BIG, BAD BLUES: It's official! That low-down blues daddy himself, big bad Mayor George Miller, declared the week of October 14-20 Official Blues Week in Tucson in honor of the 12th Annual Blues Festival. Events are scheduled all over town, involving all kinds of folks in our community, but the live highlights occur at Downtown Saturday Night, 7 to 10 p.m., October 19, and Sunday, October 20, from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Reid Park Bandshell. The festival offers a few national acts, as well as a series of local legends, promising a day of fun in the sun for fans of all shapes and sizes, with music in every shade of blue imaginable.

Kenny Neal headlines the fest, bringing his blowout blues from Baton Rouge to the stage in Reid Park at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. At the forefront of young up-and-comers, Neal is a wealth of talent who even in his tender 20s has trained and played with greats like Buddy Guy, Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester and Junior Wells.

Just prior to Kenny Neal, the big Gibson sounds of Chicago bluesman Rod Piazza and his band The Mighty Fliers rock the stage at 4:15 p.m. Kicking off the day Sunday are the Blues Kats, followed by Stephan George, the Bad News Blues Band, the acoustic duo Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan, Jackie Neal with Tony and the Torpedoes, and the Tucson Boys Chorus. Bring friends, family and a big blanket out for Tucson's largest annual party in beautiful Reid Park.

(LOTSA) HOT TICKETS: Calling all Ezra-lites! Better than Ezra comes to town Friday, October 18, at The Outback. Fresh from an appearance on the Tonight Show, Better than Ezra is touring to support the recent release of the band's second album, Friction Baby. You've heard them played throughout the day, day after day, on KFMA--now you can see for yourself what the buzz is all about.

Better Than Ezra is aided and abetted by heir-apparent to the raunch rock throne, James Hall, who helps to get the gig going along with Seattle's Satchel, whose smooth pop funk-cum-Terence Trent made them one of this year's biggest draws on the second stage at Lollapalooza. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 d.o.s. Doors open at 4 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. The Outback is located at 296 N. Stone Ave. Phone 622-4700 for more information.

Attendance is required as the Club Congress delivers an 18-and-over show that is core curriculum for all purveyors of alterno-pop. A triple bill of one-word wonders: Poe, Eels, and Pure engage the Old Pueblo at 9:30 p.m., Sunday, October 20. Pure, a powerful Vancouver four-piece, greases the wheels for L.A.'s sensational ambient threesome, the Eels. Sultry, sophisticated and certain to blow you away, Poe headlines what is sure to be a sold-out show. Don't make Johnny angry by getting left out--buy tickets early at the Hotel Congress front desk, 311 E. Congress St. $10 in advance and d.o.s. Call 622-8848 for more information.

Fans of traditional and Celtic music are in for a very special treat at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 23. Solas, an Irish quintet heralded as the best young Irish musicians in the country, is appearing at the Berger Performing Arts Center, located at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind. Featuring the multi-talented Seamus Eagan on flute, banjo and tin whistle, Winifred Horan on violin, John Williams on button accordion and concertina, John Doyle playing guitar, and Karen Casey's vocals, Solas is noted for their masterful renditions of traditional songs as well as their intriguing and clever original pieces. Reserved seating only is available for this splendid evening of slow airs, ballads and dizzying reels, with tickets priced at $12 and $14. Proceeds benefit Third Street Kids and more information is available at 327-4809.

The Rialto Benefit Concert Series continues at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 19 with the incomparable burlesque blues and pure aural pleasure of the peerless Candye Kane. Powerful and empowered, the beautiful Ms. Kane captivates with a voice as strong, feminine and inspiring as her stage presence. She will be performing original material as well as songs penned by Rickie Lee Jones, Bob Dylan and Jack Tempchin featured on her new release on Antone's Records, Knockout. Held in the parking lot next to the Rialto on Fifth Avenue, the show is free for members. Available at Hears, tickets are $5 for non members. For more information call 740-0126.

LAST NOTES: Al Perry and Splendida promise another packed house at the Airport Lounge, 20 E. Pennington, around 10 p.m. Saturday, October 19. Cover at the door is $2, and there is a Happy Hour from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Swedish punks Millencolin rock out at that hip hole in the wall, Toxic Ranch Records, 624 E. Sixth St. The show is all ages, at 7 p.m., cover is $3 and more information is available in store.

CANCELED! Booked to the Rock for November 7, Soul Coughing has called it off due to scheduling problems. Refunds are available at the point of purchase. TW

--Jennifer Murphy
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