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Weekend music

Saying goodbye to the Flycatcher

Once upon a time, roughly a decade or more ago, your humble local music reporter used to wander 4th Avenue alone on summer nights, fearlessly and aimlessly to a soundtrack of train whistles echoing through the underpass and sidewalk buskers in front of the Food Conspiracy and that megaphone wielding street corner evangelist guy shouting warnings of immortal suffering to the folks in the crosswalk between Caruso's and the Chocolate Iguana.

All of this beloved noise was just an appetizer. The real sonic feast would be indoors at places like the Surly Wench or Che's Lounge or her favorite of all, a little wine bar and live music venue known as Plush — where a fabulous mix of first-class touring acts and stellar local musicians occupied the stage almost every night of the week.

Plush was where she finally got to pogo like a madwoman at the front of the stage at a Plimsouls show and where she shouted ridiculous bubblegum lyrics along with the women of Shonen Knife. It was where she finally saw The Old 97s on stage and Josh Ritter's infectiously energetic Royal City Band and where she told Joe Pernice in person that he was a lyricist on par with Elvis Costello.

And it's where she fell in love (for the second time) with Tucson's local music scene, staring with bands like the Beta Sweat and the Deludes, the Jons, Truck, Bombs for the Bored, Lovemound, American Android and Holy Rolling Empire.

Every few years a new crop of bands and a rotating cast of employees (often members of said bands) made their mark. A few years down the line, the owners — who'd revamped the former restaurant and jazz bar known as Cafe Sweetwater into the more rockin' yet still smooth Plush — moved out of town and the club became the Flycatcher.

Even after the name had changed, the music was still great, the faces in the crowd and behind the door still friendly, the Bloody Marys still perfect, the eavesdropped conversations and bathroom graffiti still tastefully weird. It seemed like the place affectionately known by patrons as "Plushcatcher" would be around forever.

Earlier this year, we learned that the Flycatcher building was set to be sold and demolished, making way for a controversial housing complex. In spite of efforts to halt such dubious "progress," in the end, there was nothing to be done.

This weekend, the Flycatcher hosts its last handful of shows and after Sunday night its doors will close for good.

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No doubt other venues in and around Downtown and Fourth Avenue will pick up the slack and bands will find new places to play, such as the newly launched Cans Deli, whose sound setup was designed by former Flycatcher sound engineer Frank Bair.

For now, though, it's the end of an era, and if you're mourning the loss of the bar formerly known as Plush, you're in good company.

Many long time Tucson music scene folks have eulogized Flycatcher/Plush/Cafe Sweetwater over the past several days and, with their kind permission, we've printed a few of them in this space.

"The Melvins, Danava, Acid Mother Temple, YOB, Trans Am, and every show I had the pleasure to play the best sounding (on stage) stage in town. I missed a few like the Early Man/the Sword and Gibby Haynes and his Problem that I am still kicking myself about." - Anthony "Rocco" DiGrazia.

"It's a bit selfish, but one of the best shows I have played was there with Allinger Laurent. I accidentally spit on my mom and godmother." - Neil Kight."

"Too many to count (or remember), but the first three that pop into mind are one particular Harlem show, the fIREHOSE reunion show, and Sufjan Stevens on the Illinois tour (with St. Vincent in his band)." - Steve Siegel.

"Playing every month for almost two years as 'Looseleaf' - so many crunchy jams. Also playing an early Pink Floyd cover night- which gave me the balls to decide I could front a band, and sing." - Mike Sydlowski.

"Gaza Strips CD release show for Makes No Sense, and opening for American Android when it was Plush!" - Geremy Cady.

"Playing lounge sets during the gem show and having random people come in with instruments and pretend it was an open jam. One guy got really mad at me when I thanked him for his three-song violin solo and let him know we could take it from there!" - Leila Lopez.

