SEEKING ASYLUM: When was the last time you went to see
a musician or band play live with no amplification? The impromptu
jam session or accidental hippie drum circle, which sounded good
under the influence of an unhealthy amount of alcohol, don't count.
Point being, even solo "acoustic" performers at the
corner café bring their own P.A.'s these days.
The term "playing acoustic" has become synonymous with someone playing an acoustic guitar onstage, never mind the amp it's plugged into; and the bassist will be playing a standard electric bass, and the drums will be miked.
Now consider this: the Rialto Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Tucson, was originally built to accommodate true acoustic vaudeville shows (read: no amplification whatsoever). And though it's played host to everything--rock, jazz, world music and performances, film screenings, belly dancers, the Insane Clown Posse--it hasn't hosted an event that truly spotlights its all-acoustic nature in some 60 years. It seems that Luddite vaudeville acts just aren't as plentiful as they were back in the late 1920s.
Tucson, meet The Asylum Street Spankers, a 10-piece, all-acoustic string band (no electric guitars, no bass, no piano, no gadgets, absolutely no wires) that plays original tunes in the old-school genres of the 1920s through '40s. Jazz, country, blues, gospel, novelties--any music considered inherently American finds a place in their repertoire. Their sound recalls something you might've heard at a barn dance some half-century ago, and not often since.
The band hails from Austin, Texas, and the story of their genesis has become the stuff of Austin legend. It seems a bunch of musicians from mostly big, loud, fast rock bands convened at an eccentric bed-and-breakfast outside of town to engage in an all-night party, instruments in hand. They played into the wee hours, passing around bottles and guitars, entertaining each other, jamming on each others' songs, and generally having a hell of a good time.
Not long after, the musicians started missing the music they'd played that night, and decided to make the gathering more than just a one-off gig. Someone booked them a show at a local club, someone else forgot to bring the PA on the night of the gig, and in an instant their style was defined. They haven't used an electrical outlet since, and they say they never will.
Go see what the acoustics at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., have in store at 8 p.m. Sunday, February 7. Advance tickets for this all-ages show are $5, available at Hear's Music, Congress Street Store, Guitars, Etc., and Zip's University. They'll be $7 at the door. Call 740-0126 for more info.
YOUNGADULT ENTERTAINMENT: Guitar-oriented pop music is enjoying a resurgence these days, and Albuquerque's The Young Adults certainly call that camp home. The three-piece powerpop trio churns out the kind of catchy, revved-up confections that stick in your head after a mere listen or two. Imagine the Raspberries or Big Star with distortion pedals and smart, funny, and wistful lyrics, and you're on the right track.
The band is made up of Greg Gibson, whose songs are split between odes to old-school video games and love songs about other people's girlfriends; Noah Masterson, who leans toward slightly more serious subject matter (lost love and the like); and Brendan Doherty, a frequent contributor to these very pages. (What was that comment someone made once about all music critics being frustrated musicians at heart?)
The band's eponymous, self-released debut CD is a thoroughly enjoyable affair from start to finish, and you can expect more of the same when they share the stage with Tucson's own Greyhound Soul on Saturday, February 6, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Things should kick off at around 9:30 p.m., and you can call 670-9202 for further details.
BAND WAGON: On the first Friday of every month, a promoter under the name of Zeitgeist hosts performances devoted to local improvising performers. Designed to complement the Jazz at the Institute concerts, which bring nationally and internationally touring acts to Tucson, the Emerging Voices series spotlights uninhibited and eclectic performers from our own backyard. This month's show expands upon that geographical scope to bring Phoenix trio Lookout for Hope to town. The band's drummer and leader, John Neish, spent six years in New York playing with the likes of Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, and Rufus Reid, and sought to bring his urban experiences to light by forming the group upon his return to the Valley. They must be doing something right: the trio won the most recent Phoenix New Times Music Award for Best Jazz Group.
Lookout for Hope takes the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, February 5, at the wondrous Mat Bevel Institute, 530 N. Stone Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door. Call 882-7154 for information.
Tucson's own Celtic-meets-everything-under-the-sun combo, The Mollys, return from a tour of the Southeast to play a couple of local dates this week. Still enjoying national and international acclaim for their recent Moon Over the Interstate release, the band will play Friday, February 5, at Third Stone, 500 N. Fourth Ave. (628-8844); and again on Saturday, February 6, at the Boondocks Lounge, 3360 N. First Ave. (690-0991). Call the clubs for details.
And finally, Tucson swingers Kings of Pleasure will celebrate the release of their self-titled, third CD this week (on Plez Records). The disc is actually a compilation of their first two releases, with a few live tracks from a late 1997 show in Las Vegas. If it seems odd to put out what essentially amounts to a "best of" album after only two releases, there's a legitimate reason behind the move: The band recently signed a national distribution deal with California-based Hepcat Records, which ordered three thousand discs from them. So it made sense to expose a national audience to their best stuff, since it's all new to them anyway. The band also has a track on Rhino Records' forthcoming Hipster Swing compilation, due out later this month.
The Kings of Pleasure perform at 9 p.m. on Saturday, February
6, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., as part
of the ongoing Swingin' Saturday Night series. As usual,
free dance lessons start at
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