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Weekend music

Tucson sounds: Feverfew channels the voice of God in Hello Kitty's clothing

There's a scene in the Kevin Smith movie "Dogma" in which a loving, graceful and very feminine incarnation of God (as portrayed by Alanis Morrissette) throws back her head, closes her eyes and unleashes her unearthly voice, causing angels to quake and nature to bend and men to kneel in humble and terrified submission. The "voice" of God is muted in the film and drowned out by the sound of heavy winds, presumably because (according to the film's narrative) the voice of God is more than mortal's senses can bear. And so we are left to imagine the unnerving and terrible beauty of that voice emanating from the lips of a beautiful and sweet tempered but righteously angry deity.

What does any of this have to do with a weekly music column, one might ask? Have patience, dear reader. All will be revealed in good time.

Jessica Famighetti of local band Feverfew joins a handful of local musicians (such as Tucson native by way of NYC Marta De Leon) in being both a Tucson local and a "new kid in town" of sorts. Famighetti grew up in Tucson, first realizing her talent and ear for music as a first chair violinist for her school orchestra.

Still, the musical landscape for a kid growing up on local commercial radio in the mid to late '90s was somewhat homogeneous and Famighetti's rock and roll awakening didn't truly take place until her early teens when she stumbled upon the music of indie label Drive Thru Records and cable channel Fuse TV and discovered alternative and pop punk bands like the Starting Line, Brand New, and My Chemical Romance. These bands acted as sort of a gateway drug to "the harder stuff" eventually leading teenage Jessica to become a regular at local all-ages shows, falling in love with early 2000s Tucson bands like the Mean Reds, Acorn Bcorn and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout at spaces like Red Room and local art/performance venue the Hangart.

Meeting real, down-to-earth humans who turned their inner angst into outer art struck a nerve with the seemingly demure and introverted teen. The idea that one could be quiet and private and reserved by day and then unleash one's emotions in loud, fuzzy, distorted sonic bursts sparked the germ of an idea and Famighetti became determined to pick up an instrument. First, the bass and eventually guitar.

"I was going to learn guitar if it killed me," says Famighetti "and I knew I had to escape Tucson."

So out into the world, our brave native daughter went, armed with a Fender Bronco bass painted in pastel rainbow tones and some big artistic ambitions. And she found something close to what she was looking for.

For roughly a year, she honed her craft as bassist for all girl Chicago lo-fi indie group Heavy Dreams, a band in which she developed her true voice as a player, discovering the fuzzy joy of pedals and the possibilities therein.

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In her own playing and writing, the aspiring guitarist and now songwriter fell down the effects rabbit hole further and further, adding chorus and reverb to her guitar and looping her vocals, finally creating a sound that matched the emotional hurricane swirling beneath Famighetti's delicate, pastel tinted Hello Kitty aesthetic. Now that she had found her voice, it was time to be heard. 

"Sometimes, I just need catharsis. I just feel like screaming gets it out," she says. "the emotion and intensity, demure and awkward and in between."

Flash forward just a couple of years to last summer when Famighetti, now back home in Tucson, opened a show at Can's, opening for Elegant Rabies and Portland, Ore., band the Shivas.

Your friendly neighborhood music journalist was minding her own business waiting for the other bands to start but mildy interested in finally hearing what all the hype was about when Feverfew took the stage. The "band" at that point was  really a one woman act, looped through a dizzying array of pedals, cables and gear far beyond this columnist's technical acumen. Dressed in diaphanous pastels with Easter egg pink hair, rainbow and glitter accents Famighetti looked like an anime princess brought to life. And then she threw back her head and began play and sing...

And. It. Sounded. Like. The. Voice. Of. God.

Feverfew, even as a solo project was a wild, untamed, unearthly, fuzz laden, echoing, emotive, gorgeous, terrible, beautiful sonic explosion much in the spirit of what one imagines Alanis Morrisette's vengeful deity might have sounded like in the film scene we referenced above. You see how this whole thing ties together? Of course you do.

A few months later, this columnist caught up with Feverfew in its new, full-band incarnation at a rare Club Congress floor show on a rainy December midweek night.

The fuzz-kissed, bruised and bleeding angst of Feverfew's sound hadn't diminished any in a full band setting, but the additions of Molly Ragan's steady and subliminal bass lines and Bill Barron's gleefully unhinged percussive beat seemed to lend a sharp edge and controlled confidence to Feverfew's sound and the band's joy and camaraderie amped up the show's energy. No longer a lone woman with a lot to shout about, Feverfew is now something of a glitter-soaked gang whose good side you'd rather be on.

Prior to putting together a live band, Famighetti recently wrapped up the final recording sessions for Feverfew's debut album, recorded at local studio engineer extraordinaire Matt Rendon's Midtown Island Studios, and according to Rendon, at least one indie label of note has expressed interest in releasing the album. Even so, Famighetti is loathe to commit just yet, carefully weighing her options and enjoying the feeling of finally having begun to master her craft and control her own path.