"Leila Lopez shows, nerd burlesque where Fanny Galore was Loki, Cover Up shows, lots of lounge shows, good Kiltlifter, nice restrooms, shots that taste like Froot Loops, getting dragged there when it was Sweetwater, liking the booths when it was Plush, hating the uncomfortable seating when it became Flycatcher, checking in with Randy, saying hi to Lisa Mae, making out with (anonymous), more making out with (anonymous), and never making it to an Electric Six show because I think they were always on Mondays." - Karki Meade

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"My old band Truck played a lot of gigs there and always felt at home. Great sound, especially onstage, which can be s rarity. But, one memory I keep, bathed in warm glossy tones is this. I was playing in the front room every other Tuesday for a while, often with my sister Leah Stanley on cello. It happened to be my birthday, but I wasn't making it a birthday event. When I took a break, Stefan George brought me a beer and some nice buds. I asked him if he wanted to play. He had another gig up the street that he was late for, but, he took my guitar and played me one of the best versions of Forever Young I've ever heard. Wished me Happy Birthday and left me in tears. Oh, and the Plimsouls were fucking great too. Many memories. Tucson needs more places for music like that." - Jesse Stanley.

"The Veils. The Shout Out Louds. The time Russian Circles played on my birthday. Malignus Youth." - Mindy Smith.'

"Mike Watt. The night before I took my state licensure test. Totally worth it." - Amy Mendoza.

"Favorite memory not playing there was meeting George Hurley and Mike Watt after the fIREHOSE show...favorite memory playing there was the Nirvana covers show with Foxx Bodies, Garboski, Leila Lopez etc. And how I could I forget... the time Melissa Mauzy almost got into a fight with the Asylum Street Spankers because she refused to sit on the floor of the club!" - Seth Mauzy.

"A pair of shows I liked a lot during the Plush days were by Mistress of Reality, an all-female Black Sabbath cover band. They stuck to songs from the first 6 Ozzy Sabbath albums, and they sounded great. It was clear that they put a lot of work into sounding as much like Black Sabbath as they could." - Michael Shack.

"One night I randomly decided to see who was playing at Plush. Parked right out front and walked in to see Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and the Twilight Sad. The Decemberists were great. Too many Great Cover-Ups to mention. Plush/Flycatcher, you will be missed." - David Hostetler.

"When I moved here from Austin in 2006 I worked at Plush as the audio engineer for 5 years. So many good times! I also played there with Juarez a lot! Playing the first rock lottery was a blast too." - Dana Fehr.

"The first time I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was at the Local 506 in Chapel Hill, NC in May 2001 and 10 people were in the audience. Obviously they became much bigger and were playing Marquee/Rialto-sizes venues when it was announced they were playing Plush (I think it was Sept 2010...?) because (so I was told) The Rialto was booked. Being able too see them in such an intimate venue again, and this time packed wall to wall, was a truly special experience. I've only seen Plush that packed for one other band, DeVotchKa." - Heather Vee.

"Meeting Wanda Jackson." - Jack Coleman.

"Hop Along in 2015 was incredible, especially considering i was like 3ft away from Frances & we locked eyes and the next time i saw them less than a year later was at a huuuge theatre when they opened for Dr Dog." - Nirantha Balagopal.

"I played a Christmas show there when I was 16 or 17 with Joshua Butcher and they didn't want me in the building so they stuck me in the green room across the street. That building has since been demolished but I got to add to the graffiti on the walls and jump on the couches in there before I went on stage!" - Jonica Butcher.

" My top ten favorite shows I saw there: Silver Jews, Melvins. Brian Jonestown Massacre, Stephen Malkmus, Mono. Black Tusk, Bob Log, Mike Watt, Pushing Buttons showcase, Fiery Furnaces." - Danny Martin.

"Seeing my husband, Austin Counts, play for the first time for the Captain Eric Cline Fundraiser!" - Leila Counts.

"One time during gem show a guy on acid danced in crazy spinning circles to our lounge set and then left a single tortilla on my keyboard as a tip!" - Jillian Bessett.

"Dylan and I had our first date at Plush." - Maria Coxon-Smith (TucsonSentinel.com news editor and wife of Editor & Publisher Dylan Smith.)

The man who probably booked your band: Justin Lugo Miller

For many years, one of the most familiar faces (and most helpful people to know) on the staff at Plush Flycatcher was the venue's longtime entertainment manager, Justin Miller. Miller not only booked and networked with bands, but he made sure the night went smoothly and your band was taken care of. Also he's just a damned nice guy. Nice enough to answer my "rock fan" questions in fact. Meet the guy who probably booked your band, or at least your favorite live gig, in his tenure at the Flycatcher.

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

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Justin Lugo Miller:" I blame the combination of boredom, marijuana, and Jimi Hendrix as a teenager for making me an obsessed life-long music fan "

TS: First live concerts ever?

