Sonic Youth throws down musical gauntlet for 2010
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Sonic Youth throws down musical gauntlet for 2010

Rialto show was first Tucson appearance in 23 years

On January 4, indie legends Sonic Youth played the Rialto to a multi-generational horde of fans whose collective face got rocked off.

Drawing heavily from their 2009 Matador release “The Eternal,” the quintet proved their relevance and urgency. Songs like “Anti-Orgasm” began as rocking verse and chorus, and then gave way to maelstroms of guitar noise. And the noise was complex and so compelling it made the argument that when people listen to a vast swath of the last few decades of alt-rock, they hear some pale Xerox of a Xerox of Sonic Youth.

Kim Gordon, freed from her bass duties by former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold, stood front and center, reminding all present of a lifetime of obsessive crushing on her in-your-face attitude. Kim is still a striking beauty, perhaps more now than ever.

Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo merged their various techniques and trickery to generate a collective howl. Moore employed his alternate tunings and feedback, at one point nearly violating a sound wedge; Ranaldo used all kinds of accessories, from EBow to violin bow, further cementing his position as a major rock guitar innovator. The band closed with the classic “Death Valley ’69.” The song, a throbbing vision of the Manson murders, was recorded in 1985, yet felt fresh and starkly relentless.

So what concerts and festivals stand a chance in the wake of the double fists of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore? 

Sentinel picks some possible contenders

The Residents at The Rialto Theatre, January 31

These San Francisco performance art and experimental noise veterans are sure to bring the strange. For nearly forty years, The Residents have been recalled as one of the more compelling and curious live performances in many a concert veteran’s history. In Tucson, The Residents are sure to make a few young converts as well. And music fans may be joined by fans of outrageous multimedia and clever disguises.

The Chieftains at Centennial Hall, February 24

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Known for raucous and moving live sets that often feel more like a party—alternately wedding and wake— The Chieftains are certainly the most prominent Celtic music artists in the world. Even after nearly 50 years, their sets run over two hours, and customarily end with the opportunity for audience members who are musicians or dancers to become part of the performance, always to delightful result.

Midlake at Plush, March 1

This quintet from Denton, Texas release their new record, “The Courage of Others,” February 1. The album is a natural progression from the stunning “The Trials of Van Occupanther,” and promises to delight any fan of the brand of shimmeringly reflective rock of Fleetwood Mac, or the flavor of complicated folk-rock of Tim Buckley. Anchored by formidable drummer McKenzie Smith, this sleeper pick may just deliver, as these five are all seriously accomplished musicians, and the songs are so profound and lovely the listener feels like falling into them.

The Avett Brothers with Truth and Salvage Co. at The Rialto, April 23

Perennial Tucson concert favorites, the brothers Avett return in April in support of their 2009 release, “I and Love and You,” which appeared on a myriad of critics’ Top 10 lists recently. This time around, they are joined by fellow Carolinians, Truth and Salvage Co. Known for sweet but compelling alt-country songs and three- and even four-part harmony, this opener merits arriving early.

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour at Centennial Hall, April 27

If you haven’t heard of Kenny Barron, Regina Carter or Kurt Elling, you haven’t been keeping current with contemporary jazz. But that’s no problem, as the people from the Monterey Jazz Festival are bringing you some of this generation’s best jazz players. It may be hot here in Tucson by then, but these coolest of cats will bring a California breeze. Make no mistake, however: this should be a full-fledged storm of a serious jazz concert.

HoCo Fest/25 Year Anniversary at Club Congress, September 3-5

According to booking boss David Slutes, this will be the best year of the HoCo yet. While Slutes remains tight-lipped about particulars, he guarantees to shake the saguaros for 25 years' worth of characters from Tucson music history and have them convene at Club Congress. The event includes three full days and nights of music and community programs. Equally enticing is the prospect of Mr. Tidypaws’ barbecue.

Sound off

Which of these concerts strikes your fancy most? Is there something coming we neglected to mention that you are especially anticipating? Let us know in the comments.

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2 comments on this story

Jan 24, 2010, 7:24 am
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I vote for Ted Leo at Club Congress on March 28.

Jan 22, 2010, 2:04 pm
-0 +1

Brava, Tucson Sentinel, to your Maggie Golston. No one has all the perfect, sparkly angles of knowing like Tucson’s own Maggie.

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Sonic Youth blows the Rialto audience away

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