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Weekend music

They're no wallflowers: Bruja and the Coyote and Wallpaper Prison

Plus Grieves, HoCoFest and the Melvins

Every week as I write this column I put in a good couple of hours hunting down live music listings, the better to help you all keep track of your favorite local bands and help you discover new ones. In the process, I can't help but notice when certain band names show up week after week, especially when they seem to pop up on wildly divergent lineups at multiple locations around town.

You kind of have to admire both the enthusiasm and work ethic of bands that will seize what seems to be almost any opportunity to build an audience and hone their live performance game. Without even hearing them, you know that the bands are probably getting pretty good at what they do after all that playing out. And the fact that they keep getting asked back by other bands and venues means they are either really awesome players, really nice people or some combination thereof.

The "play out early and often" formula has yielded some of Tucson's best live acts in recent years, a notable example being The Rifle, who quickly became known for their impossibly full gig calendar and constantly evolving live show, not to mention the devoted fan base they built along the way.

This week I delve into a pair of similarly prolific bands, each with an intriguing enough names that this columnist was kind of hooked before ever hearing a note. Introducing Bruja and The Coyote and Wallpaper Prison, two of the hardest gigging "new" bands in Tucson.

Bruja and the Coyote

One of the first decisions any new musical project has to make is What To Name The Band. Typically this process involves at least one bad pun, an in-joke or two, and a lot of vetoes by other band members. Then somebody utters the right combination of words in just the right way and suddenly, like magic, the band has an identity at last.

Kailia Miller was wrestling with just such a dilemma when she went out on a hike one desert morning and conjured up a waking dream of Southwestern desert witches and wily trickster gods. The name Bruja and The Coyote rather nicely captured the spirit of her then unnamed band, she thought to herself, a perfect amalgam of the group's wild punk energy, sacred and profane lyrical sensibilities and soulful rock and blues roots. So Bruja they became.

Bruja and The Coyote was founded as a two-piece by frontwoman Miller and guitarist Mike Dehn as a bare-bones art school punk project. The band really began to come into its own, however when Chris Levesque joined on bass, followed shortly after by drummer Christopher Kean.

While it took a while for the lineup to come together, the four are good friends and band "family," and this reflects in their output, which currently includes songwriting contributions for all of the members. Though Miller clearly won the "band christening" lottery, she considers herself an equal part of this musical hive mind. "

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We believe in band democracy," she said, "or maybe you'd call it band socialism."

In the spirit of "band socialism," Bruja's sound blends diverse musical styles over a common post-punk heartbeat. While Dehn channels the likes of Jack White and The Dead Weather on guitar, the rhythm section merges the controlled chaos of Kean's hazy classic stoner rock drumming and bassist Levesques's unfettered funk and soul groove. Over this dreamy art rock haze, Miller delivers lyrics and vocals that are dark, wise and spare, recalling the dark cabaret of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey or the Dresden Dolls.

Bruja has been hard at work for the past year or so. A regular fixture of the local PoMoRo series of pop up music nights, they've also been quick to grab fun and diverse gigs on interesting lineups.

"The odd lineups are almost always the most fun," said Miller. "No expectations make the shows more fun. And we get to play for new audiences at new venues. So we aren't worried what anybody thinks."

While Bruja and the Coyote has played tons of local shows in the Tucson area lately, this weekend is one of the last chances you'll get to see them before a brief hiatus finish writing and recording their first album, due this fall, before heading out on tour. Check them out at Saint Charles this weekend opening for Bryan Thomas Parker.

Bruja and The Coyote wwith Bryan Thomas Parker, 9 p.m Friday at Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S. 4th Ave.

Wallpaper Prison

Rock and roll musicians often get a bad rap for being inattentive students. Tucson musician Isabella Laos, however, definitely can't be accused of not paying attention in class.

The local vocalist/guitarist was so deeply affected by a piece of literature she studied in her high-school days, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," that she named her band for it.

"The story is about a woman struggling with mental illness, who was forced by her husband to lay in bed all day instead of pursuing her writing passion," said Laos. "The woman feels imprisoned by the wallpaper covering the walls."