JLM: "My first big concert was INXS at the TCC for their KICK tour in 1988. My first exposure to local music was through the radio. KXCI used to have a show on Monday nights called Give Me Indie Rock where the host, Bill Sassenberger (he owned Toxic Ranch Records) used to play local bands like the Weird Lovemakers and the Fells. "

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

JLM: "This ties into the last question, but, I never attended local shows until the band I was in started playing them, almost exclusively at The DPC (Downtown Performance Center). There were about 20 great bands in the scene at that time in the 90's. . There weren't many places to play in Tucson then, so the musicians in the DPC scene would play shows together on a regular basis - we got pretty close. A couple of decades, and 800 bands later, there's still some factions of that scene that exist today."

TS: Do you play an instrument/take live concert pics/write about music, etc?

JLM: " I play a lot of instruments - it's a waste of time - but, I truly love it. I started out as a drummer, but due to the fact that those things are really loud, plus a deep love for hip hop, I now program my drums, sample records, and play synths to make beats these days. I'm part of the Pushing Buttons and Sonoran Beat Collective crews. We have shows monthly at R Bar and Cans Deli. "

TS: Favorite local venues and bands?

JLM: "Being the former entertainment manager at the Flycatcher, I obviously have to list it as my favorite local venue - RIP. As a musician, I always liked playing at Che's Lounge because of the proximity to the audience - you're inches away from them and it truly feels like there's a transfer of energy. Also - it's not a venue, but the Tucson Hip Hop Festival is one of my favorite annual events in town. The creative outpouring that that event showcases from a small but growing community is almost overwhelming and very inspiring to witness."

TS: What are you mostly listening to these days?

JLM: "Whatever 45rpm record that I happen to be sampling at the time. I just came up on a lot of Curtis Mayfield 45s at Studio G Records - my favorite song being "Sweet Exorcist". Also, whatever record I'm using for turntable testing at The Stereo Hospital, my day job, at the time - these are throw-away records that somehow ended up in the shop. These days I'm bouncing between three records over there; Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, Ella Live by Ella Fitzgerald, and a really porgy fusion jazz record called Brother To Brother by Gino Vannelli that I'm reluctantly obsessed with."

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?

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JLM: "Not as many live shows as I used to when I was booking at the Flycatcher, but I usually go out to see live shows about once a week and hop from venue to venue. It's still fun and it doesn't take much for me to go out to a show on a weekend night."

TS: Thoughts on the state of live music and the overall music industry today?

JLM: "There are certainly more places for bands to play in Tucson these days, but there's not enough people showing up to shows to warrant the classic 3 to 4 band bill at a music venue. The variety of entertainment options on any given night are thinning out the crowds at each venue, so the venues are responding by hiring less expensive options like DJs and singer-songwriters that can play longer solo sets with just an acoustic guitar. These are hard times for the simple 3-piece punk band that has about 10 songs that they bash out in their practice rooms to perfection only to showcase them at a venue on the weekend. But, it's always awesome to see a small band's hard work pay off when they kill it in front of an audience. I hope venues continue to showcase younger upcoming bands and allow them to grow."

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

JLM: "Nothing specific, but I can remember a handful of times when I'd be performing and I'd look up and see my bandmate, the soundman, and the bar staff all in the zone, and then I'd look over at the audience and see them dancing and grooving completely elated and locked into that moment. That moment is priceless and is what I'm always chasing when I play or attend a show, but it takes a whole community of people to create it. So, it's important to remember to just show up for that experience and be apart of it. And, who knows? You might be at one of those shows and get the crazy idea to start your own band. I can only hope that I helped inspire somebody to have one of those crazy ideas in one of those perfect moments."

Fly Girl: Local nusic superfan Cristina Barraza

Another familiar face at the Flycatcher over the years, and frankly at almost any local venue worth its real estate, is rock fan extraordinaire Cristina Barraza. The cool, petite lady up front in the concert tee dancing with abandon at the front of the stage or taking pics or distributing enthusiastic hugs to long-lost (and not so long-lost) friends is most likely her. If you don't know here but you love indie rock and local music as much as she does, you're likely to make fast friends. Even so, she'll always have a better record collection than you do. We asked her the requisite questions and her answers did not disappoint.

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

Cristina Barraza: "Both my parents were always listening to music. My dad was a huge rock and roll fan. We'd hang out and listen to music pretty often. The earliest memory I have is listening to Elvis Presley at 3 years old. I am born and raised on the south east side of T-town."