Though still fairly new at the pro musican game, Feverfew's frontwoman has a bit of sage advice for those just starting out as serious players and performers.

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"Do the work. Build real relationships and be supportive. Make genuine connections." 

From "God's" lips to our ears, folks.

Feverfew plays Club Congress this Friday night, Feb. 22, at 9 p.m. at Owls Club in support of Scott Yoder and again at Club Congress Sunday night, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. along with Rough Draft, Lucille Petty, and Foxx Bodies.

The Masquerade unfolds

Last month we told you about Katie Haverly's Titanic video, shot by local musican and videographer Julius Schlossberg and featuring an all-star local cast of Tucson based female musicians artists and entrepreneurs. This weekend, the film-based cross-pollination of the local music scene evolves even further as alternative prog band the Unday unveil the video for their song "Masquerade" featuring local musician/dancer/choreographer Chezale in a starring role. Based on what we've seen so far, this columnist would bet on a nod or two to a certain Jim Henson/Bowie movie in the video's masked ball-themed fantasy.

Meanwhile, Haverly and friend and collaborator Jillian Bessett are making good on their promise of an encore of early February's sold out Titanic premiere, once again screening the video as part of a live performance by both musicians at Exo Roast.

The Unday premier their new video for "Masquerade" during a live set at Sky Bar on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8:30 p.m. with support from Heroes Reunion and Miller's Planet.

Katie Haverly and the Aviary with Jillian Bessett perform an encore of new video Titanic at Exo Roast at 8 p.m. also on Saturday.

The Record is on!

La Cerca frontman Andrew Gardner has a lot to smile about these days. Riding high on last year's new release "Night Bloom" on Xemu records, the band's first since 2014's "Sunrise for Everyone," the band is set to join fellow Tucsonans the Rifle as part of Buger Records' SXSW showcase in March and the album itself is beginning to gain some press both locally and across the country as the previously CD-only album is released vinyl this month. Gardner is also now hosting a radio show on local LPFM station KMKR Radio called "The Record Is On," sharing the encyclopedic knowledge of cool obscure indie bands that once made him a go to talent booker for a handful of local venues in the '90s and early 2000s. 

This Friday night, Gardner and La Cerca unveil the vinyl version of Night Bloom at a record release party at Club Congress along with locals Soda Sun and friend-of-this-column Louise Le Hir. Odds are it'll be a show worth braving the winter weather for!

La Cerca vinyl release show with Soda Sun and Louise Le Hir takes place at Club Congress Friday night at 8 p.m.

Check your local listings...

Friday, Feb. 22

  • La Cerca w/ Soda Sun and Louise Le Hir - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • Zero Miles to Empty, Church Pants - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Scott Yoder w/ Feverfew  - 9 p.m. Owls Club
  • Weeg Silver and Sly Tones - 9 p.m. Saint Charles
  • The Minds, Ted Riviera - 9 p.m. District Eatz
  • Tucson Libertine League - Whatever Lola Wants! - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Eugene Boronow Duo - 10:30 p.m. Dusty Monk

Saturday Feb. 23

  • Al Foul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Peace Fair - 11 a.m. Armory Park
  • Juliana Warkentin - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Shooda Shook It at Tucson Roller Derby- 6 p.m. Tucson Roller Derby
  • Royal Agaves - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Paul Opocensky Project - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Joyce Luna + Anne English - 7 p.m. Congregation Chaverim
  • David Huckfelt - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Dos Suenos - 7:30 p.m. Borderlands
  • Blueface - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Igor & The Red Elvises - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Katie Havery & The Aviary w/ Jillian Bessett (Titanic release encore) - 8 p.m. Exo Roast
  • The Unday (video release) w/ Heroes Reunion, Miller's Planet - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar
  • The Fineline Revisited - 9 p.m. Surly Wench

Sunday, Feb. 24

  • Natalie Pohanic - 6 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Last Sunday Revival - 5 p.m. Tap & Bottle
  • Fox Bodies w/ Feverfew, Rough Draft and Lucille Petty - 7 p.m. Club Congress

Monday, Feb. 25

  • Un, Body Void, Hist, Kryge - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Wood Brothers - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Calyx, Droll, Logan Greene - 9 p.m. Owls Club

Tuesday, Feb. 26

  • STRFKR - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • The Switch - 8 p.m. Club Congress

Wednesday, Feb. 27

  • Chelsey Trejo w/ Adan Martinez Kee and Grant Beyschau - 8 p.m. Exo Roast

Thursday, Feb. 28

  • Joe Pena w/ Gene Moran - 8:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle

Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources. If you've got a gig coming up and you'd like your event listed in this space (or if your local band has a major announcement or a new release) drop me a line at arts@tucsonsentinel.com.

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Christopher B. Riggs

Jessica 'Sissy' Famighetti (Feverfew) at Club Congress

Youtube Video