Considering the darkness and mystery projected by Maynard James Keenan--Arizona resident and frontman for Tool, Puscifer and A Perfect Circle--via his bands' music ("Stinkfist," anyone?), live performances (he's rarely visible to the audience, preferring to lurk in the hazy shadows) and videos (those creepy Tool stop-motion animation clips), one might not guess that, outside of his art, he really seems like a pretty normal guy.

Oh, sure, he's a rock star with a penchant for wine, and the cash to buy his own vineyards. But, as it turns out, the guy who wrote "Hooker With a Penis" isn't just indulging a rock-star fantasy; he's damn serious about his wine.

Keenan and his renowned winemaker partner, Eric Glomski, have started Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, making wines from grapes grown at their own vineyard in Willcox, with, as a recent article in the Phoenix New Times put it, one goal: "putting Arizona on the fine-wine map."

Of course, the whole rock-star thing can't hurt that mission: It's tough to imagine that Whole Foods would have signed on to distribute Arizona Stronghold's wines nationally if Keenan's name weren't attached. On the other hand, the wines coming out of Keenan and Glomski's vineyard are reportedly fantastic.

As for that sweet distribution deal, Keenan and Glomski have been showing their appreciation by embarking on a bottle-signing tour of regional Whole Foods stores that will bring them to the Tucson location at 3360 E. Speedway Blvd. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more info, call the store at 795-9844.


Tucson musicians have a long tradition of helping their own in times of need, and these days, Glenn McKinney is in a time of need. In recent months, the Straight Shot bassist--and onetime Frank and Woody Show member--has endured back-to-back heart attacks and a compound fracture of the wrist. Luckily, he's got some good friends to step in and help out.

McKinney's buddy Frank Manhardt and his band Roadhouse will do most of the work at a benefit show from 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. But the floor will be opened for what they're calling "a traditional rock and roll and rhythm and blues jam," too, which means if you play an instrument, bring it along, and join in for the cause. The suggested minimum donation is $5, but any donation will be accepted, and no one will be turned away. Food will be available for purchase. For more information, call 690-0991.


You've gotta hand it to The Slackers. As one of the first and best bands of the third wave of ska in the 1990s, they've outlasted and outclassed just about every other American ska act. Perhaps it's due to their versatility; rather than simply merging ska rhythms and horns with punk rock, as so many bands of the era did, The Slackers showed a bit more respect for ska's roots, drawing from reggae, soul, dub and jazz along the way. Hell, any ska band that covers a Nat Adderley tune on its first album is all right by me.

The point is, they're clearly lifers who have been in it for the love of the music the whole time, no mere bandwagon-jumpers. In the last three years, the New York City band has quietly released a pair of critically lauded albums, 2006's Peculiar (Hellcat), a generously overdubbed live set that was all over the map stylistically, and 2008's Self Medication (Indication), which loomed largely in a rocksteady mode. Who the hell knew good ska albums were still being made?

Catch The Slackers at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Monday, Jan. 5. Doors for the early all-ages show open at 6:30 p.m., and Monterey and Evil Fudd perform as support. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $12 on the day of the show. For further details, call 622-8848.


I must admit that I'd never so much as heard of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Steve Waitt before I learned that he was coming to town this week, despite the fact that he grew up here in Tucson. In between Tucson and Brooklyn, he's done his share of rambling, to San Francisco, New Orleans, Belize and beyond, and you can hear traces of all of it in his music: There's the Bay Area fog in the gloomy minor chords, a touch of New Orleans jazz in his piano phrasing.

I'm not going to go on a rant here--though I could--about the unwieldy proliferation of soulless singer-songwriters in the last couple years, but suffice it to say that Waitt sounds pretty great to these jaded ears. Waitt's voice, in fact, is full of soul--Time Out New York accurately compared it to Bill Withers--and a tune like "Lay It Down" (from his 2008 release, Blue Parade, on Heathouse), with its male-female vocal interplay, sounds something like a richer-voiced James Taylor fronting '70s-era Fleetwood Mac. OK. I just realized, after writing that, that he sounds a lot better in practice than on paper.

Steve Waitt will perform a free concert at the 17th Street Market, 840 E. 17th St., on Saturday, Jan. 3. Music runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an opening set from Kerryn Tolhurst, a Melbourne, Australia, native and Tucson resident of whom the market's media director, Bonnie Brooks, writes: "Kerryn Tolhurst is credited by many music historians and critics as being among the first musicians and songwriters to shape the unique fusion of Australian country, folk and rock music that has become a major influence in the nation's cultural legacy." For more information, call 792-2588.


Club Congress will be the site of Haitian Relief, billed as "a Haitian hurricane workers' relief benefit," on Friday, Jan. 2. Doors open at 7 p.m., and your $5 suggested donation entitles you to see performances from Caliche Con Carne (who championed this cause months ago), Golden Boots, Jimmy Carr, Salvador Duran, Naïm Amor, Amy Rude, Lana Rebel and the Human Arms Ensemble. 311 E. Congress St. 622-8848.

After a heartbreaking year, local singer-songwriter Jeremy Michael Cashman has boldly documented his pain and endurance on his new album, Spine, which will be feted at a CD-release party at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Jan. 2. Cashman performs at 9:45 p.m., and will be followed by Sunday Afternoon. $5. 798-1298.

Elsewhere: The Love Me Nots and the Woolly Bandits are at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 3; Mike Superhero, Blankets and Hero Alligator perform a free show at Club Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 6; Al Foul hits The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Friday, Jan. 2.

R.I.P., Delaney Bramlett and Freddie Hubbard.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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