TS: What were the first live shows you ever attended?

CB: "New Kids on the Block at 9 years old. Hahaa! My sisters and I loved them. My earliest local band show was at 16. A coworker of mine was in the band Veering Ever Red. The first time I saw them play was at a small venue off of Scott and Congress that I cannot remember the name of."

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

CB: "At 16 when I got to experience that local band shows are just as exciting as national/international "famous" bands.I had a bit of a hiatus from 2005-2010 where I became a hermit and didn't go out at all. I just bought cd's and listened to them and watched live YouTube videos. But, I'm glad I came back out to experience the awesomeness I am witnessing now."

TS: What are your music related hobbies?

CB: "I love to take live concert photos and videos to post on my social media pages. Recording or taking photos at live shows captures a moment that you can relive again."

TS: "Favorite local venues and favorite local bands?

CB: "Plush which of course most know has turned into Flycatcher is my favorite. I'm getting pretty tears eyed atm because of its forthcoming demise. Old favorites are Vaudeville, Seven Black Cats, The Red Room. Club Congress and 191 Toole are also a great venues that are pretty big but still small enough to feel intimate with the bands on stage.

And, ohmygoodness. I have several favorite local bands. My absolute favorite is The Red Switch. Year of Acceleration was also an incredible band. Bandeye, Demon Queen, ...music video?, Zackey Force Funk, Nathan No Face, La Cerca, The Electric Blankets, Lando Chill, Foxx Bodies, just to name a handful. The current bands I am totally loving are Lenguas Largas, Whispering Wires, Fever Few, Juju Fontaine, Taco Sauce, and M. Crane."

TS: Favorite bands of all time?

CB: "The Stones, Spiritualized, Prince, Café Tacvba, Brian Eno, the 13th Floor Elevators, N.W.A., the Birthday Party, David Bowie, Joy Division, the Stooges, the Afghan Whigs, the Velvet Underground. We'll need a ladder that lasts forever if I continue."

TS: What are you mostly listening to these days?

CB: "Spiritualized just released two singles so naturally they are on repeat in my rotation. I've also been listening to lots of Sarah Vaughan and Betty Davis and psychedelic garage rock is always in my rotation."

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

CB: "I am constantly attending shows. Sometimes I hop from one venue to another in the same night. Tucson is super lucky to have so many talented and incredible bands."

TS: Favorite local music memory?

CB: "One of my favorite shows I attended was at Club Congress where The Red Switch and Bandeye played together. The dynamic of the two bands was super incredible."

A final goodbye to the place we called Fly...

As defacto doorman at Flycatcher, local musician Paul Jenkins is often the last person to say goodbye to patrons as they head out of the venue and into the night. It was probably only fitting that during his final "Piano Lovers Lounge" show, he would give the club a fitting sendoff. The lyrics are both ridiculous and heartbreaking, like a best friend signing high school yearbook. Anyway, I'm not crying. You're the one who's crying...

We Didn't Fly the Catcher (lyrics by Paul Jenkins, with apologies to B. Joel)

Justin Mac, Sara Mohr,
Maebelle, Kini Wade,
Horstman, Aaryn Brewer, Randy Lopez,
Tiffany, Miranda, Bri and Erik Ketchup,
Doniphan, Kalyn, Kevin William Lee
Justin Lillie, Justin Poole, Shannon (sorry Shannon) Alex Arvizu
Kris Kerry, Cathy Rivers, Raul with bad hair
Erick Bornmann, Kini's son,
Nicole with the big nose, it's okay she dont care she moved away 8 years ago
Chorus:
We didn't fly the catcher
It was always chirping since 4th Ave's been turning
We didn't fly the catcher
No we didn't fly it but we tried to fight it
Eco blue, doodoo stains, green and yellow loogie brains,
Al Perry, Stefan George, Texas Trash and Wrecky Trains
Glen, Brad, Doke and Mimi
Monica Merwin come see me
Everyone who's 86'd, you're not gonna make the list
Justin J Lugo Miller, Bethany,
Piano Lounge and FST, G
alen left to work at Che's, who can blame her more pay
Cord Boyd, Frank Bair, best sound ever Dana Fehr
ILL OUT, ROMO TONIGHT LIVE
WHY COULDN'T THIS PLACE SURVIVE??
Chorus:
We didn't fly the catcher
It was always chirping since 4th Ave's been turning
We didn't fly the catcher
No we didn't fly it but we tried to fight it
Schwalenstöcker, Halvorsen, Deep Greasy let me In,
Jerret was douchey guy but Randy thought he'd fit right in,
BART was once a manager, Christo made some great gyros,
LISA MAE CALLED IN TODAY, WHAT MORE DO I HAVE TO SAY??
Chorus:
We didn't fly the catcher
It was always chirping since 4th Ave's been turning
We didn't fly the catcher
No we didn't fly it but we tried to fight it
Will Leonard was eye candy, which only made more work for me,
Heather never ceased bake us the world's best cookies
Jason Conrad, OSCAR, someone call a doctor
DAN LEMIEUX LOST HIS STOOL WHAT ELSE ARE WE GONNA DO?
Chorus:
We didn't fly the catcher
It was always chirping since 4th Ave's been turning
We didn't fly the catcher
No we didn't fly it but we tried to fight it

