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Weekend music

Anatomy of a scene: Meet some local music fans

It takes the proverbial village to build a local music scene. Obviously, you need skilled and talented talented players. Places for bands to practice. Supportive venues. Good independent record stores. Recording studios that know what they're doing. Local radio stations. Maybe even a great local music column or two?

But there is one element that is absolutely, irrevocably essential to a thriving local music community. One might even say that it's the most important factor in the whole enterprise. The audience.

Ever wonder why Tucson has such a cool, smart, diverse local music scene? Take a look in the mirror. It's because of folks like you. And me. And the fine folks in this week's column.

That's right. Let's hear it for local music fans. Tucson has some pretty amazing ones and this week I tracked some of them down.

The Digital Muse: Cia Romanao

Odds are if you run into Cia Romano at a live rock show in town, it'll be on the other side of a camera lens. Cia has an eye for a great shot and an ear for the good and the loud and has been documenting the local music scene for a couple of decades now.

In addition to being a general rock and roll badass, she's also a board member for local LPFM station Downtown Radio and the founder of digital media firm Interface Guru.

TucsonSentinel.com: How did you first become a rock and roll fan?

Cia Romano: "I had the great privilege of discovering rock 'n' roll via AM radio in early '70s Miami - no such thing as a "genre" and you would hear anything from Jimi Hendrix and Iron Butterfly to the Carpenters and Bread in the same 15 minutes.

I started buying every single I could get my hands on and became the de-facto DJ at parties when I was 11 years old. There was a huge recording scene there (Aretha Franklin, Bee Gees, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Allman Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band) where I would land a few years later."

TS: First live concert ever?

CR: "I started very young. Three Dog Night in 1972 at the infamous Hollywood Sportatorium. It was a horrid venue but all the epic 70s bands played there - Aerosmith, Dylan, Skynyrd."

TS: How and when did you end up "plugged in" to the Tucson music scene?

CR: "As soon as I discovered Congress Street in 1997 while In Tucson for a job interview."

TS: Do you play any instruments? What other music related adventures have you undertaken?

CR: "(I'm) a fair guitar player and singer, but after my three-year stint at the legendary Criteria recording studios at 19, I knew my limitations. I'm a digital consultant professionally and decided to help the music scene that way, getting local musicians online in 2003. I took some of the first photos of those bands to appear on the web.

I've also reviewed, interviewed, and done advance (PR) for bands over the years. I wish I still had the outrageous interview I conducted with Cris Kirkwood of Meat Puppets in the 90s! Now I volunteer for Downtown Radio."

TS: Favorite local venues and bands?

CR: "I was always at the Red Room or Club Congress or Seven Black Cats (later The District.) But the local music scene these days has been chased off Congress Street, a short-sighted, sad, and probably irreversible outcome. These days I hit CANS, Che's, St. Charles, and 191 Toole.

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TS: Favorite bands of all time?

CR: "Porcupine Tree, Sabbath, MUSE, Chemical Brothers, Screaming Trees, Nebula, early Pink Floyd, early Roxy Music."

TS: What are you listening to these days?

CR: "Everything, but I'm attracted to sludgy metal above all."

TS: Do you still go out to shows a lot? What does it take to lure you out to a live gig?

CR: "Yes! Originality and passion are key. So is professionalism – I guess my early education in the studio business stuck with me. I worked alongside world-famous artists and producers who were humble, so I have little patience for self-impressed musicians anywhere."

Thoughts on the state of the music industry?

CR: "The great live bands play Europe, South America and Asia but they can barely get a full house in the United States.

We seem to be back in a pop-factory cycle, except all the concepts are rehashed (see Quincy Jones on Taylor Swift). There is little courage in the industry, politically or artistically. At least the Internet makes self-distribution possible, and the indie scene is strong."

TS: Favorite local music memories?

CR: "The Zsa Zsas - a brilliant wreck of a cover band - were an institution for years, and I truly miss their hilarious shows at Congress.

The basement at Double Zero, which was probably illegal. Noel Chester standing on a chair with a malfunctioning extension cord and pulling out the ground so the show could go on the last night of The District. Paul Jenkins on stage with Music Video...? at Plush."

