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Weekend music

Shit Knife cuts through respectable rock conventions

Once upon a time, in the days before the Internet, fans of punk, alternative and indie rock had to dig a little deeper to know which local bands were worth their beer money. Maybe you'd hear of a band from a friend, or catch a snippet of music on the Sunday night alternative show on local classic rock radio, or get your hands on that holy grail of underground music fandom — the really good mix tape.

But more likely you'd come across a flyer or a bumper sticker or a photocopied music 'zine and make a decision based on little information except the band's name and promo art. Back then, band names were everything; the more provocative the better.

Fast forward to 2017 and Tucson rock/punk/garage band Shit Knife, a band whose members all lived through that weird, messy era and learned its lessons well. Profane band name with an interesting back story? Check. Vague and sketchy promo material with unsettling black and white photos of 19th century Arctic explorers? Check. Cool but rather avant-garde video made up of rapidly changing, slightly out-of-context images? Check.

This is a band that my teenage self would have enthusiastically paid $5 to see in some dingy basement back in the proverbial day, even without having heard a note.

Luckily, it is no longer 1989 and folks like you and I have access to resources like Bandcamp and Youtube, along with this very column, instead of relying on some friend's cousin's boyfriend to smuggle us a mixtape. While the band has yet to release its first album, they have a growing online music archive, including a video, a handful of tracks recorded and mixed at Tucson's own Midtown Island Studios and a live Waterworks West recording for 99.1 FM's Downtown Radio Sessions.

With their '80s and '90s DIY aesthetic, you might expect the band to have a raw, loud, aggressive sound and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. But underneath all of that grit and edge you can hear the subtle sophistication of experienced players with solid chops and something intelligent to say. Owing a slight debt to the sounds of bands like The Damned, The Fall, The Saints, Naked Raygun and Dinosaur Jr., Shit Knife is rock and roll with a solid post-punk heritage.

The group is largely the brainchild of guitarist lyricist Neil Kight, a well-known downtown bartender and veteran of many local bands including The F.A.N.S.S. aka The Fuck All Night Super Stars in which he played with fellow Shit Knife guitarist Jen Calento. Rocco DiGrazia quickly joined the project on drums, followed by bassist John Read.

The driving musical and lyrical vision behind Shit Knife is, of course, Kight himself. When pressed to define "what it all means" he narrowed his eyes and looked a bit thoughtful. "We're all living in a world that is full of shit," Kight he said, and "until we acknowledge it, none of us can dig our way out."

Kight referenceed the band's back story, the tale of '20s- era Arctic explorer Peter Freuchen, who once escaped a life-or-death encounter through unusual and unpleasant means, but lived to survive another day. Kight's lyrics echo the spirit of Freuchen's story and the nihilistic optimism of writers like Kurt Vonnegut. While his worldview and lyrical vision might be on the bleak side, according to the rest of the band, Kight is a stand-up guy, warm, encouraging band mates, including longtime friends and collaborators like DiGrazia and Calento to trust their instincts and push their limits.

While Kight is deep and reflective, Calento is fast, fearless and furious guitarist. With a love of accidental discord and a triumphant gleam in her eye, she duels with Kight's steady guitar drone like a gleefully caffeinated lightsaber battle. A seasoned veteran of the Tucson music scene and another longtime downtown bartender, Calento's sly, clever humor and unflinching bravado are as obvious in her playing as in person. Calento recently began singing with the band, replacing original vocalist Josh Levine.

Bassist Read, also a member of local ensemble Los Guapos, was initially forced a bit out of his comfort zone in this band, with Kight and other band members encouraging him to play in a style that's much more loud, upfront and aggressive than his usual solid, professional side man role. While this approach is very different for Read, it suits him well and his simple but assertive basslines are a perfect foil for DiGrazia's solid percussive attack on drums.

DiGrazia himself is a local pizza genius (owner of Rocco's Little Chicago) and a noted instrument tinkerer who has also spent his share of time in Tucson area bands. His initial impetus in joining Shit Knife was to make use of a newly configured drum kit, as well as to get back into the fray of playing live and loud. The bass rig Read plays in the band was heavily modified by DiGrazia for maximum power, helping drive a rhythm section that is very much in sync and clearly having a blast.