You can still say your farewells to Flycatcher this weekend at a multi-night event known as "Kiss The Fly Goodbye" taking place Friday through Sunday. Sunday night will culminate in a final performance by the Electric Blankets tentatively titled "The Electric Blankets Killed Flycatcher."

  • Friday night at 8:30 p.m. - Krab Legz, the Pork Torta, Jeff Lownsbury, The Kevin Dowling Fitness Hour
  • Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. - Lenguas Largas, Deschtuco, Steff and the Articles, Leila Lopez, Katie And Ben
  • Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. - The Electric Blankets, Dirt Friends, Gardie

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 13

  • Daedelus, Holly, Wiley Cable - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Mariachi Estrellas de Tucson - 8 p.m. Exo Bar
  • La Misa Negra - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress
  • Krab Legz, the Pork Torta, Jeff Lownsbury, The Kevin Dowling Fitness Hour - 8:30 p.m. Flycatcher
  • Bryan Thomas Parker - 9 p.m. The Parish

Saturday, July 14

  • Summer Good Some Are Evil, Swarm of Serpents, Shadows of Algol, Pain Patterns, Sigils of summoning, Evasion, Conquest of the Aphids, Deadspawn - 5:30 p.m. The Rock
  • Austin Counts - 7 p.m. Hop Shop
  • Juju Fontaine, Bible Fights - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress
  • Santa Pachita - 7 p.m. Playground Bar and Lounge
  • The Coolers - 7:30 p.m. House of Bards
  • Mariachi Alma - 8 p.m. Exo Bar
  • Lenguas Largas, Deschtuco, Steff and the Articles, Leila Lopez, Katie And Ben - 8:30 p.m. Flycatcher
  • The Rememberables - 9 p.m. Owls Club
  • The Demons, Something Like Appropriate, the Sometimes - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Street Blues Family - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge

Sunday, July 15

  • Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12:30 p.m. La Cocina
  • Jacob Acosta - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge
  • Sur Block, James Band, Cool Funeral - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
  • Mary Lattimore and Julianna Barwick, Karima Walker - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress
  • The Electric Blankets, Dirt Friends, Gardie - 8:30 p.m. Flycatcher

Tuesday, July 17

  • Tom Walbank - 6:30 p.m. Sky Bar
  • The Psychedelic Furs, Mute Swan - 7 p.m. The Rialto Theatre
  • Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters Speck Tour - 7:30 p.m. The Fox Theatre
  • BASSoon Duo - 8 p.m. Bar Passé
  • Middle Class, Rut Black Map, Gila Byte - 8 p.m. The Rock
  • Dos Muñoz - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar

Wednesday, July 18

  • Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield - 6 p.m. La Cocina
  • The Artisanals - 8 p.m. Hotel Congress

Thursday, July 19

  • Mitzi Cowell - 6:30 p.m. La Cocina
  • Reckless Kelly, Drew Cooper - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Decker, Billy Sedlmayr & Gabrielle Louise - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress
  • Black Cat Bones - 7 p.m. Noble Hops
  • Silver Cloud Express, the Others, Still Life Telescope - 8 pm. Cans Deli
  • Zig Zags, Free Machines, Shit Knife - 9 p.m. Owls Club
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Jeff Sprytime

The house soundboard at The Flycatcher Tucson

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