Summer is the season for music festivals in most places—but not in Tucson. Spring and fall are far busier for that sort of thing, even though spring and fall don't really exist here, aside from on calendars.
Look no further than this week's festivities (and next week's, too) for proof.
For starters, there's Friki Fest II: Skull Island, which is awesome for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the festival's name has a subtitle.
True to its name, Friki Fest is something of a sequel: Last year, the inaugural event was held at The Hut and called Friki Tiki Fest, a reference to the giant tiki head at that venue. This year's event is being held at the Rialto Theatre, but other than a venue and name change, Friki's M.O. remains the same: garage, psychedelic and surf rock, with an emphasis on all things B-movie, scooters and skateboards. Or something like that. According to the event's organizers, it'll be "a night filled with King Kong-themed mayhem, music, fire-spinning, dancers, skaters, video and a scooter weekender."
Most importantly for our purposes, there's a nifty lineup of bands playing. The event's headliner is Orange County's Agent Orange, one of the first bands to merge punk and surf rock, which it has been doing since 1979. You probably know the song "Bloodstains," a punk classic, even if you don't think you do. Apparently, during the trio's set at Friki Fest, they'll be performing next to a half-pipe, on which skaters will do their thing. Also performing are the Lords of Altamont, The Mission Creeps (both of which are returning from last year), The Omens, Vicky and the Vengents, Denver City Saltlicks and Scorpion vs. Tarantula.
Friki Fest II: Skull Island takes over the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Sept. 17. Doors open at 5 p.m., and all ages are welcome. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance: They're $10, but $18 on the day of the show. For more information, head to frikiinc.com, or call 740-1000.
Take in more accordion than some people can handle as some of the biggest and brightest names in Tejano music gather for a two-day festival at AVA at Casino del Sol. The Tejano Showcase 2011 will feature, on Friday, Sept. 16, Los Aguilares, Boni Mauricio, Jaime y los Chamacos, Los Texmaniacs featuring Flaco Jimenez and the Farias Brothers Reunion. On Saturday, Sept. 17, the fest will shine the spotlight on AJ Castillo, Fito Olivares and Michael Salgado.
Both nights of the Tejano Showcase 2011 begin at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $20 per night, or $35 for both nights, at casinodelsol.com. Use the same address for more info, or call (800) 344-9435. Casino del Sol is located at 5655 W. Valencia Road.
Almost two years ago, Jairo Zavala—a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Spain—visited Tucson to perform with a new album in hand. Zavala, who had previously recorded albums with the bands Amparanoia, Vacazul and Los Coronas, was now recording under the name DePedro, and his self-titled, debut album under that name (the inaugural release on EMI's National Geographic imprint, Nat Geo) featured a slew of collaborators you might recognize, most notably Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico.
Zavala's follow-up—last year's Nubes de Papel (2010, Nat Geo)—is also a collaboration with Burns and Convertino. Burns co-produced the album with Zavala, and most of it was recorded at Wavelab Studio with Craig Schumacher handling the mixing.
The backstory: Calexico began covering "Don't Leave Me Now," an Amparanoia song that Zavala co-wrote, and a friendship was struck. Zavala made a trip to Tucson to record DePedro, and the rest is history.
If you're one of those people who hear the term "Spanish music" and immediately assume we're talking flamenco ... we're not. While both DePedro albums merge the sounds of Spain with those of the Southwest, they're also both thoroughly modern. With a couple of exceptions, the songs are sung in Spanish, though that's no impediment to enjoying it. "Tu Mediodia" is whisper-sweet, and though there are no traces of samba in there, it should appeal to fans of Seu Jorge (though Zavala's voice is far more honeyed). "Cuando el Dia se Acaba" is expansive, uplifting and gorgeous, and reminds of an old Ultravox song, in feeling if not in sound (though it does carry a neat synth line). A couple of songs, such as "Chilla que Tiemble," carry elements of the trademark Calexico sound—in this case, the rhythm and Jacob Valenzuela's trumpet-playing. Nubes de Papel is another great album from a fortuitous collaboration that one can only hope continues.
DePedro headlines Monstrosa: An Evening of Latin Music, a one-night music festival that will also feature performances by Calexico, Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta and Guerrila Tangueros. The whole shebang takes place at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18. Tickets are $10, and you'd be wise to purchase them in advance at ticketfly.com. For more 411, call 798-1298, or head to plushtucson.com.
Fall in Tucson also means that local acts are now emerging from the summer doldrums with fresh, new albums. This week, three local acts will do just that. In chronological order ...
Country-blues mainstay Stefan George and Delta blues practitioner Tom Walbank collaborated on an album, whose release they'll celebrate with a free live performance at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., tonight, Thursday, Sept. 15. They'll perform from about 6 until 10 p.m., after which an installment of La Cocina's Thursday late-night live-music series begins, at 10:30 p.m., with performances by The Tryst, Vannessa Lundon and Evy Llyan Olson. Both shows are free, and you can head to lacocinatucson.com or call 622-0351 for more information.
Stephen Steinbrink, who performs and records—sometimes alone, and sometimes with a band—as French Quarter, will play at a release party for the new LP, Desert Wasn't Welcome, at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., at 10 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 20. It'll be the first date of a month-long West Coast tour for the Phoenix-based group version of French Quarter. As always, admission is free. Head to redroomtucson.com, or call 623-7621 for more info.
Formed two years ago, Tucson trio Brass Tax—Frank Bair, Chris Halvorsen and Erik Ketchup—combines elements of free jazz, prog rock, electronica, metal, post-rock and whatever the hell Frank Zappa played, and emerges with an instrumental and challenging-but-enjoyable concoction. They'll celebrate the release of their debut album, the perfectly titled Math Jazz at the Dollar Store, with a show at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., next Thursday, Sept. 22. Also on the bill are Young Hunter, Kamikaze Autopilot and War Torn Beaver, who kick off the proceedings at 9 p.m. Cover is $3, and T-shirts and CDs will be available. For further details, head to surlywenchpub.com or call 882-0009.
Though it began mostly as a blues band in Los Angeles in 2006, The Voodoo Fix has since incorporated the sounds of funk, soul and rock—often of the garage or rootsy variety—into its sound. The band is currently touring in support of its latest album, Not for Nothing, and using the experience to raise money for causes the members support.
The Tucson stop, which also will include a performance by The Tryst, will raise funds for The Worldwide Organization of Organic Farmers, and "for local nonprofit programs under Artfare: Casa Goofy International, which is an international art and artist exchange concentrating on urban farming and art in nature, and for Los Amigos Child Care, which works with children from single-parent and low-income families," according to a press release.
Tour-ganic with The Spiral Fix and The Tryst begins at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Suggested donation is $8, and all ages are welcome. For more information, head to solarculture.org or call 884-0874.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Santana and Michael Franti and Spearhead at AVA at Casino del Sol on Tuesday, Sept. 20; The Horrors and The Stepkids at Plush on Saturday, Sept. 17; Two Gallants at Club Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 21; Train at AVA at Casino del Sol on Sunday, Sept. 18; The Shondes and Seashell Radio at Club Congress on Sunday, Sept. 18; Gonzalo Bergara Quartet and Hot Club of Tucson at Suite 147 in Plaza Palomino on Saturday, Sept. 17; Mickey Avalon at The Rock next Thursday, Sept. 22; Electric Summer Vol. 4 with Mord Fustang, Daft Punk'd—The Tribute and DJ Sickx at the Rialto Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 18.