The moral of this early feminist classic is that neglecting creative passion can, essentially, drive one mad.

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Laos herself is definitely no wallpaper wallflower.

Her band Wallpaper Prison crafts thoughtful, introspective indie rock with macabre theatrical flair, or as Laos called it, "a dark avant-garde shoe gaze wet dream" that fills the void with sound.

A driven and introspective songwriter with a love for goth and darkwave artists such as Chelsea Wolfe, Laos formed Wallpaper Prison as a two-piece with a previous drummer.

Three years and a couple of personnel changes later, the project has solidified with local music scene veterans  Daniel Thomas on drums and Nick Cashman on bass.

While Laos is still the primary architect of the "bones" of the songs, the current lineup is a much more unified and interactive band, fleshing out ideas, experimenting with sound and distortion, navigating the murky waters of bass and guitar pedal noise and playing with a full, rich, dynamic, just-weird-enough style that is true to Laos's original vision while dipping its toes in the waters of Eno and art rock.

While Laos, Thomas and Cashman are more than pleased with their band's evolution so far, the group is ready to forge ahead even further. Wallpaper Prison will soon add synthesizer to its already layered live soundscape. Meanwhile, the trio are in the final stages of releasing the band's first full length album, entitled Black and White Flowers, which should be out in early October.

You can see Wallpaper Prison live one last time this summer before they head to the cocoon of the recording studio.

Wallpaper Prison with La Cerca and Kicking Leaves, 9 p.m. Friday at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St.

Grieves

When all the hard work of prolific gigging, well-honed live chops and quality recording efforts pay off, sometimes you find yourself on the road and, if you're lucky, being courted by record labels.

Benjamin Laub aka Grieves began his own music industry journey that way, making the move to Seattle from his native Colorado and building a career city by city and show by show, in the time honored tradition of DIY punk and independent artists of yore.

Leveraging the power of social media and word of mouth, Laub became part of a network and "family" of underground hip hop fans and artists that helped sustain his career as an independent artist long before the possibility of commercial success.

During those years, music friendly cities like Tucson were a welcome safe harbor in the rough seas of the independent music industry, so the Seattle based musician and hip-hop artist sees his stop in the Old Pueblo as a homecoming of sorts. 

During his self-managed years, Laub learned first hand that to keep your head above water in the music industry, you need as much business savvy as creative talent.

Among the things he suggests to new artists, especially those attracting industry attention is taking a business class.

"It's always going to be a complicated game, being courted by the 'prom king'" he said of being courted by major labels.

Having some basic music industry education helped Laub understand both the creative and monetary trade offs of the contracts and deals he was being offered. After turning down offers from larger labels, Laub was able to land with the label that first inspired him to be a rapper, Minneapolis based Rhymesayers Entertainment.

"My idols have become my peers and you can't put a price tag on that," he said, adding "I didn't have to change who I was before this when I joined, which is the most important thing of all."

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Grieves' latest release on the Rhymesayers, "Running Wild," reflects the wisdom of that choice, balancing raw, personal narrative against sophisticated rhythms and shifting sonic landscapes, taking the kind of inspired risks that music fans love but commercial labels hate.

You can check out tracks from "Running Wild" and earlier releases by Grieves Tuesday night at Club Congress.

Grieves, with opening act Dem Atlas, comes to town Tuesday, September 5 at 7 p.m. Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.

The Melvins

Speaking of DIY tradition, you can't get much more old school than The Melvins. Once again the Old Pueblo proudly welcomes the pride of Aberdeen, Wash.

From their beginnings as a typical small town gutter punk band named after a loathed grocery store co-worker, the Melvins helped shape the path from '80s underground punk to '90s grunge (drummer Dale Crover even filled in on Nirvana's Incesticide.)

A couple of decades and countless bass players later, they're still at it. Check them out live next Wednesday at 191 Toole.

HoCoFest

Back in the long, long ago days of 2005, Club Congress threw a massive Labor Day Weekend party to celebrate the venue's 20th anniversary, featuring some stellar local band reunions and a ton of diverse local, national and international music acts.

