REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
We're entering the final stages of what has been a topsy-turvy summer for live music in Tucson: There were good weeks, and there were painfully slow ones.
And there was, of course, SB 1070, which kept some touring acts away, while others simply ignored it. What will it all mean in the end? It's too early to tell. While the boycott organization Sound Strike continues to add members, Artists for Action (vivaarizona.org), which hopes to lure artists to Arizona to speak out against SB 1070, is just gearing up. And there are some encouraging signs for the fall.
This year's HoCo Fest has been turned into a free, anti-SB 1070 event that will feature Calexico, the Meat Puppets and Robyn Hitchcock, among others. Club Congress' 25th Anniversary celebration is shaping up to be just as awesome as their 20th, a true celebration of Tucson's music history, and its future.
More good news: The Rialto Theatre recently announced a spate of great upcoming shows, with a little something for everybody: Michael Franti and Spearhead, Bad Religion, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros—and a mighty big "get" in Smashing Pumpkins. These are encouraging signs, to be sure.
Alas, it's still summer, and this week falls into the slow category—but if you poke around, you'll find plenty of worthwhile smaller shows to keep you occupied and happy.
Like these, for example:
LIKE A POETRY READING, BUT WITH DANCING
The folks over at Powhaus Productions believe that dancing and literature aren't mutually exclusive, and they're out to prove it this week. On Wednesday, Aug. 11, they'll team up with Spork Press and the University of Arizona Poetry Center for LIT!
As with most Powhaus presentations, on paper, it's a semi-confusing hodgepodge of mini-events that, in practice, will likely coalesce into a giddy, (mostly) sense-making whole.
Billed as a "nonstop literary multimedia environment," the night will include readings by authors including Ander Monson, Amelia Gray, Jake Levine, Drew Krewer and many more; live music by B4Skin and War Nerd; and dancing to collaborations between local writers and musicians which have been recorded specifically for this event, and which will be spun by DJs Andrew Shuta and Robert Felix.
But wait, there's more! The night will also serve as the Spork 9.1 official release—which means that Spork Press, a local literary organization that publishes handmade literary journals, will release its latest compilation, in additon to chapbooks by Dan Beachy-Quick, Gordon Massman, Levine and Krewer. (For the three days leading up to the event, the Spork peeps will be binding them in the Congress Street storefront next to the Rialto Theatre.) And, because no Powhaus event would be complete without a little bit of dada, in the midst of it all, there will be the "construction of a completely unreasonable book ... for no other reason than it'd be cool to do it," according to a press release.
Now, that's our Powhaus!
Encouraged attire is sexy librarian, natch, and attendees are encouraged to bring books to be donated to Read Between the Bars, a volunteer-based local organization that seeks to get books into the hands of Arizona prisoners.
LIT! goes down on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. From 7 to 9 p.m., Powhaus promises an "immersive audio environment, time to check out the books (and) have some coffee," but the real madness runs from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. As usual, anyone 18 and up is welcome (bar with ID), and cover is only $3. For more information, call 740-1000, or head to rialtotheatre.com.
SUGAR WITH SUBSTANCE
Arcade Fire released one of the most awaited albums of the year last week—and another fine band from Canada is headed our way this week.
With the release of Champ (Mom + Pop) in June, Tokyo Police Club delivered on the promise shown on their debut EP, A Lesson in Crime (Paper Bag, 2006). In between the two was the debut full-length Elephant Shell (Saddle Creek, 2008), which many criticized as the band growing up too soon. Translation: You couldn't dance to it as easily as the EP.
Champ follows in a similar vein, but the maturity shown on A Lesson in Crime really works on Champ. It's a literary minded collection of hook-filled indie-pop tunes that romanticizes the past lyrically, but is sonically of its time. The quirky chorus of "Gone" will have those who abandoned Weezer after those first two albums swooning, while the staccato synth stabs and infectious melody of "Bambi" make it one of the rare songs here that's made as much for the dance floor as the living room. In a world where Phoenix have become mega-stars, there is hope yet for a band like Tokyo Police Club, whose hook-y pop delivers a similar sugar-with-substance rush.
Tokyo Police Club perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Aug. 7. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. with openers The Arkells and middle-slotters Mostly Bears. Admission is $13. For further details call, 798-1298, or go to plushtucson.com.
FOR FANS OF COLONIAL FEDERALISM
While pure rock fans know Melora Creager as a onetime cellist for Nirvana and Ultra Vivid Scene, those prone to wearing black corsets crush on her for a different reason: For almost 20 years, she has fronted the cello-and-drums trio Rasputina, a sort of neo-Victorian-era goth chamber group.
For the first time in their history, Creager has enlisted a (gasp!) dude as one of the band's cellists, and the resulting album, Sister Kinderhook (Filthy Bonnet, 2010), whose theme—yes, most of their albums have themes—focuses on Colonial Federalism, is a highly listenable affair that's drawing the trio's best reviews since their 1996 debut, Thanks for the Ether (Sony).
Rasputina performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Aug. 11. Larkin Grimm opens at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $17 on the day of the show. For more info, call 622-8848, or head to hotelcongress.com.
During his 20 years living in Austin, Chris Miller played guitar for a virtual who's-who of roots performers. During a break from playing guitar and lap steel for Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men, Miller returned to his native Portland, Ore., where he teamed up with songwriter and golden-throated singer James Sasser. The collaboration runs the gamut from full-fledged honky-tonk to songs that could have come from the '70s AM gold era, and it's all pretty damn great.
Chris Miller and James Sasser will play a free show at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Sunday, Aug. 8. The El Camino Royales open this early show at 6 p.m. Call 623-3200 with any questions.
I'm still trying to figure out how to pithily describe local neo-psychedelic, garage-y art-rockers Lenguas Largas (and, no, that still doesn't do them justice), a relatively new local band that includes current and former members of The Jons, The Solace Bros., and Ultramaroon. They'll be performing each Wednesday night in August at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St. Special guests at this week's installment, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, are the Slippery Slopes and Ultramaroon. Music gets started around 10 p.m., and, as always, there is no cover. Call 623-7621 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
B.B. King at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino on Monday, Aug. 9; Birds and Batteries at Plush on Sunday, Aug. 8; Three Dog Night at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino on Friday, Aug. 6; The Holdup at The Hut on Friday, Aug. 6; Tantric and Adema at DV8 on Monday, Aug. 9; Jeremiah and the Red Eyes and Outlaw Rebel at the Red Room at Grill on Friday, Aug. 6; Deceased at The Rock on Saturday, Aug. 7; ArcoIris Sandoval farewell concert at Berger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Aug. 7; Love Mound, Green Lady Killers and Ziroh at Surly Wench Pub on Saturday, Aug. 7; People From the Sun at Club Congress on Friday, Aug. 6; Billy Sedlmayr at the Red Room at Grill on Saturday, Aug. 7; Bob Spasm and the Gods of Rock, The Swigs, Rum Rebellion and Fish Karma and the Love Generation at Vaudeville on Saturday, Aug. 7; Rockin' Around With Jake! A Musical Celebration of the Life of Jake Bergeron at the Red Room at Grill, tonight, Thursday, Aug. 5. (Bring records and CDs that remind you of Jake.)