Sound Bites DOUBLE PLUS GOOD: "The Reverend Horton Heat has nothing on this!" I overheard one audience member say at the Sunday, January 4, Crash Worship/The Pork Torta show. And after seeing the Rev. on a number of occasions myself, the old boy becoming successively more tedious with each show, I have to agree. Both bands played loud and dirty at The Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St., drawing an impressive turn out of mostly male moshers and entranced stand-bys.

Recently opened to live shows, Double Zero's basement is one of the coolest spaces in town. For the first few months following the bar's opening, the Double Zero staged cramped shows upstairs where bands played pressed against the plate glass windows, easily visible and audible from outside--a less than ideal arrangement. It's all different now. The venue features bar and billiards upstairs, with drinks and live music downstairs. Not a new idea, to be sure, but singularly compelling once you've seen their basement.

It's long and narrow, with rough, exposed masonry walls; the floors are brick and sand; and the low, wood-beam ceiling socks in the red and green neon light of this grungy grotto. The Pork Torta's set was backlit by a filmy yellow, accented by a flashing red beacon, while Crash Worship employed a series of carefully timed strobes and diffuse primary colors.

The intimate basement space forces a one-on-one relationship between performer and audience: The ceiling's too low for a stage, so bands set up on the floor, at eye level. Seating is limited to a row of barstools and a few tables hugging the west wall.

This is no lounge where viewers passively partake in the evening's events between more pressing conversation. The Double Zero pushes the music in your face. It has the feel of a subterranean downtown dive, tailor-made for garage rock, right down to the dense acoustics. Which is not to say that the venue lacks sophistication. The gritty, close atmosphere, hazy light and thick sound lends the Double Zero's basement an urban chic unique to Tucson. As another wide-eyed audience member enthusiastically commented to his companion, "This place isn't like anywhere else in Tucson!"

Double Zero has torn down the respectful gawking distance, the 15-foot arc of the No Dance Zone that seems to be the norm at drinking-age clubs around town. The Double Zero is set up to get folks on their feet, dancing, and engaged in the performance. The basement's primary drawback is that visibility is extremely limited, so only the few in the front rows can actually see anything. Of course, at the Crash Worship show I doubt even those in front could make out much, what with the bilges of vapor pouring from the smoke machines, pluming up the stairs and filling the bar.

Simultaneously intense and whimsical, The Pork Torta primed the crowd, throwing a "Funky Party" and donning matching plaid bellbottoms. Their big-bass garage sound lifted the dust from the floor and was met with howls of approval from all corners.

After a 20-minute intermission, house lights flickered on and off as slow-droning notes began to resonate. As the music began building, the avid crowd pressed in close. A series of fire crackers erupted on the floor, sending up blue-green flares, and Crash Worship raged into their set. According to diehard fans, the performance was less a spectacle of paganistic hedonism, with the band's entourage more stripped down than in performances passed.

But that seemed not to register with the shirtless throng of sweat-soaked trancers and moshers. The rhythms pulsed, the lights flashed, the smoke poured--it was, without a doubt, a Scene.

If you haven't been down to the Double Zero, check it out on Friday, January 10, when Tucson's pied pipers of off-kilter Cajun jazz, The Crawdaddy-O Brass Band, return with a funky follow-up to their smash New Year's Eve performance. Crawdaddy-O closed down the New Year celebration at Double Zero, culminating the evening's revelry by leading a line of partiers up the stairs, out the door and across the street for a tour through the Congress Grill. Now that takes some brass. Call 670-9332 for more information.

HOT PICK: Austin punk-pop trio Silver Scooter stops in Tucson for an all-ages show on Friday, January 9, at Skrappy's (on North Oracle Road) as part of a Southwest stint taking them on up the California coast. As everyone knows, you can't swing a dead cat in Austin without hitting a musician, so Silver Scooter's wide appeal--not to mention the fact that they were chosen as one of Austin's 10 best pop bands in the 1997 Austin Music Awards--is nothing to sneeze at. Silver Scooter is joined by The Weird Lovemakers, The Fells (whose new, self-titled CD, out on Estrus Records, is available around town) and fellow locals The Knock-Ups. Call Skrappy's at 408-9644 for more information.

LAST NOTES: The Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., has peeled back on live music, featuring regular Club DJs six nights a week and reserving Fridays for live music, local and otherwise, with the occasional exception, of course. This week, however, is no exception: The shakedown for live Friday, January 9, at the Club Congress is provided by the Hillbilly Soulsurfers, seen previously at The Airport Lounge. They'll be joined by Caroline's Mother and another band still to be announced. Cover is $4. Call 622-8848 for more information.

Dovetailing the Club Congress' schedule, The Airport Lounge launches live alternatives to dub three nights a week, with their weekly Wednesday open mic nights, and bands on Thursdays and Saturdays. The Annie Hawkins Band returns to the Lounge this Saturday, January 10. In recent months, Annie and her band have honed their act, as evidenced by their sweeping performance at the Diva de Tucson benefit last fall. A masterful guitarist and vocalist, Hawkins' solo sound bears, at least initially, a marked resemblance to that other Annie--Ani di Franco.

The Annie Hawkins Band, however, works successfully to temper that similarity in favor of a harder and more uniquely articulated sound. Check them out--cover is only $3. Call 882-0400 for more information.

DOUBLE VISION: What can come of two guitarists, dual bassists, and double drummers? Why, six musicians! And true to axiomatic certainties, Tucson's newest improvisation group 2X3=6 promises to multiply the musical fun.

Composed of two power trios, 2X3=6 indulges in spontaneous composition--a melodic collage of the moment. Their debut performance is not only the first time they've played together, but even the first time all six members have simultaneously stood in the same room. (As one of the drummers explained, "We've had one meeting, but it was more like '2X3=4.' ")

Anything goes as this company of six proves the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The band's music-in-the-making rattles the Nimbus Brewing Company, 3850 E. 44th St., at 9 p.m. Saturday, January 10. Cover is $2, but bring enough for Nimbus' superb libations. TW

--Lisa Weeks

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