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Weekend music

Rock and roll isn't dead, it just needs some (Taco) Sauce

The other night, your intrepid reporter was out at a live gig for a couple of local bands, casually eavesdropping on random anonymous conversations (as one does) when she heard the following little nugget. "Rock and roll isn't dead, it just belongs to women now."

A quick look at the general musical landscape in 2018 makes me think this pronouncement may be a tad premature, but it's not entirely without merit. Back in the proverbial "day," girls who loved rock and roll didn't always pick up guitars and start playing like their male peers did. It was far more socially acceptable to become an adoring fan or... well, a rock critic. In fact rock and punk godmothers Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith actually wrote about music well before they ever led a band.

These days, though, it's not so very rare for a teen girl to work out her adolescent angst on a fretboard and the result has whole crop of fantastic original and edgy femme-fronted bands are mainstays on independent radio and the DIY touring circuit. 

Many of these bands have styles that combine serious musicianship with nods to the past in the form of surf rock riffs, garage fuzz and the honey sweet harmonies of their girl group forebears. As music zeitgeists go, this one ain't so bad. The music is intersecting, catchy, and clever and almost everyone can get into it from seasoned rock snobs to pop music fans to everybody else, including your mom (if she's cool.)

One of Tucson's newest live bands, Taco Sauce, follows in this fine tradition. Taco Sauce is the brainchild of self-described "nanny by day and obsessive musician the rest of the time" Gabi Montoya, also the frontwoman of local rock band Juju Fontaine. A year or so into their tenure as a fixture of the local live music scene, Juju is a serious, r&b, blues and jazz laced rock and roll band, think Nina Simone fronting the rhythm section of Steely Dan — soulful and dreamy and absolute ear candy for music nerds.

Taco Sauce is a different beast, just as serious in intent but fun, loud, fierce, joyful and aggressive in attack. Their first two singles "Swipe Left" and "Crashed Your Bike" evoke classic bubblegum pop girl-group vocals while giving a perfectly manicured (and guitar calloused) finger to the stand by your man (and pine for him) sentiment of bands like the Supremes and the Shangri Las.

This week I caught up with Gabi and crew to "get sauced" and introduce you all to Taco Sauce the band.

TucsonSentinel.com: Who is Taco Sauce?

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Gabi Montoya (guitar, vocals): "We're a three-piece (for now) '60s-style garage-pop-surf-punk all girl band."

Isabella Rodriguez (bass, vocals) : "I started as a classically trained violinist before I became a rock n' roller. Kinda like Bo Diddley. I started with guitar and fell in love with bass when I was 12 or so. I was raised on Motown and classic rock radio pretty much exclusively, so that obviously informed a lot of my taste. I went through a lot of musical stages growing up, as everyone does, but I never had peers in music. For example, I went pretty much from a Led Zeppelin fan and Tolkien reading nerd to a '60s garage-obsessed teenybopper. In high school, I jammed with a few punk bands here and there but never got beyond a first or second show. I didn't find my crowd until I went to L.A. where I go-go danced in the local garage scene. Now I'm back home and am ridiculously happy to have found some awesome girls to jam with. It's been part of my vision for a long time.

Dessa Keys (drummer): "I'm a feminist, trans, dyke drummer bitch!"

GM: "The inception of Taco Sauce was about two years ago. I had always wanted some sort of punk band that would be an edgier, more fun and upbeat musical outlet than my typical solo projects, but I never personally connected with any style of punk that I could write without being reductive and fake. Then my best friend Michael (a girl) and I began sending each other silly riot grrrl-style lyrics back and forth (mostly petty stuff about how much boys suck). She used to play drums but moved to Phoenix and couldn't be part of the actual project, but it immediately inspired me to start writing some '60s girl group/surf rock-sounding stuff. 

"Andrew Shuta found me and we recorded a few demos together, so the music came before the band with this one. I had been holding onto the demos for quite a while and finally decided that I needed to hurry up and do it. I put out the call for female musicians, and finally two of them were able to stick around. Dessa and Isabella have very much fulfilled my vision of my dream girl group. We have great musical chemistry and have quickly become great friends."

TS: Wherefore art thou Taco Sauce? That is, how'd you choose the name?

