Tucson's Music Month

If you can't find something worth seeing at a local venue this April, you probably don't actually enjoy music.

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Dick Dale

Saturday, April 12

Club Congress

I suck at surfing. Really suck. The first (and only) time I went, I borrowed my friend's sister's surfboard. It lacked a leash and every time I swam out to the break, the board would slip out of my hands and ride back to shore on a wave. I spent the entire two hours swimming back and forth from shore to break, trying to hang onto the board while simultaneously trying to be the "cool girl" by not whining about how exhausted I was. Ugh.

But when I listen to Dick Dale, that story dissolves into an ethereal, reverbed guitar riff. When I listen to Dick Dale, I am a surf goddess with a Tiki drink in hand. I look fabulous in a bikini and own the Southern California '50s shore. I own it. And then Moondoggy asks me to the luau and all of my dreams come true.

Dick Dale makes my delusional reality possible. Heavily influenced by his Lebanese, Polish and Belarusian background, Dale's staccato picking technique and Eastern scales evolved into the pounding, distorted guitar that defined surf rock.

And while surf rock's popularity was short-lived due to the British Invasion, his impact on the future of music is undeniable. One look on YouTube at his live performances and you can see how his sound and strange, convulsing stage presence is regarded as a precursor to heavy metal.

And if all that isn't enough to get you excited, I'm guessing there's a good chance he'll play "Miserlou" for all you obnoxious Tarentino superfans out there.

Don't miss the legendary Dick Dale performing at Club Congress on Saturday, April 12. Order a Scorpion from the bar and channel the surf god I know you can be.

Laura Reese is a local publicist and a DJ at KXCI.

Joe Ely

Wednesday, April 16

Copper Hall, Hotel Congress

When Joe Ely toured Europe in 1979 opening for punk icons The Clash, you can bet the crowds were squeezed in, moshing, slamming and jumping as if to do damage in their steel-toed boots.  As Ely reported later in a TIME magazine interview, they were also throwing "shirts, hot dogs, bottles and panties at us."

Ely's earthy tales and blue-collar poetics thrilled the punk scene worldwide with their "authenticity," the holy grail for which the movement strove.  Still, it's hard to imagine Clash fans got much out of his lyrics for all the racket on the dance floor. For the last couple of decades, Ely has captained his crowds and their energy on the strength of his songs and storytelling.  The songs sometimes rock hard, but at times you can hear a pin drop.

The fans have changed, too, of course. They have likely grown up and gotten jobs, and even had a kid or a few.  Their passion for Ely and his music may not have waned, but their nights end sooner and their lives are shorter. Those fans have earned, and expect, an early show with comfortable chairs. Dammit.

Club Congress  smartly booked Ely's last appearance into a cabaret setup  with some chairs on the floor and a few tables on the south wall  It's a layout they've used for quieter shows, solo singer-songwriters and other events favored by slightly-graying but still-hip crowds. Many fans were left standing a quarter-hour after doors opened, but it was still the closest thing Tucson had to an actual nightclub—a place where grownups order cocktails brought to their table and enjoy a show.

On Wednesday, April 16 (a school night) Congress offers Copper Hall, as a pop-up nightclub in a stroke of genius we can only hope will be repeated.  Ely's fans get a comfy night out with a beloved entertainer; Hotel Congress makes some money from an unbooked event room, and the club is available for another dance night or trivia contest.

"The Copper Room" even has the charm of night-club tradition built into its name.  Chicago's Pump Room at the Palmer House and New York's "Rainbow Room" atop the Chrysler Building won world fame when the Jazz Age,  and jazz fans, grew up out of underground clubs like the latter-day likes of CBGBs and Whiskey a Go Go.

Linda Ray

Frank Turner

Thursday, April 17

Rialto Theatre

Having staked his claim as heir to the British folk-punk mantle occupied by the late, revered Joe Strummer and the restless elder statesman Billy Bragg, Frank Turner is a major star in the U.K.

Now making his first headlining stop in Tucson—on Thursday, April 17 at the Rialto Theatre—Turner and his Sleeping Souls are probably best known locally for their energetic opening sets for Social Distortion in 2010 and 2012.

Combining folk, punk and pub rock, Turner's rapid ascendancy hinged on the three-album burst of Love Ire & Song (2008), Poetry of the Deed (2009) and England Keep My Bones (2011), after which he was called to perform at the preshow for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

On last year's Tape Deck Heart, a self-reflective breakup album, Turner expanded on the brusque, urgent poetry he'd adopted from punk rock, incorporating a more candid, personal style in line with the contemporary folk rock of Josh Ritter or Glen Hansard. Standout songs like "Recovery," "Losing Days" and "The Way I Tend to Be" find Turner singing about more than heartbreak and change. It's a record about putting himself back together again, eyes to the horizon, even while sorting the ongoing twinges of pain into what's momentary and what's lasting.

Turner's live shows are cathartic, celebratory odes to rock 'n' roll and life itself, with singalong choruses drawing the crowd together. Whether it's on "I Still Believe" ("Now who'd have thought that after all/ Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all") or "Photosynthesis" ("I won't sit down/ I won't shut up/ Most of all I won't grow up"), you'll be raising your voice as well.

Eric Swedlund

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