Sound Bites THE WOODEN BALL: Thanks to the grand efforts of the Club Congress and organizer Chris Holiman, as well an extended cast of supporters, the annual non-rock rock festival known as the Wooden Ball takes place once again this Friday, September 12. Dubbed an "Acoustic Fandango," this year's event features indoor performances by a wide variety of regular downtown bands, most of which are naturals for the lo-fi format. (Unfortunately Helldriver is not on the bill--now that would be something to see, wouldn't it?) "Acoustic" may be a bit of a misnomer, but never mind the gentle purr from those tube amps, because the sets will be played, if not entirely unplugged, at greatly diminished volume. It's all about interpretation. Or re-interpretation. And it's a chance for performers to drop the rock-and-roll shtick for a short while to bare their sensitive musician souls--or better yet, to put on a hoe-down hillbilly jam and prove the greatness of a show is not directly proportional to the wattage or complexity of the gear.

The 20-minute sets--as well as giving the bands a chance to try on a new hat or dust off a well-worn old one--introduce a variety of perennial local favorites and acoustic newcomers to those who don't regularly brave the hype and noise of the regular club scene. The Wooden Ball is traditionally comprised of a vanguard of Tucson alternative music--not only the creators of what's so fondly and often referred to as "desert rock," but many performers who were making music long before that gem of a term was ever coined.

This year's line-up includes an abundance of alumni mixed with a few exciting freshman additions: Al Perry (would such an event even be possible without him?), the Phantom Limbs, Greyhound Soul, the Sand Rubies, 35 Summers, Chris Burroughs, Honeywagon, Milkseed, Semi-Ultra, Al Foul & the Shakes, Nine Days Wonder, SIP, Mike Toubassi, and the debut performance of Creosote, featuring Jason Steed and a number of familiar friends. Doors at the Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., open at 6 p.m. Friday, September 12, with the music starting shortly thereafter. Admission is stunningly cheap at $6 at the door. Call 622-8848 for more information.

HAPPY FEAT: As if they weren't busy enough, Tucson's favorite jump-swing dance band, the Kings of Pleasure, have ceded to popular demand and worked into their schedule a weekly evening as the house band for swing dance instruction. In cahoots with O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave., The Kings of Pleasure will play live, hosting dance lessons in an effort to bring the swing dance craze sweeping the West, and purportedly all the rage in Phoenix, here to Tucson. A pretty shrewd move, if you ask me--building a broader clientele and increasing the devotion of their following by teaching the eager masses how best to appreciate their music. They've brought instructors Lacey Maynard and Paul Maranto all the way from Scottsdale to teach a range of dance styles, including the swing, jitterbug and lindy hop. The free classes are at 9 p.m. Thursdays, starting September 18, at O'Malley's. Everyone is welcome, but be forewarned--this is no schmaltzy waltzing, so arrive ready to move! Call 623-8600 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Some of rock's heaviest sideline hitters engage the Tucson Convention Center on Tuesday, September 16: ZZ Top and Los Lobos. Can it be that ZZ Top has really been around longer than I have? Is it possible all those silly videos with leggy girls in stiletto heels getting in and out of cars (the likes of which I'd never seen on the streets until I moved to Tucson) are now almost a decade-and-a-half old? The "Mean Rhythm Global Tour '97" is ZZ Top's self-proclaimed return to the roots of their Texas heritage--no fancy cars, no fancy women, no "pearl necklaces," just crafty, rocking blues and long beards the way the good Lord intended. Call 791-4101 for more information.

Skrappy's, the aptly named all-ages club at 3710 N. Oracle Road, jumps into the fray on Monday, September 15, with a big bill featuring a band that all the kids are talking about: Vision of Disorder, supported by GatRot, Bloodlet, A Day in the Life and Scathe. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door. Call 408-9644 for more information.

And an oh-so-brief rundown of other shows you don't want to miss: KAIA, formerly of lesbian combo Team Dresh, appears with Teammate drummer Melissa York and openers Clove and Huff at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 17, at Sound Addict Records, 714 N. Stone Ave. Cover is $4 at the door. Call 882-5120 for more information.

Crawdaddy-O appears with Neil Mooney at 10 p.m. Saturday, September 13, at The Airport Lounge, 20 E. Pennington St. Call 882-0400 for more information.

Corey Stevens is on the Road to Zen, performing his Billboard Top-Ten Blues on Wednesday, September 17, at The Outback, 296 N. Stone Ave. Call 622-4700 for more information.

The Winsett Park Monsoon Madness Series continues on Thursday, September 18, with Meg Cavendish, Rainer Ptacek, and the re-emergence of The X Old Ladies. Located on Fourth Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets, Monsoon Madness begins at 7 p.m. and is, as always, free and open to all ages.

Lastly, Live, with help from Luscious Jackson and Man Break, bring their "Secret Samadhi" tour to the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion on Thursday, September 18. Call 254-SKYY for general information or 321-1000 for ticket information. TW

--Lisa Weeks

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