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BALK!

I never claimed to be so good with math, or, for that matter, the concept of the calendar. And so, when I told you last week that Gene Armstrong would be your musical tour director this week here at Soundbites, I was mistaken. The Geners (think: The Donald) will actually be in the captain's chair next week, while I am away at the South by Southwest music conference, in Austin, Texas.

Until then, here's what you lucky Tucsonans can look forward to this week.


ON THE WAY HOME FROM AUSTIN

Speaking of SXSW, last Tuesday, we were treated to part one of our own little music festival, which capitalized on the fleet of acts on their way to Austin, and this coming week, it's time for part two, which catches even more acts on their way home from the Lone Star State. Yep, it's time for the glorious conclusion of the West by Southwest Tucson New Music Festival, which takes place at four downtown/Fourth Avenue venues on Monday, March 19, and Tuesday, March 20. Make no mistake: The acts performing at WXSW are no mere crumbs from the SXSW banquet table. In a couple of cases, in fact, they represent some of the most hyped performers at the Austin shindig. Here, then, is what your $8 wristband entitles you to:

Monday's schedule is somewhat abbreviated, and takes place at just two venues. Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., will feature their regular '80s dance night (your wristband allows you to skip the cover charge), while the live music action takes place over at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. First up, at 9 p.m., is Washington, D.C.'s These United States, who play cracked, haunted pop songs that wallow in twilight ambience. At 10 p.m., fellow D.C. residents Shortstack inject country and jazz elements into their galloping rockabilly. Then, at 11 p.m., it's the stunningly gorgeous, haunted neo-Americana songs of Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, which simultaneously manage to convey longing, misery and hope. Both clubs are 21 and up. Call Plush at 798-1298 and Club Congress at 622-8848.

The following night, Tuesday, March 20, things get back into full swing, with a seam-bursting slate of acts at all four participating venues.

The action at Club Congress begins at 7:30 p.m. with a set from Elvis Perkins, who you can read all about in Jarret Keene's feature article this week. At 8:30 p.m., 19-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini demonstrates why his brand of soulful adult pop catapulted him into a slot at Esquire magazine's SXSW showcase alongside Iggy and the Stooges, Spoon and Kings of Leon. At 10:15 p.m., Los Angeles' The Randies take over, fusing power-pop hooks, slash-and-burn punk and good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. The night ends with The Start, who at 11:15 p.m. showcase their brand of new wave revivalism.

Things get rolling at Plush at 9:30 p.m. with the self-proclaimed "violin-soaked punk folk rock" of Cincinnati's Peter Adams, followed at 10:30 p.m. by the splendid shoegaze-pop of Champaign, Ill., trio Headlights. Headlining is Page France, the blogosphere darlings whose largely acoustic pop has been favorably compared to Neutral Milk Hotel and The Decemberists. Check out what all the fuss is about at 11:30 p.m.

Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., is the lone all-ages venue participating in WXSW, and they've got a fine twofer for the younger-than-21 crowd. Locals young'uns The Swim have quickly become one of our most promising bands due to their winning variety of sweet indie-pop, which you can hear for yourself at 9 p.m. Then, at 10 p.m., it's Washington state's The Trucks, who you can read all about in this week's Rhythm & Views, courtesy of Ron Bally. For more information, call 884-0874.

The final venue in our whirlwind tour of SXSW is The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., which kicks the proceedings off at 9:30 p.m. with the wistful pop stylings of L.A.'s Let's Go Sailing, fronted by ex-Irving member Shana Levy. They'll precede the O.C.'s Vaquetones, who, with their self-described "Baja-Western" tunes, will take the 10:30 p.m. slot. At 11:30 p.m. Lubbock, Texas' Thrift Store Cowboys approximate what Calexico might sound like if they were a little bit more country--not a huge surprise when you consider the band recorded their most recent album, Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping, with Craig Schumacher at Tucson's Wavelab Studio. For further details, call 623-3200.


ROCK AT THE ROCK

While the West by Southwest lineup may be heavy on indie-pop and light on punk rock, fear not: The Rock has a more-than-solid triple bill for you punks to sink your teefs into.

Headlining is Gainesville, Fla.'s Against Me!, who, with their three studio albums and last year's live collection, Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!! (Fat Wreck Chords), have enthralled legions of critics and fans alike. The band's brand of politically minded sing-alongs has also landed them a contract with the venerable Sire Records, which will release New Wave, the group's upcoming studio album, in the spring. Expect to hear a preview of the new material at this week's show.

And while we're on the subject of killer punk sing-alongs, consider middle-slotters Riverboat Gamblers, who arguably write and play that stuff better than any band out there right now. The Austin-via-Denton four-piece are experts at combining slam-dunk melodies with ferocious energy, amply evidenced on last year's To the Confusion of Our Enemies (Volcom), but best experienced at one of the band's manic live shows.

Opening the show are alt-country-rockers Fake Problems, who call Naples, Fla., home.

Against Me!, Riverboat Gamblers and Fake Problems perform an all-ages show (bar with ID) at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 19. Admission is $15. For more info, call 629-9211.


GETTING SCHOOLED

From the bio of Detroit trio The Hard Lessons: "A reviewer once wrote: If you breathe, you will like The Hard Lessons. That's as accurate as it is hard to believe. There are no tricks or gimmicks. This is rock and roll." And you know what? They're right.

This week's gig marks the band's third local appearance, and each time they pass through town, they've seemingly grown by leaps and bounds. For evidence, look no further than their 2006 EP Wise Up! (self-released), which comprises four tracks of no-holds-barred punky rock 'n' roll, one midtempo, organ-abetted tune about being left behind in the Midwest after your significant other has moved to California, and, in "It Bleeds," a bona fide heartbreaking ballad that benefits from male/female vocal trade-offs. Recommended.

The Hard Lessons headline a show next Thursday, March 22, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., which also features openers Sputnik Monroe, The Beta Sweat (who have announced, much to our chagrin, that after a string of scheduled shows, they'll go on indefinite hiatus) and Sketching in Stereo, who start the night off at 9:30 p.m. For further details, call 622-3535.


ON THE BANDWAGON

In case you haven't yet heard, the Tool show originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 21, at the Tucson Convention Center Arena has been postponed. Due to drummer Danny Carey's torn bicep, the show will now take place at the same venue on Sunday, May 6. Tickets originally purchased for March 21 will be honored on May 6.

And, finally, it saddens us to report that Tucson resident and jazz guitar legend Dickie Thompson passed away on Thursday, Feb. 22. He won't soon be forgotten, and we send his friends and family our deepest sympathies.

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