club La Nuit, 310 E. Congress St. Admission to the all-ages show is a fiver.
TUCSON LAUNCHThough I've yet to witness them live, based on the three-song demo they sent me, I'm duly impressed by Tucson's Fistsized. The trio somehow merges '70s cock rock riffs with jagged shards of punk guitar and '90s indie-rock artfulness, while the vocals are hardcore-influenced but far more melodic than that description would suggest. Each song sounds like it could be by a different band, yet it flows seamlessly.
Fistsized is about to embark on their first West Coast tour; before they do, check 'em out at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, May 28, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., along with The Radiolarians, The Answer Lies and Left for Dead. For details, call 622-3535.