After a handful of early gigs and a slight hiatus for recording, Shit Knife is ready to hit local stages, with a full length recording in their foreseeable future. The band plays Brodie's Tavern on Friday night. If you go out and see them, you might come to terms with some deep philosophical truths, you might relive your carefree rock punk youth, or you might just hear some awesome loud and fast rock and roll but no matter what, you'll probably have a damned good time.

Shit Knife joins Wallpaper Prison and Beggar's Velvet as part of the Sonidos De Luna concert series at Brodie's Tavern, 2449 N. Stone Ave. 340 E 6th St, on Friday at 9 p.m.

Prog rock is alive and well in Tucson

Tucson may love its neo-psych and punk bands but there are still plenty of us out there that love long keyboard jams, inscrutable lyrics and surreal, complex rhythms. God bless the bands that aren't afraid to pay allegiance to their prog rock forebears. Check out two of them this Saturday in the rather fitting environs of local astronomy-themed watering hole Sky Bar: the "progadelic" masterpieces of Still Life Telescope and the progressive pop punk soundscapes of Miller's Planet. Psychedelic Blues Rocker's Mother's Lament complete the lineup.

Mother's Lament, Miller's Planet and Still Life Telescope play Sky Bar, 536 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)

Gambling with rhythm

Six producers, three unfamiliar records and six hours to turn them into beats for a live audience. Such is the premise of the first annual Live Rhythm Roulette. Head on down to The Flycatcher this Saturday night for all the tension and excitement of a reality show with the beats of six masterful DJ sets.

Live Rhythm Roulette at The Flycatcher 9 p.m. at Flycatcher Lounge, 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)

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Also happening this weekend

Friday, July 21

  • The Elegant Rabies, Deschtuco, Cones, Trejo, 9 p.m. at Flycatcher
  • Blacklidge, Stubborn Old Bastard, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse Rock & Roll Bar, 915 W. Prince Rd. (NW Tucson)
  • Blackberry Smoke, 7 p.m., R Bar, 350 E. Congress (Downtown)
  • Eric Schaffer and the Other Troublemakers, 7 p.m., Borderlands, 119 ​E. Toole Ave. ​(Downtown)
  • Gigi & The Glow (80s), 8:30 p.m., Five Palms, 3500 E. Sunrise Dr. (NE Tucson)
  • White Crow, 7 p.m., Johnny Gibson's Market, 11 S. 6th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Johnny Ain't Right, 8 p.m., Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile (Northside)
  • The Pork Torta, 10 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S. 4th Ave. (South of Downtown)
  • Elias Nostalgia, 7 p.m., Club Congress, 311 E. Congress. (Downtown)
  • Bryan Thomas Parker, 9 p.m., The Parish, 6453 N Oracle Rd. (Northwest)

Saturday, July 22

  • For Love Or Absinthe with BreakingGlass, 9 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern
  • Austin Counts, 7 p.m., La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave. (Downtown)
  • Rival Shapes, 7:30 p.m., Borderlands Brewing ​(Downtown)
  • A Tribute to Mana, 8 p.m., 191 Toole
  • Bidi Bidi Banda: All-Star Selena Tribute, 7 p.m., Club Congress
  • DJ Herm, 10 p.m., Bar Passe, 417 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Lucifer The Cat, The Yarddogs, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse
  • IPO Radio Fest w/ Fire Glass, Never Say Never, Sorrows Ruin and more, 2 p.m., The Event, 6350 E Tanque Verde Rd (Eastside)

Sunday, July 23

  • Fish Karma, Honky-Tonk Killers, and the Eulogy Project, 10 p.m., Surly Wench Pub 424 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Playboi Carti, 7 p.m., Rialto Theater, 318 E. Congress (Downtown)
  • Sleepy Sun, Daycones, The Elegant Rabies, 8 p.m., Club Congress
  • Open Mic with Cadillac Mountain, 6 p.m., The Hut, 305 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Andy Hersey, 5 p.m., The Parish
  • M. Crane, MEDVEDI, Lunas, 9 p.m., Flycatcher
  • Mik and the Funky Brunch, 12:30 p.m., La Cocina
  • Kevin Pakulis, 2:30 p.m., Borderlands

Editor’s note: Rocco’s Little Chicago is an underwriter of TucsonSentinel.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Jen Calento.

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