Rock and Roll Librarian: Davida Larson

In Tucson, even the librarians are really cool. Case in point, Davida Larson, a staffer at the Woods Library by day, a volunteer DJ at KMKR radio, and the leader of a crew of pirate cats (it's kind of a long story.) Davida knows and loves indie rock the way only a person who catalogs things for a living truly can. And Tucson is the better for it.

TucsonSentinel.com: What was your first live concert?

Davida Larson: "Tori Amos in Phoenix, when I was 17. She was amazing!"

TS: Favorite local venues and bands?

DL: "Venues: Club Congress, Solar Culture, Plush, The Red Room. Bands: Malignus Youth, The Beta Sweat/Sweat Band, Weird Lovemakers, The Exbats, The Resonars."

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TS: Favorite bands of all time?

DL: "Kristin Hersh/Throwing Muses, Siouxsie and the Banshees, David Bowie, Sleater-Kinney."

TS: Do you still go out to shows a lot? What does it take to lure you out to a live gig?

DL: "I go out sometimes, not as much as I did when I was 20 but at least once a week."

TS: Thoughts on the state of live music today?

DL: "I used to hear about shows through word of mouth/Tucson Weekly/bulletin boards at the co-op, Toxic Ranch, and Epic cafe. The underground was harder to find, but it was thriving, just as it is now."

Scenebuilder General: Drummer and DIY Promoter Jeffrey Locke

TucsonSentinel.com: How did you first become a rock and roll fan?

Jeffrey Locke: "I grew up in Tucson listening to my moms records. I was turned on to local music because all my roommates were in bands. As a kid living on his own at 18 years of age, living in a house surrounded by music and musicians was very inspiring.

TS: First live concerts?

JL: "I was a kid of the early 80s pop rock scene. My older sister took me to see Rick Springfield. Don't remember the date, just the lights and the girls. I also saw a local band called Johnny Law open up for Charlie Sexton at Mudbuggs in 1985.

TS: How and when did you end up "plugged in" to the Tucson music scene?

JL: "I was lucky to be friends with guys in bands like Earls Family Bombers, Molton Leather, HellDriver, Super Monkey, etc.

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I would frequent their shows because I liked the music and I saw how connected these people were to one another through music."

TS: Besides as a fan, what are some other ways you contribute to the local music scene?

JL: "I play drums in The Gunrunners, In Good Cause, Blue Collar Criminals, and Los Gordos Diablos. I also book a monthly live music series at Brodie's Tavern called Sonidos de la Luna. We host 3 live bands one Friday each month. It's free to the public."

TS: Favorite local venues and bands?

JL: "I'm biased towards Brodie's Tavern because the owners are great dudes. But I loved the Loudhouse and Flycatcher a great deal. In the good old days The Downtown Performance Center, Seven Black Cats, The Double Zero and Jaimes on 4th Ave were killer spots."

TS: Favorite bands of all time?

JL: "Damn!! That's tough! Misfits, Replacements, Nirvana, Alkaline Trio"

TS: What are you mostly listening to these days?

JL: "Mobina Galore, Screaming Females, Ryan Adams, Rude Pride and a local band, Cement Shoes."

TS: Do you still go out to shows a lot?

JL: "I see a lot of live music. Mainly because I book shows and play in way too many bands. But even when I'm not booking/playing I still go see bands. I love Tucson music and would rather spend my money to support the local scene than go to the movies or something.

TS: Thoughts on the state of rock music today?

JL: "I can't really comment on the music industry as a whole, because I'm not wrapped up in that "machine". I've never participated in any music venture to make money. That kind of stuff doesn't concern me at all.

But I think the state of live music is excellent. Tucson kicks ass. You can see metal, punk, folk, rock, indie, and blues all within 4 or 5 miles of each other. And some shows are often free. There's something for everyone."

TS: Favorite local music memories?

JL: "Back in the mid-late 90's before cell phones were common and way before social media, the shows Molton Leather would play were epic. Crazy costumes, fake blood, hot girls, and songs about Satan. Perfect! Besides, how could someone NOT love a band with 3 bass players?"

A Rock Fan Most Refined: Heather Vee

Not only can you hear her soft, smoky voice on Friday nights on Downtown Radio's dark, goth and punk cabaret showcase Radio Oscura, but Heather Vee may have picked out some of your favorite used music finds during her stint as music buyer at the Eastside location of Bookman's Entertainment Exchange. A lady of impeccable musical tastes, her answers to our humble questions were as every bit as comprehensive and well considered as one might possible hope for. Enjoy them below.