GM: "We initially thought of using a typical '60s garage rock band name format, like 'something and the something-ettes.' My boyfriend Mark came up with one of the first favorites, Sancha and the Sucias which we loved because it evoked pride in being a sexually liberated woman, hinted at our Latinx backgrounds, and was a little profane. We wanted something that was associated with Tucson and being Chicana. Everyone knows that "saucy" is my favorite word. And we all know what Taco is slang for (wink.) In short, it was our favorite clever way to reference being girls, Chicanas, and of course, keep it saucy."

TS: "Who and what are your biggest musical influences?"

GM: "I've been long obsessed with playing folk-rock but within the last few years I've fallen back in love with blues and r&b, and have always been a fan of surf punk/lo-fi/ garage rock, just didn't think it was my playing style. Somehow getting back into old blues and soul has given me an avenue to write music in our unique style. Ironically, the style of blues guitar soloing that I've recently become obsessed with mastering is the same style stolen by Led Zeppelin, whom Isabella grew up obsessed with and learned bass to. I am of course obsessed with Janis Joplin, as most female rock singers are, as well as Amy Winehouse for bringing '60s soul/pop back to the mainstream. Alabama Shakes are also a big inspiration to me."

IR: "I'm really just influenced by the music I love and I've been obsessed with a variety of genres but I really like anything dark, unmistakably rock n' roll and even remotely psychedelic. It's hard to pinpoint any specific influence but Geezer Butler happens to be on my mind a lot lately."

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DK: "I cut my teeth playing grunge in high school but I stopped playing drums a few years after. I continued to expand my bond with music wandering mostly into cumbia/psychedelia/electronica in more recent years. But Gabi pulled me out of retirement and got me playing drums again."

TS: What about your more modern inspirations?

GM: "Of course, grunge/garage/riot grrrl  veterans like Bikini Kill, Veruca Salt, Garbage, Sleater-Kinney, The Donnas. And newer acts like Chastity Belt, fellow taco-powered girl band Tacocat, Speedy Ortiz, Shannon and the Clams, La Luz, Habibi, Vivian Girls, and Colleen Green. They all retain the riot grrrl spirit but with new complex sounds and layers, and some of them even have this new level of softness that I think proves more female musicians realize that we can retain our femininity and sing about any and all emotions but still retain our badassery. I think if your not willing the mine even the most uncomfortable feelings and experiences for your art, it will eventually just end up a shallow gimmick. Some of my other current favorites are Kurt Vile, War on Drugs, Mitski, Gary Clark Jr., Father John Misty and Japanese Breakfast."

IR: "The Cramps for sure. They seemed to follow the lead of Bo Diddley when it came to having women in the musical background and not necessarily in the spotlight in order to sell an image. Poison Ivy had such a unique sound so she's a huge influence on me. Obviously for a lot of the '60s, girl groups ran the show and I'm also heavily influenced by girl garage groups of that era who were fearless in their playing and their demeanor (e.g. The Ladybirds). I'm really into doomy stonery stuff these days and Electric Wizard, Windhand and Ruby the Hatchet are all bands I love with strong female presence. As far as favorite bands go... I've had so many throughout the years. I love blues, garage, Motown, soul, psych, pop.. from all over the world. My favorite have varied widely from the Yardbirds to Lady Gaga. Oh yeah, my favorite now is Queens of the Stone Age. As problematic as they seem to be sometimes."

DK: "My favorites are actually mostly hip-hop/rap artists. Ana Tijoux is my favorite though as far as bands go, Kumbia Queers has been at the top of my list for a few years now. My favorite band overall would still be Tool though."

TS: "Gabi, your other band (Juju Fontaine) has been through some ups and downs over the past year, including a major line up change. Meanwhile, Taco Sauce was in its infancy. How'd you manage to juggle all that and still launch this new project?"

GM: "Honestly, the formation of Taco Sauce kind of helped me relax in regards to the changes happening with Juju. For a moment I thought I would end up band-less but then I had Taco Sauce so I figured, well I might end up alone in Juju but at least I'll have a cool girl band to focus on. But being less neurotic about Juju helped me open up and allow things to come together. I really trust all my bandmates so I've been open to trying new things in both bands and the strong skills of all my bandmates have allowed me to feel comfortable to experiment with my guitar playing and arranging. I'm actually getting good at soloing which I never thought I could be. I love finally having the camaraderie of girl friends in an all girl band, but also I realize that the relationship I have with my dudes in Juju isn't all that different because they still have that same spirit of kindness, love, openness and creativity. It's a really special dynamic with both bands and even though it's double the work. It's totally worth it because of how it feeds by soul in a way? I'm super lucky and totally in love with both my bands. They're all beautiful humans."

