Sound Bites HUMP-DAY FUNK: Wednesdays are typically the slowest day of the week with respect to live music. It's the hardest night to book, and even harder to sell, what with most folks saving their cash and energy for the weekend...or at the very least, trying to hold out until Thursday before bar-hopping with abandon. As a result, the earlier nights of the week seem to find favor at local watering holes as lounge nights. Somehow the promise of hanging out in a low-key, swank atmosphere, sipping martinis in the low light is just the ticket for those who venture out mid-week. At least, that's the marketing plan. Not to mention that naming a theme night using the catchword "lounge" allows the establishment, as well as the clientele, to feel a part of something trendy and hip. Or something.

This might explain why the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill would bill its regular Wednesday band, Oslo B with The Grooves, as a part of "Jazz Martini Night." Oslo B. and The Grooves are without a doubt swank and hip; but mellow and laid-back--in a word, "lounge-y" --they're not. At least not from where I was sitting. And come to think of it, I didn't see a single martini that night, either.

These guys are an energetic amalgam of jazz, funk and something a little harder. Everyone in this band shines, and the frequent rounds of solos are displays of true artistry. Tighter than those Jordache jeans you used to have to lie down to zip up, the band moves in and out of its material, including cheeky covers of the Beatles, a song or two from Sesame Street, and a few achingly familiar disco ditties, gettin' the funk out with authority and panache.

Guitarist Matt Mitchell stands as if his feet are rooted to the spot, all his energy and soul focused into the dexterity of his fingers. He's one smooth cat, all cool and jazzy with his other band, The Blue Monks. But as part of The Grooves, he treats us to another, more kinetic dimension of his knock-down talent and versatility. Years of formal study generally result in musical fluency, to be sure, but Mitchell is downright intuitive. Mind-blowing, actually.

And as phenomenal as Mitchell is on his guitar, his efforts are equally matched by Mike Levy's bass. Relaxed, casual and as stationery on his stool as Mitchell is on his feet, Levy rips out slap solos the length of the neck with an agility and precision that's simply astonishing. Drummer Kevin Christiansen grounds the band, effortlessly changing time signatures with jazzy finesse, making it sound deceptively easy. Oslo B.'s rambling Quaalude trumpet solos saunter with the same attitude as Tom Waits' vocals in "The Piano Has Been Drinking." Combine that with his zany skatting antics, Vegas vocals, and confident stage presence, and we know why Oslo B. is the man with the band.

If you need a little funk to get you through the week, or just want to have a brew and see some first-rate musicians, head down to the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave., for Wednesday nights with Oslo B. with The Grooves. Cover is generally $2 at the door. Call 628-8844 for more information.

KEYED UP: Lollapalooza, last July: I raced up I-10 like a bat out of hell, only to arrive at Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion just in time to see a uniformly sweat-soaked, red-faced New York noise-rock band Skeleton Key walk off the second stage. Was I disappointed? That, and more than a little embarrassed to have to then promptly interview the band and admit I'd missed their set. Good-natured fellows that they are, Skeleton Key didn't seem to mind, even claiming, somewhat disgustedly, that I didn't miss much. The heat was abysmal, and so, according to them, was their set. I still find that hard to believe.

When I asked singer/guitarist Eric Sanko if they'd they be returning to Arizona anytime soon, he was pessimistic. Following their stint with Lollapalooza, Skeleton Key had plans to tour a regular circuit of east coast venues in late summer and early fall, with no dates set for the Southwest. For those of you who didn't see them this time last year when they opened for fellow New Yorkers Railroad Jerk (and that's a good many of you, because as I recall the Club Congress was still fairly vacant when they played), providence has afforded another chance on Friday, November 14, at the Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Don't pass it up. Local Big Stars Doo Rag headline the show, with Fly opening and Skeleton Key holding up the middle. You can't afford not to go, with cover a measly $5 at the door. Call 622-8848 for more information.

LAST NOTES: The best punk-rock band in Tucson, The Weird Lovemakers, plays at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, November 14, at the Nimbus Brewing Company, 3850 E. 44th St. Call 745-9175 for more information.

Things have been pretty quiet lately down at The Rock. All of the regular theme nights have been closed down, with nary a word about what's going on. Even the message on the answering machine has outlived its usefulness, providing no current or future information. This being the case, I contacted several A&R and management people, all of whom assured me the Dark Carnival is on: Detroit rappers Insane Clown Posse--Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope--with special guests Myzery, also from Detroit, bring their wack big-top cosmology (dubbed the Dark Carnival in an epiphany bestowed upon them by the "Carnival Spirit") to The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Saturday, November 15. For more information, you might call 629-9211; but if you have as little success as I did, try the KFMA concert line (296-7700, ext. 9605). TW

--Lisa Weeks

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