TucsonSentinel.com: How did you first become a rock and roll fan? Did may you grow up in Tucson or somewhere else?

Heather Vee: "When I was in elementary school, my parents bought me a little lavender boombox and I remember being huddled under my blankets after bedtime, ear pressed to the speaker, listening to the radio. (I know that's how I heard Roxy Music's "More Than This" for the first time.) I don't think my parents expressly forbade us from listening to pop music, but it wasn't played in my house, so I don't think I was aware of it until I started going over to friends' houses, which is why I have very strange, random associations between moments and songs. (For example, I will always think of jumping on a giant trampoline when I hear Def Leppard's Hysteria.) But I think if I had to pick one specific moment that I realized I really loved rock music, it was when I rode my bike on release day to pick up U2's Achtung Baby on cassette and paid for it with my own money. I was twelve years old.

I'm a military brat, and then a preacher's kid, so I grew up several places, but my formative years were mostly in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) was a fantastic place to be a music fan, particularly in the nineties and early 2000s. I saw so many insane shows at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro and 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, and we had two major indie record store chains, Record Exchange and Schoolkids Records (which I eventually worked for), as well as North Carolina State University's radio station, WKNC, which really broadened my musical horizons (and I eventually DJed for them too)."

TS: First live concert ever?

HV: "Tori Amos on her Under the Pink tour, 1994."

TS: Besides fandom, what music related ventures have you pursued?

HV: "I used to write reviews/do interviews (Robert Turner/Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Steve Kilbey of The Church were my biggest gets) for a few online magazines way back in the day, but my main involvement now is hosting Radio Oscura on Downtown Radio."

TS: Favorite bands of all time?

HV: "I mean, we'd be here all day, so I'm just going to say Catherine Wheel and The Church and leave it at that."

TS: What are you mostly listening to these days?

HV: "Most of what I listen to on the regular is on the darker end of the musical spectrum because of my radio show and exploring new music for that, but the new Neko Case has been a heavy spin, and the latest Anna von Hausswolff is one for the ages. My newest hardcore, immersive listen is the newest Them Are Us Too."

TS: Do you still go out to shows a lot? If yes, why - if not, what does it take to lure you out to a live gig?

HV: "Honestly, not so much anymore. At some point, my tolerance of audience rudeness was obliterated by a few particular shows, and I also live way out on the east side and have a kid, so it's more of a production to get out now. There was also a period there where all of these bands that used to hit Tucson up every tour just stopped coming or kept cancelling shows. (David Eugene Edwards, I love you so, why do you continue to hurt me?) So now I really have to be a big fan of the band/artist because I don't really have time to take a gamble like I used to."

TS: Thoughts on the state of the music industry today?

HV: "I don't really have anything to say about the industry, but anyone who tells you rock music is dead is lying and/or lazy. I used to have to rely on mix tape trading, The Big Takeover, Sassy, SPIN, and Alternative Press, record store clerks, and used record bins for new-to-me music. Now I can log on to Bandcamp and it's all there at my fingertips. You used to have pay $10 for an import CD single to get your hands on a b-side by a band you loved, and now iTunes comes to YOU to let you know your favorite band has a new song. This is an incredible time to be a music fan and if someone tells you no one makes good music anymore, they gave up trying a long, long time ago, and their opinion means jack."

TS: What local music memory do you most want to share with our readers?

HV: "Some of Them Are Old doing Arcade Fire at Club Congress, The Great Coverup 2011. Truly a joy to experience. I'll never forget how quickly the room filled once they started playing, or how insane the energy was throughout the entire set. I still get chills just thinking about it."

The Coolest Girl In The Room: Isabella Rodriquez

We all knew "that one dude" in high school. The one that "liked Syd's Pink Floyd better" or preferred The Yardbirds to Led Zeppelin or could detail all the sound engineers and individual instruments used in classic rock recordings. Some of us WERE that one dude, even though our peers didn't expect the role to be filled by a girl. Your humble writer, for example, penned her first album review at age 15 and owned the dog eared copy of Hammer of The Gods that made its way around her junior high school campus at least two times in the course of 7th grade.