TS: So...what do you sound like? And what's on the menu at your upcoming show?

GM:"You can expect a fun blend of garage rock and riot grrrl covers from all eras, and some originals inspired by those eras, but everything with our own unique spin. My songwriting for this band is 100 percent give-no-fucks girl power laced with a little bit of boys-suck pettiness, but it's all in good fun. Isabella's '70s metal-style baselines and Dessa's heavy rock roots shine through and give my songs a little extra edge. The Frecks, a younger all girl Tucson punk band with so much spunk and attitude will be opening and DJ Dirty D (Diana Williams) will briefly come out of retirement so we can keep the party going all night (well til 2 .a.m). It's going to be a great time!"

TS: Tell us about the songs!

GM: "The song 'Swipe Left (Nope!)' might be a little less relevant than when I wrote it, as it's all about Tinder and I'm in a committed relationship now. But it's mainly expressing annoyance over how so many Tinder profiles are just making stupid demands for what they want people to be, like 'you have to like only the fith season of this very specific obscure Anime and only the third Star Wars movie or else just swipe left and move along!' I'm so glad I'm done with Tinder. And then of course the typical sexual predator behavior and dick pics and white male toxicity. It's a little bit of rage but it feels good to sing, even now. 'Crashed Your Bike' is about when you know you wouldn't necessarily wish harm on a boy who was mean to you, but then something bad happens to them and you're like... well, darn! That's all I have to say on that one. We have another one about just being unapologetic and confident in who you are, even if it means you end up alone. There are like five other songs in the works. This project has given me an outlet to write in a style that I probably wouldn't otherwise. I'm secretly really good at writing parody songs so this has given me an outlet for some of that silliness."

TS: It's nice to think that we're finally in a day and age when women in rock bands are just...people in rock bands. On the other hand, the current social and political climate is one where it's almost more important than ever that we stand up, speak up and make our voices heard. Thoughts?

GM: "I think if the music industry/music scene had true equity between male and female artists, in terms of the number of each gender how each are treated, it wouldn't matter and it would be silly to make a big deal about being a 'girl band.' But that's not the current reality. Not acknowledging women artists for being women is like claiming to be colorblind to race. Disregarding the fact that we're women, specifically Latina women, won't change the fact that there are fewer girls and women in bands than there are men."

"The first step to gender equity is representation and power. Some women may need to see that there are other women out there doing it and doing it well before they realize they can do it too, in any industry. It's very important for young women of color and LGBTQ people - Dessa is transgender - to see themselves represented in music, and hopefully that will inspire more women to be musicians, whether as a hobby or seriously. When people are no longer surprised to see an all girl band, when we can no longer even use it as a gimmick, that's when being an 'all girl band' won't be worth mentioning anymore."

"We're obviously not there yet judging by all the dudes (and some girls) out there making stupid comments like 'well, golly gee who knew ya gals would actually be good!' I literally cannot tell you how many people have expressed dismay over our all girl band being good. That alone makes me feel like shouting 'we are brown girl musicians and we rock!' every single day. Other than that, I think we all just really love being women and we're proud of being women and being confident musicians. I want to see more girls doing this!"

IR: "It's a little weird because I feel like a lot of all-girl bands or even bands with one woman can get attention for the wrong reasons. It shouldn't be a big deal that girls are making dope music, but I understand that it is. I've always been into music that was deemed 'for the boys' so I'm used to being cut off by men when it comes to discussing music. If you're one of the few men out there who can appreciate a girl with good taste without fetishizing her, I salute you. Come to our shows. You're the kind of guys we want around."

DK: "I think historically women’s talent has been dismissed or ignored so we have to come louder and prouder and make it so that our voices and talent can’t be ignored."

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Taco Sauce makes their debut on Saturday night at Bar Passe on 4th Avenue. The Frecks and Dirty D open. 

Weekend music roundup

It's a weekend full of debuts, benefits, band reunions and dormant bands coming out of the woodwork. 

The fabulous, but briefly off the radar band Burning Palms is back with new tracks. Check them out Friday night at Owl's Club. That same night you can catch a very unusual Tucson legend - the notorious helmet-wearing one-man band that is Bob Log III - playing alongside The Mission Creeps at Surly Wench Pub. 

