For those of us unlucky enough to have never made it to New Orleans, we know what we're missing out on, right? The most European-feeling city in the States; the unique amalgam of cultures; the birthplace of jazz, Creole and zydeco music; the Jazz and Heritage Festival; Creole and Cajun food; and people yelling "Bam!" every time they add a little spice to said food.

That's an awful lot of culture, and it's just a sampling of what New Orleans still has to offer, despite the tragic manner in which the destruction by hurricane was, and still is, being handled.

For those of us who want to celebrate the culture of New Orleans without actually traveling there, or for those who have been there and want to try to re-create the magic, a pair of shows this week will get us into the spirit of Mardi Gras--yet another element that makes New Orleans a singular American city.

First up, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21, community radio station KXCI FM 91.3 presents a Mardi Gras celebration featuring the accordion-driven Tex-Mex of the Carnivaleros, and the Cajun and zydeco (duh!) of Black Leather Zydeco. Perhaps best of all, it's set to take place at the historic El Casino Ballroom, 437 E. 26th St. Tickets are $8 in advance, and $10 at the door; food and drink will be available for purchase. The beads, however, will be free while supplies last. Oh yeah, it also serves as a benefit for KXCI, which could really use the money right now. For more information, call 623-1000, ext. 13.

Then, on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 24, Plush hosts a special Mardi Gras celebration of its own as Crawdaddy-O, the rumored-to-be-dead five-piece Cajun brass band that includes multi-instrumentalists extraordinaire Jimmy Carr and the Rosano triplets, will perform together for the first time in, well, a really long time. Trust us: If you missed these guys the first time around, don't make the same mistake this time. For sheer fun, you can't do much better than Crawdaddy-O, who will perform two sets, with Below the Salt getting things rolling at 9:30 p.m. Admission is a fiver. Call 798-1298 for further details.

Laissez les bon temps roulez, homies!


Last month, we reported on the passing of blues great Sam Taylor, who spent a good chunk of time spreading the gospel of his trademark gritty blues at venues around Tucson before retiring to New York. We also reported on a hastily assembled tribute show performed in his honor. This week brings us another such event, this one with the benefit of a bit more planning.

Once again, Heather "Li'l Mama" Hardy and her band will host the event, and other performers will include Danny Krieger, Mitzi Cowell, Tony and the Torpedoes, Ed DeLucia, Marx Loeb, Michael P. Nordberg, Sabra Faulk and Don "Nod" Nottingham, all of whom will perform songs either written by or inspired by Taylor. (Hardy reports that more acts are expected to be confirmed before the show.)

The show doubles as a fundraiser: Boondocks Lounge owner Cathy Warner reports that Taylor's daughter has gone into debt paying for Sam's funeral, so the bulk of the money will go to her. Any leftover funds will be used to start a scholarship fund in Taylor's name for children who want to play guitar or sing the blues. (An account at Chase Bank has been started for this purpose in the name of "Sam Taylor Memorial Fund," Warner reports.)

It all happens from 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. Admission is a suggested donation of $10, and there will be raffles during the event as well. Questions? Call the friendly folks at 690-0991.

We miss you, Sam.


The finals for the annual Arizona Daily Star Battle of the Bands hits the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 20. Thirty-three bands, from 16 local high schools, have been whittled down to six finalists, which are (drum roll, please): Idella, The Kingsfoil, Monterey, Soñar, Steff Koeppen and We Draw the Tide. Each will, of course, perform a set of tunes to be judged by an esteemed panel of music experts, and one of the bands will emerge with bragging rights--until it happens all over again a year from now. Admission is $2. Call 740-1000 for additional info. Good luck to all the bands.

If those two Mardi Gras shows we mentioned earlier aren't enough to burn holes in your dancin' shoes, consider two more.

Surviving swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are set to release How Big Can You Get, a tribute album to the legendary Cab Calloway, on April 21. They'll preview songs from it next Thursday, Feb. 26, when they stop by the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., for an all-ages show. Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets are $24 in advance. Call 740-1000 for more info.

Tucsonans are no stranger to the B-Side Players, who have won the Best World Music category at the San Diego Music Awards for five years running. The group specializes in danceable rhythms originated in Latin America and the Caribbean, but incorporate elements of funk, jazz, rock and hip-hop into their multi-culti stew. They'll be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Feb. 20. Tucson groovers The Hounds open at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $8. Call 798-1298 for further info.

As reported in these pages last month, this week brings the release of the debut album by Tucson supergroup The 17th Street Band. The band--legendary bassist Harvey Brooks, guitarist Tom Kusian, keyboardist Arthur Migliazza, drummer Darryl Roles and singer/harp player Tom Walbank--will celebrate the release of Positively 17th Street, a smokin' collection of 13 originals and covers, with a performance from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21, at its namesake venue, the 17th Street Market, 840 E. 17th St. The CD-release show will be, as are just about all of the band's performances, a benefit for community radio station KXCI FM 91.3. Admission is free with a suggested donation. For more details, call 624-8821, ext. 147.

Speaking of KXCI, the multitalented Michael Serpe, who often hosts the second, live music hour of that station's Locals Only program, will be celebrating the release of a new CD EP from his new project, Space Over Desert, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, Feb. 25. The EP, Stjukshon, was recorded during a hiatus from Serpe's eponymous band and represents something of a new direction for the singer-songwriter: It's all ambient instrumentals, though Serpe reports that the live version, which includes a full band, is far different from what's found on the CD. "We're playing ambient instrumentals grading into mellow Americana with male-female harmonies," he writes in an e-mail. The bill also includes the Bay Area's Audrye Sessions and Phoenix's Poem, but get there at 9 p.m., in time for Space Over Desert's set, and you'll be treated to a free copy of the EP. Also, be prepared to administer some spankings: Feb. 25 is Serpe's birthday. Cover is $8, and the number to call with questions is 798-1298.


Kelvin-Helmholtz Records presents a showcase and CD-release featuring Blankets, Lazy Lungs, Caleb Christopher and Jessica Crocker at Club Congress on Sunday, Feb. 22; Al Foul, The Dead Tones and Arizona Voodoo Kittens are at The Hut on Saturday, Feb. 21; seven-piece Italian folk group Newpoli will perform at the Tubac Plaza, in Tubac, on Sunday, Feb. 22; Shawn Johnson and the Foundation celebrate the release of a new CD at Club Congress on Friday, Feb. 20, along with Sunday Afternoon; The American Black Lung, The Whore Moans and Juarez are at Plush next Thursday, Feb. 26; a benefit show for the short film Tigers with Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout, Gabriel Sullivan, Chris Black, Will Elliott and Rory O'Rear is at Club Congress on Saturday, Feb. 21; Leila Lopez, the Dave McGraw Band and Courtney Robbins are at Plush on Saturday, Feb. 21; Vampyros Bonobos and Blackwood and Co. are at The Hut on Friday, Feb. 20; Early Black, Pittsburgh's Douglas and Tommy Tucker are at Red Room at Grill on Friday, Feb. 20; Domingo DeGrazia and his five-piece Spanish-guitar band will perform a benefit for the American Cancer Society in honor of the centennial birthday of Domingo's father, artist Ted DeGrazia, at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 21; and the musical Grease, starring American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, runs from Tuesday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, March 1, at the Tucson Music Hall.

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