R.I.P. K.O. PILLS
As far as local bands go, we seem to be in one of those transformative periods that happens every now and again. Maintenance split town for Portland, Ore.; Manifold recently broke up; Chango Malo lost a guitarist (then picked up a new one from Manifold).
Now comes word that one of Tucson's best punk/rock 'n' roll bands has broken up. We had been forewarned a few months ago that The Knockout Pills' demise was imminent, but were at least heartened by the fact that they were working on a new album together. And a new album means a few more shows, right? Well, as it turns out, the band has officially called it quits, with the new album still in progress. We checked in with Knockout Pills guitarist Jason Willis to find out what the hell is going on, and here's what he had to say: "Basically, one of the guys' heart was no longer in it, and since no one wanted to fight to keep it alive if everyone wasn't happy, we pulled the plug. At the end, there were 19 recorded songs in various states of completion, and though it'd be a heartbreaker to most of the band if we never got to finish them up, I can honestly say that while we were around, I wouldn't have traded places with any other group out there."
Amen. Here's hoping those tracks see the light of day, and that the band reconsiders long enough to give The Knockout Pills a proper burial (i.e., a farewell show so we can hear all those great songs played live one last time). In the meantime, thanks, guys, for all the great music and memorable gigs over the last several years. You'll be sorely missed.
THE LOVE IS BACK
It's hard to believe that it's been 12 years since Philly trio G. Love and Special Sauce released their self-titled debut album (Epic, 1994), but it has. At the time of the album's release, nothing out there really sounded like it--a groovy mix of blues, funk, hip-hop, Cab Calloway-style call and response, and an overall sense of hazy, lazy fun. The follow-up, 1995's Coast to Coast Motel, was equally as inspired and emphasized the groove more than anything else. But then a downward slide began, and the group's albums started sounding a bit similar and a lot uninspired, as the live show started emphasizing the trio's jam-band tendencies to ever-lessening gains. A trio of disappointing albums on 550 Music/Epic followed, and many of the group's fans seemed to fall out of G. love.
But when surfer dude/mellow man on campus Jack Johnson started his Brushfire imprint, he signed G. Love to the label--a move that seems to have reinvigorated the G-man. On 2004's The Hustle, he fleshed out the familiar trio sound of Special Sauce--bassist Jimmy Prescott and drummer Jeffrey Clemens--with guest spots from Money Mark and Johnson, and the production of Mario Caldato Jr. Last month saw the release of Lemonade, which reportedly continues the upswing and the formula of The Hustle. This time around, the arrangements are abetted by guests such as Blackalicious, Jasper, Tristan Prettyman and, again, Johnson, plus plenty of keyboard sounds (Wurlitzer, Hammond, clavinet) to keep things interesting. It's been getting consistently good reviews, and all signs point to a comeback. If you dug G. Love's earlier albums, but lost interest when the meandering began, it may be time to give him a second chance.
You'll have the chance to do so when G. Love performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The all-ages show kicks off at 8 p.m. with an opening set from Marc Broussard. Save yourself five bucks by buying tickets in advance for $20 at the Rialto box office or online at www.rialtotheatre.com. They'll be $25 at the door. For more information, call 740-1000.
THE BLUES ARE BACK
Widely acknowledged today as the living king of Chicago blues, Buddy Guy seems to be one of the first names out of the mouths of modern blues guitarists when asked about their influences. Though he started out in Baton Rouge, La., in 1957, Guy traveled to the Windy City with a guitar and a dream. It didn't take long for him to make some very powerful friends, Muddy Waters and Magic Sam among them. Though he was still searching for his own sound, in 1958, Guy recorded a pair of Willie Dixon-produced singles for Cobra Records' subsidiary label Artistic that caught a lot of people's attention.
When Cobra went out of business, Guy found a new home at the legendary Chess Records, as well as his trademark sound, which ranged from heartfelt, tortured ballads to blistering leads that leaned heavily on the whammy-bar. In addition to releasing music under his own name while at Chess, he began playing on loads of sessions for the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Koko Taylor, Sonny Boy Williamson and Waters. The ensuing years saw a succession of labels (Vanguard, Blue Thumb, Atlantic) and a steady collaboration with Junior Wells.
But for years, Guy's career remained somewhat stagnant--at least in this country. While overseas labels continued to churn out releases by Guy, by the time his comeback album, Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, was released on Silvertone, in 1991, he hadn't released a new album in the United States for more than a decade. Featuring guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck, the album ushered Guy back into the spotlight, earning him critical praise and a Grammy Award in the process. Since then, his output has been rather erratic, ranging from the stripped-down-'n'-dirty Sweet Tea (Jive, 2001), to the soulful but mild-mannered Bring 'Em In (Jive, 2005). This week, Guy stops in Tucson for a pairing that seems somewhat odd, but given his unpredictability, maybe there is no "odd" in his world.
The show will be co-headlined by George Thorogood, a Delaware-born dude who copped all he could from the Chicago masters, added some Chuck Berry riffs and rode the sound to much popularity during the late '70s and throughout the '80s. Whatever you think of the guy--there's not a tinge of originality to be found in his music, etc.--you've got to at least give him credit for keeping blues-rock alive following its '60s heyday, and before Stevie Ray Vaughan and his acolytes came along. And, hell, without him, that "Bad to the Bone" T-shirt you thought was so cool in third grade would never have existed.
Buddy Guy and George Thorogood perform next Thursday, Sept. 21, at AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. with opener Elvin Bishop, the blues vet best known for his 1976 light-rock hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love." Advance tickets are available for $65 (gold seating), $45 (pavilion) or $20 (lawn) at all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 321-1000. For further details, call 883-1700 or (800) 344-9435.
ON THE BANDWAGON
The big question regarding this week's scheduled appearance at Plush by the Brian Jonestown Massacre: Will they show up and play? Last time around, they didn't, which is somewhat fitting for this revolving-door neo-psychedelic drone outfit that revolves around the whims of Anton Newcombe, the group's sole constant member. If you've seen the rock doc DiG!, which chronicles the ups and downs of the Massacre and their frenemies, The Dandy Warhols, you know what I'm talking about (and if you haven't seen the film, put it in your Netflix queue, pronto!). In the film, Newcombe may come across as a sociopathic, drug-addicted and possibly mentally ill asshole who plays by his own rules. But he also comes across as passionate and sincere, qualities lacking in the Dandies camp, which seems to be populated by self-obsessed opportunists.
The Massacre is anything but predictable, a quality that, for better or worse, abounds in their live shows, which can be by turns boring, transcendent or somewhere in between. If they bother to show up at all, that is--a risk you can take on Monday, Sept. 18, when they're once again scheduled to perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., along with openers Bright Channel, who start the night off at 9:45 p.m. Admission is a Hamilton. Call 798-1298 for more info.
Club Congress brings you a pair of local-centric theme shows this weekend. First up, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, is the wrap-up party for the new issue the Tucson literary journal known as Spork. Admission is free, but bring along $10 for a copy of Spork 5.1, which features live performances from Molehill Orkestrah, Al Perry, Pearl Handled Pistol and Naim Amor.
Then, on Saturday, Sept. 16, the club brings you the annual Greaseball. Despite the absence of perennial host Hot Rod Ron, the show will go on, with performances from Grave Danger, Last Call Brawlers and Shrimp Chaperone. As usual, the parking lot will be packed with vintage hot rods, and there will be vendors aplenty set up in the hotel lobby. This one starts at 9 p.m. and will set you back a fiver. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St., and you can call 622-8848 for more information about both of these shows.
There are many more shows this week that we simply don't have space to tell you about here, so be sure to give our club listings a gander to check out your other options.