Isabella Rodriguez is a fellow traveler. A lifelong rock fan, kickass bassist and sometime local muse, she is ever present at local live shows, whether on stage, in the crowd or as a likeness on the side of a building in a Downtown mural. She's also the kind of rock and roll fan who would willingly forgo her quinceñera to go to a rock concert.

TucsonSentinel.com: How did you first become a rock and roll fan? Did you grow up in Tucson or somewhere else?

Isabella Rodriguez: "I was born and raised on the westside of Tucson and my dad is from South Tucson. Chicano culture has always been heavily steeped in music so he and my mom, who's from Hermosillo, passed down that passion to me. If it wasn't motown and soul, it was classic rock radio in our household. I leaned how to use a record player before I learned how to use a microwave."

TS: First live concerts?

IR: "I'm lucky to say that the Stones were my first concert! When I was 13 my dad told me he'd buy me tickets to see them, but I wouldn't be able to have a quinceañera. It was an easy choice. I remember going to Skrappy's in middle school and seeing local kids my age play in punk bands and that was pretty motivating."

TS: How and when did you end up "plugged in" to the Tucson music scene?

IR: "Given my love for live music I've always sort of been around the scene. When I moved back from LA in 2013 I decided to try and convince myself that Tucson had a music scene just as diverse and amazing as any big city and I've been pretty successful in that so far."

TS: Besides your fandom, what have your musical endeavors been?

IR: "I've been playing string instruments since I was a wee lass at the age of 7. My parents enrolled me in a mariachi camp where I started to learn guitar and I fell in love with it but fell even more deeply in love with the violin, which I stuck to and enjoyed playing throughout my school years. I got my first bass when I was 12. My friends and I had the intention of starting an all-girl punk outfit called Evil Cleavage. I can't even remember if we actually practiced or not. Now I play bass in Taco Sauce!"

TS: Favorite local venues and bands?

IR: "The District was one of my favorite places for live shows before it closed down. Flycatcher has always been awesome too. Womp womp! Last year I saw Kikagaku Moyo at Flycatcher and man, what a spiritual experience. But of course Congress is also an amazing venue. Back to the Well needs to make a comeback. I also really adore Mute Swan, M. Crane and of course my guitarist's other band Juju Fontaine. Seanloui is someone I'm proud to call one of my best friends. He just recently started playing with a full band and man, that guy is really somethin' else. "

TS: Favorite bands of all time?

IR: "This is for sure a hard one because I've had SO many different ones over the years. I grew up obsessed with the Doors and the Stones and the Yardbirds. In my teens it was the Seeds and the Chocolate Watchband and the Sonics. I really love Queens of the Stone Age but my favorite band of the past couple months or so has been the Sword. Also Nate G. (of Flight Thirteen and The Resonars) turned me on to Wicked Lady and if you haven't listened to them, you should."

TS: What are you mostly listening to these days?

IR: "These days I mostly listen to stonery metal-type stuff and blues. Something about blues touches me in such a visceral way that most other genres can't."

TS: Do you go out to see live music a lot?

IR: "Yeah, of course! It's pretty much the only reason I go out these days. I try not to miss too many shows of my favorite bands (local and non-local) if I can help it. My best friend and I travel up to Phoenix a lot to see bands, usually metal or psychedelic. At a time when I was so down I didn't want to leave the house, live shows offered a reprieve from that anxiety."

TS: "Thoughts on the state of the music industry?

IR: "I wouldn't know too much about the music industry these days but word has it that it's been essentially the same for the last 80 years in terms or smarminess and shady practices which really sucks. I just try to keep a positive attitude about it all. I just play rock n' roll, man!"

TS: Fave local music memory?

IR: "Seeing Fetish play at a cramped-ass, hot house show while passing around a body of Gran Legacy whiskey was a true blessing."

A note from your friendly local music columnist: this is but the tip of the iceberg of local music fandom, and there are more Tucson music lovers who have something to say. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for part two!

New music from Thee MVPS (with a Tucson connection)

UK indie bandThee MVPS has released a new single, recorded at Tucson's very own Midtown Island Studio. You can check out American here or in our feed: https://bit.ly/MVPsAmericanDreamin

Bisbee bound

Who are we kidding? It's crazy hot outside this time of year and any excuse to get to cooler climes is worth its weight in gold... or copper as the case may be. Luckily, Tucson is surrounded by a few cool oases, one of them being the open pit mining town turned Southern Arizona art community of Bisbee.