Meanwhile, still in Downtown, you can check out a trio of local bands all in benefit of local radio as Lost Streetlight Curb Players, Spirit Houses and Blue Stained Stems join forces at Xerocraft Hackerspace in support of emerging LPFM Station KMKR Radio.

On Saturday, catch some anthemic indie rock out of Old Pascua Village when Sur Block graces the stage at Saint Charles Tavern or check out Gaza Strip at Sky Bar.

On Sunday, check out some incredibly talented folks, such as long dormant local band The Electric Blankets, on behalf of a good cause at the Thanks For The Mammaries benefit at Tap & Bottle for local writer, indie publisher and recent cancer survivor Katy Gierlach. Sunday also features a performance by locals M. Crane at Club Congress and a screening of Tucson psych-garage legends The Marshmallow Overcoat's new documentary "All You Need is Fuzz" at The Screening Room.

New releases from local bands this week include a new CD by by one of the best alt country bands ever named for a Kurt Vonnegut character, the Wanda Junes as well as new Burning Palms and the debut track from Weekend Lovers, recorded at Midtown Island Studios.

More great shows from once and future bands are on the horizon and we can also expect more new album and E.P. releases in the coming weeks as local bands begin their spring touring season and outside artists begin to pass through on their way to and from the west coast. So stay tuned.

Check your local listings...

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, including local musician Chris Black's site www.whoplayswhere.com. If you've like your event listed in this space, or if your local band has major news or a new release, drop me a line at arts@tucsonsentinel.com.

Friday, April 27

  • Natalie Pohanic - 7:30 p.m. Borderlands Brewing (Downtown)
  • Burning Palms & Strange Lot at Owls Club - 8 p.m. Owl's Club (Downtown)
  • Bob Log III and The Mission Creeps - 8 p.m. Surly Wench Pub (Downtown)
  • Sissy Brown - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Highest Conspiracy, Clint Stevens Band - 8 p.m. The Loudhouse (North)
  • Ugly God - 8 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)
  • Los Streetlight Curb Players, Spirit Houses & Blue Stained Stems - 7 p.m. Xerocraft (Downtown)
  • El Tambo Fest Cumbia Summit of the Borderlands - 7:30 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)

Saturday, April 28

  • Taco Sauce w/ the Frecks & Dirty D - 9 p.m. Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • Gaza Strip, Neomorph Surprise - 9 p.m. Skybar (Downtown)
  • Igor And The Red Elvises with The Delta Bombers - 9 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Six Organs Of Admitttance  - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
  • La Merma, Mosto, Tlaqupaque  - 8 p.m. The Loudhouse (North)
  • Adventure Club, Focus Fire  - 8 p.m. Rialto (Downtown)
  • Santa Pachita - 6 p.m. Playground (Downtown)
  • Black Cat Bones - 7 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Kyklo: Lust, Loss, and Love - Exo Bar (Downtown)
  • Sur Block - Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)

Sunday, April 29

  • Katie Haverly & The Aviary - 7 p.m. Che's (Downtown)
  • The Marshmallow Overcoat: All You Need Is Fuzz Premiere - 7:30 p.m. The Screening Room (Downtown)
  • Thanks for the Mammaries Benefit: The Determined Luddites, Tom Walbank, Feverfew, The Electric Blankets - 5 p.m. Tap & Bottle (Downtown)
  • Paper Foxes, M. Crane, Fools Like Me - 7 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown) 
  • Thicker Than Thieves  - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)

Monday, April 30

  • Justin Howl - 9 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Xfest Urban Dance Showcase - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Teenage Wrist - 7 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)

Tuesday, May 1

  • No Joy, Mute Swan, Weekend Lovers, PU Stinky - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • Tom Walbank - 6:30 p.m. Skybar (Downtown)
  • Dos Munoz - 8:30 p.m. Skybar (Downtown)

Wednesday, May 2

  • Piano Lover's Lounge - 6 p.m. Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield - 6 p.m. La Cocina (Downtown)
  • Mesquite, J-Calvin - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)

Thursday, May 3

  • Dreamdecay, Hikikomori, Soft Shoulder - 7 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Tyson Motsenbocker with Special Guests - 7 p.m. House Of Bards (Central)
  • The Roilers & Brian Berggoetz - 8 p.m. The Loudhouse (North)
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Taco Sauce the Band

Taco Sauce

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