DRAGS DREGS: For the following tour diary chronicling a
recent European jaunt for Albuquerque garage punk band The Drags
(featuring CJ and Lorca, residents of New Mexico, and Peter, a
Tucsonan), the dates, venues and other tedious details have been
deliberately left out to heighten the excitement. Now let us never
speak of this tour again:
FRANCE: Cigarettes are the national pastime. To refrain from smoking is almost an insult. One discovers the hard way that dogs are taken everywhere without being curbed. As Lorca puts it, "You know you're in France when you step on dog shit in the grocery store." We arrive in Nantes, site of this year's World Cup. We're weeks ahead of it, which means only having to deal with the regular insane French drivers instead of the insane visiting World Cup drivers as well. There is a bullfight festival in Montpellier, and while the rest of the band plays Hemingway, I opt for the slightly less gruesome sight of a laundromat. I already knew the ending, anyway: the bull loses. In Paris, we play to a packed, sweaty audience spilling onto the street where, apparently, it's legal to strip naked and fellate yourself, which one drunken fan eagerly demonstrates.
Name-Dropping Moment: I nervously lunch the next day with Katerine, a suave performer who specializes in French '60s pop. He does not understand English very well, save for the sentence, "I'm a big fan of your music." Upon arrival in Bordeaux, I decide the name is French for "poor dental hygiene," another national pastime.
DENMARK: In Copenhagen, I discover a music store carrying the CDs of various Tucson bands, both well-known and obscure. "I used to be into shit like that," offers the store owner.
"Didn't we all?" I think to myself. In Roskilde, a small city outside Copenhagen, we play a four-day festival featuring the Beastie Boys, Bob Dylan, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Black Sabbath and Kraftwerk, among others. For our set, the perpetually stoned sound man is content to indulge us with readily available stage effects such as fog machines and strobe lights. Name Dropping Moments: CJ hangs with Rocket From the Crypt, Lorca gets brief time with Iggy Pop and Pulp vocalist Jarvis Cocker, while I discuss child-rearing with Kristen Hirsh of Throwing Muses--a safer topic than her recent solo albums, none of which I own.
GERMANY: An American expatriate, claiming to be from Albuquerque, attends our show in Berlin after successfully needling his way onto the guest list. He's a free spirit, making a living off his soul, he tells me over a cup of expensive coffee in a neighboring café. I pick up the check since his soul is currently unemployed. Name-Dropping Moment: We get to hang with French/German dance/pop band Stereo Total, my favorite band of all time (for now).
The genre of rockabilly, which we don't play, is apparently very big in Freiburg; popular enough that tonight's club has a weekly rockabilly night. Our show coincides with it, and the leather jackets and poodle skirts are livid, especially after Lorca paints on a gender-fuck moustache and we close the set with Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke."
SWEDEN: The glossy waters that run through Stockholm are beautiful, but tonight's gig is actually in the water, on a massive boat made into a nightclub--you can feel the toss of the waves as you set up your gear. We converse with a young fan convinced everyone in America is exactly like the cast of characters from Married with Children. Personally, I see everyone in America more like the characters on Deep Space Nine.
HOLLAND: Throughout Holland, scenesters ask if I know Doo Rag. "Yes," I reply, "and I know Jim Waters," which receives blank stares. I decide it's best not to explain who Jim Waters is. Tucson's own Calexico is getting written up throughout Europe--maybe I should be dropping their name? If I ever go to Europe again, I'll make friendly with Linda Ronstadt first.
AMERICA: Upon returning to the U.S., we hungrily consume every popular journal we can find as long as it's in English. Foreign languages are fascinating, but trashy news--such as the surprising divorce of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore--is best enjoyed in American-ese. E.T. was right: There's no place like home.
HOT PICK: In the world of American folk, great artists are usually defined as being so in the context of their songwriting ability or the ease with which they can pluck out a memorable tune. As a general rule, the expansive and diverse canvas that is folk is inherently defined and measured by these two elements. When you get the two working together, you've really got something.
Tucson's own The Mollys are both of these things and more.
Combining excellent songwriting and musical chops, the band is
unique in American folk due in no small part to their use of an
expansive sonic palette. While they're usually described as a
Celtic-folk group, they incorporate a diverse variety of traditional
folk genres, including Tex-Mex, Cajun, traditional Western, and
even Middle Eastern influences into their diverse repertoire.
The Mollys are a virtual musical melting pot, as evidenced by
their new release Moon Over the Interstate--sure to garner
rave reviews across the board. (Their previous studio release,
Hat Trick, even made The Washington Post's Top-Ten
List of 1997, alongside other obscure artists such as Steve Earle
and Bob Dylan.) Always reliable on a live stage, The Mollys celebrate
Interstate's debut by heating up The Boondocks Lounge,
3360 N. First Ave., at
LAST NOTES: Although it appears to be usurped by the hot new swing thing, ska music is alive and skankin', as evidenced by a couple of choice bookings in the Old Pueblo this week.
Best described as the Devo of ska, The Aquabats take the herky-jerky new-wavitude of ska music to a new level. How many ska bands do you know of that incorporate flute, scratching, farfisa, and sitar into the mix? This eight-piece band from Huntington Beach, California, does--all while wearing costumes that make them look more like dork-ass comic book heroes than the bitchin' dork-ass ska band they are.
Word on the street has it that you know nothing of The Aquabats till you've seen 'em live. Witness their fury at 7 p.m. Friday, August 14, at the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. Openers The Ellemenopees and Pasta Rocket kick off the show. For more information, call 670-9332.
Also hailing from Huntington Beach, alternative radio darlings Reel Big Fish return to Tucson on Monday, August 17, for a show at the newly reopened The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. One of the more comfortable venues in town for mid-sized shows like this one, the club should provide a nice stomping ground for the Fish, who are responsible (along with No Doubt and Save Ferris) for inventing '90s-style ska-pop. (I'll let you be the judge of whether that's a good thing.) The show starts at 8 p.m. with River Fenix and Broken Pretzel opening. Tickets are $13 in advance through Dillard's (1-800-638-4253), or $15 at the club on the day of the show.
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