Year-round, and especially in summer, Bisbee venues host a ton of Tucson and Arizona talent, so its a great bet for a cheap, nearby weekend escape and this weekend is no exception, with a brace of cool shows at The Quarry. Friday night, Tucson's Gem Show (a local supergroup featuring members of TWGS and Whispering Wires) hits the stage with Phoenix band Sturdy Ladys. Saturday, Sierra Vista indie rockers Finite Fiction team up with Tucson based prog band Still Life Telescope.

Sturdy Ladys w/ Gem Show play 9 p.m. Friday and Finite Fiction w/ Still Life Telescope play at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Quarry, 40 Brewery Ave. in Bisbee.

Ladytowne lives

Until recently, local venue the Flycatcher was not just a vital hub of the local live music scene, but a magnet for live performance in general, hosting a series of incredible local stand up comedians, storytelling showcases and a couple of cool and unique local live talk shows, including recurring Sunday night local comedy talk show Romo Tonight and feminist variety show Ladytowne Live.

Hosted by local DJ and Roller Derby badass Miranda Schubert, Ladytowne regulary featured some of Tucson's most talented femme folks including comedians, bands, DJs and artists active in Tucson's creative community.

While Flycatcher is set to close next week, Ladytowne is very much alive in its new home at Club Congress. This Wednesday, Tucson's favorite live feminist variety show and music showcase is back, featuring live comedy, music by the Surfbroads and interviews by some notable Tucson chicas (including a local music writer you might know.) Proceeds from this month's event benefit Tucson's all-star roller derby travel team the Tucson Saddletramps, who are raising funds to compete in the August derby playoffs.

Tramptowne: A Ladytowne Live Benefit takes place at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at Club Congress.

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, July 6

  • Legion of Mario - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Street Blues Family - 7 p.m. Playground
  • Anarbor - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Koi Division, Weird Night, Lenguas Largas, Soda Boys - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
  • Eugene Boronow - 8 p.m. Exo Bar
  • Dry Drunk w/ Juju Fontaine - 9 p.m. Saint Charles

Saturday, July 7

  • Moodie Black, Night Of the Living Shred - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Mopar Bentley, Never Say Never, Sorrows Ruin, Evasion, Sigils Of Summoning, The Sindicate, Broken. - 7 p.m. The Rialto Theatre
  • Sm Wolf, Forest Fallows, Her Mana - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
  • Infinite Mercies - 8 p.m. Exo Bar
  • General Tchefary Reggae Night - 8 p.m. House of Bards
  • Red Light Cameras, La Cerca, Street Blues Family - 9 p.m. Flycatcher
  • Greyhound Soul - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Birds and Arrows, Greybag, Spiller - Birds and Arrows - 7 p.m. Baby Gas Mask Records

Sunday, July 8

  • Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12:30 p.m. La Cocina
  • Leila Lopez - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Pitbull - 8 p.m. Casino Del Sol
  • Mrch, Fringe Class, Sur Block, Infinite Souls - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • Panteon Rococo - 8 p.m. The Rialto Theatre

Tuesday, July 10

  • Tom Walbank - 6:30 p.m.Sky Bar
  • Spindrift and Jesika Von Rabbit, Crystal Radio - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Negative Approach, Dayglo Abortions, Sex Prisoner, Get A Grip - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • La Cerca, Juju Fontaine, Tropical Beach - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
  • Bellows, Lowlife - 8 p.m. Owls Club
  • Songs With Steff Koeppen - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar

Wednesday, July 11

  • Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield - 6 p.m. La Cocina
  • Hank Topless - 9 p.m. Owls Club
  • Tramptowne: A Ladytowne Live Fundraiser - 8 p.m. Club Congress

Thursday, July 12

  • Louise Le Hir - 6:30 p.m. La Cocina
  • Precious Child, Jurro, Jaime J Soto - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
  • N-Lightning & Leigh Lesho - 8:30 p.m. Tap and Bottle

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported from whence hail Thee MVPs, and had a heat-induced typo in the first name of the original Pink Floydian. We’ll go grab a cold drink now….

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Isabella Rodriguez

Local musician and music fan Isabella Rodriguez gracing the side of a Downtown Building

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