SECOND SATURDAYS, SKRAPPY'S, AND TOXIC RANCH RECORDS ARE DEAD! LONG LIVE SECOND SATURDAYS, 191 TOOLE, AND TOXIC RANCH RECORDS!
In the recent discussions over whether we should strive to Keep Tucson Shitty, part of the argument from those who fall squarely on the yea side lamented the fact that so many of their beloved Tucson landmarks have vanished along with the underdog and self-deprecating (but prideful) mentality that inspired the term to begin with. Meanwhile, those who fall on the other side of the argument argued that there's no stopping progress. (I, like so many others, fall into the grey area somewhere in between.) But regardless of your stand on the matter, we all can be happy with recent developments as they pertain to local music. In other words, it's a very good, promising week for the Tucson music scene. To paraphrase the unimpeachable patriot Ronald Reagan (dude's got an airport named after him!), it's morning in Tucson again.
In December, one of the primary sponsors of Second Saturdays, the monthly downtown block party, pulled its funding of the event, sending organizers scurrying to find other entities to pick up the financial slack in order to keep it going. And they didn't have much time to do so: Providence Service Corp., the aforementioned sponsor, made the announcement just prior to December's event, which would have been the final installation if funding wasn't found.
But, of course, that funding took only a week to come up with, as Tucsonans rallied for the cause to continue what has, by all accounts, been a success in bringing Tucsonans back downtown in droves each month for the free, family-friendly event, which includes street performers, vendors, and live music in downtown venues surrounding the event. And so, the show will go on this week.
On Saturday, Jan. 11, attendees won't notice a difference (aside from small tweaks like, say, new emcees at the Scott Ave. Main Stage in the form of on-air personalities from 94.9 Mix-FM and Journal Broadcast Group, both of which are new sponsors). Performers on that stage, at the corner of Scott Ave. and Congress St., this week are K-Bass (3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.), Andy See and His Swingin' Jamboree (4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.), and The Tangelos (5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.). Meanwhile, the Tucson- and Phoenix-based modern bluegrass band Run Boy Run will perform at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., at 7 p.m. All of these events are free to the public.
But Second Saturdays isn't the only downtown tradition that's being revived on Saturday.
That date will also feature the grand opening of a (not so) new all-ages music venue: 191 Toole, so named because it sits at 191 E. Toole Ave., will take over the most recent Skrappy's location with a renewed sense of purpose along with new management and backers.
Skrappy's, which had moved locations a few times over the years (anyone but me remember that spot on Oracle?), simply ran out of steam. Once a vital part of Tucson's music scene – its anyone-can-play-here attitude spawned countless local bands—not to mention an outreach center for at-risk youth, the center seemed to be greatly affected by two events: a fatal shooting during a show in 2005, when the venue sat at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Broadway Blvd., that seemed to put the brakes on the otherwise great karma emanated by the joint (and which seemed to be at least partly responsible for the center's lease not being renewed at that location); and, following the relocation to its current spot, the death of Bill Woolridge, the gentle giant who co-founded Skrappy's along with his wife Kathy, who ran the space (in later years, as a partnership with Our Family Services, a local social services non-profit agency). The venue was already struggling to regain its footing—both financially (a settlement was paid to the shooting victim's family) and otherwise—at the new location, but Bill's passing seemed to greatly affect any momentum it had at that point.
Enter: Tom Collins, who heads City on a Hill (COAH), a faith-based outreach non-profit, which took over the lease in November of last year. Collins and a team of volunteers have been working hard to get the center up and running in time for this week's big launch. In an email sent to me by Club Congress booker Matt Baquet, an old friend of Collins' who has been helping prepare for the grand opening, he called Collins "someone I truly believe in for this role. They are doing some serious renovations to the space and hoping to provide a similar environment to the old Skrappy's on Broadway or the Living Room on Fifth St.—places we attended growing up that helped us become who we are today."
Along with hosting shows (some have already been booked, including a Jan. 31 show headlined by La Luz and a March appearance by the Pizza Underground, which includes Macaulay Culkin), the center intends to continue the Skrappy's tradition of providing youth outreach programs. Its Facebook page describes it as "an all-ages venue in downtown Tucson, AZ, with plans to provide a safe place for youth to hang out, learn, and grow through community programs."
The new center, 191 Toole, will get started with a bang on Saturday, Jan. 11, with a grand opening show for the ages. The show, which starts at 4 p.m. in conjunction with Second Saturdays, will feature performances by San Francisco's Cool Ghouls (Burger Records) and a slew of local acts including fellow Burger boys The Resonars, Prom Body, Dream Sick, Discos, Best Dog Award, Otherly Love, Logan Greene Electric, Hermanitos, Hip Don't Dance (see this week's Rhythm and Views), and River Man. (Although Lenguas Largas has been listed among the performers, they will not be appearing.) Admission is free, all ages are welcome (duh!), and 191 Toole's list of rules will be largely the same as Skrappy's (i.e., no drugs, alcohol, firearms).
So, Second Saturdays is continuing and the spirit of the old Skrappy's is being revived in the form of 191 Toole. Pretty great news for everyone, right? In the words of the great Ron Popeil, "But wait, there's more!"
Toxic Ranch Records, that stubborn outpost of all things punk and underground, will, after spending 22 years at the corner of Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, move to its third Tucson location, at 2030 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 115 (not 113, as has been reported elsewhere). The store will open at its new location on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Since being informed that its lease would not be renewed by Caruso's Italian Restaurant, which owns the building, owner Bill Sassenberger and store manager Shane Muldowney had been seeking out a new location, focusing on the downtown area. But at what was intended to be the store's final hurrah, a New Year's Eve in-store performance by The Resonars, Lenguas Largas, and Discos, the announcement about the new location was made.
When I spoke to Sassenberger earlier this week, on Tuesday morning, he was finishing packing up the moving truck at the old location. "I'm excited," he said about the new Sunshine Mile location. "It's going to be smaller, but we'll make it work," adding that he wasn't sure if the new spot will continue to feature live performances due to space limitations. "I think we'll know by the end of the day," he said.
Congratulations to Second Saturdays, 191 Toole, and Toxic Ranch, not to mention the people behind them, for all of these excellent developments. Due to the intrepid folks behind all three, none of whom gave up in the face of adversity, Tucson will be far culturally richer than it looked like we'd be a month ago, and all of us, Keep Tucson Shitty or not, should be very thankful for that.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Here's a brief sampling of other musical events happening around town this week: AFI and Youth Code at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Jan. 10; Karla Bonoff and Copper & Congress at the Fox Tucson Theatre next Thursday, Jan. 16; CD release party for Live in Studio 2A: The Blues Singles featuring the Kings of Pleasure and Playin' Possum (a George Jones tribute act featuring the Meat Puppets' Cris Kirkwood and Ruth Wilson) at Boondocks Lounge on Saturday, Jan. 11; Nobody EP release show with Ezra Letra, Shaun Harris, and The Natives Are Restless at Plush next Thursday, Jan. 16; Mean Beans, The Neon Eon!, Vine St. and Rey Murph at Club Congress on Friday, Jan. 10.
Check our listings for lots more great shows.
Finally, it saddens us to report that Dean "Dino" Raspanti, who played drums for a number of Tucson bands over the years including Thunderosa, Worm, and Brother Creep, passed away on Monday, Dec. 30. Our condolences go out to his family and friends. A memorial music event is being planned, and we'll keep you posted with info as we receive it.