That weekend morphed into a yearly celebration called HoCoFest, now in its 12th year and spanning a full 5 days of acts on the Club Congress stage.

This year's line up is once again formidable, including the likes of beloved indie artists like Cherry Glazerr, La Luz, Frankie Cosmos, local powerhouses Xixa and Orkesta Mendoza and the return of Tucson expats Foxx Bodies.

With over 60 total acts, a vinyl record fair, art exhibits and other related festivities, HocoFest is a great place to park yourself for the long weekend. The festival began Wednesdaynight continues through the weekend.

HoCoFest 2017 continues through Sunday, September 3, at Club Congress.

Check your local listings

Friday, September 1

  • La Cerca, Kicking Leaves, Wallpaper Prison, 10 p.m., The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. (Downtown)
  • Infinite Beauties, Shooda Shook It, 9 p.m., Bar Passe, 417 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Jacob Acosta, 7 p.m., Johnny Gibson's Downtown Market, 11 S. 6th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Local Love: Lethal Injektion CD Release, 7 p.m., The Rialto Theatre. 318 E. Congress St. (Downtown)
  • Soft Deadlines, Weathered, Curfew Tucson, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse, 915 W. Prince Rd. (North Tucson)
  • Bryan Thomas Parker w/ Bruja and The Coyote, 9 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S. 4th Ave. (S. of Downtown)
  • HoCoFest Day 3 w/ Frankie Cosmos, La Luz, Foxx Bodies, Nanami Ozone, Karima Walker, Orkesta Mendoza and more, 6 p.m., Club Congress

Saturday, September 2

  • Mik and Scott w/ Half Broke Town, 9 p.m., Sky Bar, 536 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Pushing Buttons featuring Beat Lab, 9 p.m., The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Underworld Revel: Twisted Fairytale, 9 p.m., Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • Fayuca w/ Mouse Powell, Black Bottom Lighters, 8 p.m., The Hut, 305 N. 4th Ave. (Downtown)
  • The Bennu / Pistachio, 8 p.m., 191 E. Toole (Downtown)
  • Del Bac Distiller's Cut tour w/ Hank Topless 6 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • Push, Downhill Trend, Broken Show, 8:30 p.m., House Of Bards, 4915 E. Speedway (Central Tucson)
  • HoCoFest Day 4 w/ Cherry Glazerr, KeithCharles Spacebar, DJ Orange Julius, Xixa, Mute Swan, and more, 6 p.m., Club Congress

Sunday, September 3

  • Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout! 9 p.m., The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Sunday Matinee w/ Jacob Acosta 12-2 p.m., Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • David Cook 8 p.m., 191 E Toole (Downtown)
  • Wonder, 6:30 p.m. Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile (North Tucson)
  • Saint Charles 2nd Anniversary Concert, 4 p.m., Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)
  • HoCoFest Day 5 w/ Drab Majesty, Project Pablom Lee Fields & The Expressions, Yves Tumor, Rabit, Ben Olayinka and more, 6 p.m.,  Club Congress

Tuesday. September 5

  • Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, 8:30 p.m., The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • El Ten Eleven 8 p.m. 191 E. Toole (Downtown)
  • Grieves w/ Dem Atlas, 7 p.m., Club Congress (Downtown)

Wednesday. September 6

  • The Sauce Factory w/ Nick Arcade, 10 p.m., Bar Passe (Downtown)
  • Dave Bromberg, 8 p.m., The Rialto Theatre (Downtown)
  • The Melvins  8 p.m. 191 E. Toole (Downtown)
  • Kansas: Leftoverture 40th Anniversary, 7:30 p.m., The Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. (Downtown)

Thursday. September 7

  • Is This Thing On? Emo Night. 9 p.m., The Flycatcher (Downtown)
  • Tim McNary, 7:30 p.m., Borderlands Brewing, 119 E Toole (Downtown)
  • Infinite Death, 8 p.m., The Loudhouse (North Tucson)
  • The Shivas w/ Hanna Yeun. 7 p.m., Club Congress (Downtown)
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Bruja and The Coyote

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