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Tucson sounds: The scene giveth & the scene taketh away

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Weekend music

Tucson sounds: The scene giveth & the scene taketh away

Notes from a new year in local music

  • Tamara Jenney aka DJ Plastic Disease, host of Club Sanctuary
    Courtesy Tamara Jenney via FacebookTamara Jenney aka DJ Plastic Disease, host of Club Sanctuary
  • Logan Greene and Sophie McTear of Groundworks
    Courtesy Groundworksvia FacebookLogan Greene and Sophie McTear of Groundworks
  • The Surfbroads at Irene's Holy Donuts in 2019
    Kerry WhelanThe Surfbroads at Irene's Holy Donuts in 2019

The new year is less than two weeks old, but already there are major changes in the works for a number of Tucson's music-related venues and organizations. But if you haven't quite crawled out from under the chaos of the recently passed holidays, your trusty neighborhood music scribe can be counted on to quickly get you up to speed.  

Good night, Irene's

The scene giveth and the scene taketh away. 'Tis a tale as old as time, or at very least as old as commercial real estate. Solidly in the “taketh away” category is this week’s news of the imminent closing of donut shop and live music spot Irene’s Holy Donuts, which opened last year in the spot formerly occupied by the short-lived but well-loved local music venue Cans Deli. While some bemoan a supposed “curse” on the 4th Avenue space, others point to steep rents and high business expenses as a likely suspect for the closure of both venues.

While it took some time for Irene’s to blossom as a music venue, in recent months the space had become home to a regular roster of punk and metal bands of the sort that don’t often find other gigs in the Downtown and UA-area gig landscape and, as such, and will be pretty sorely missed in certain circles.

Irene's Holy Donuts last day in business, according to a post on the shop's social media, will be February 23. Regular business hours and scheduled music events will continue for the next several weeks as planned, however.

The 'kids' get grounded

Meanwhile, just off Tucson's historic "Sunshine Mile," a new day dawns for the burgeoning all-ages and youth-based music scene as a cohort of dedicated volunteer organizers, including longtime local DIY champions Logan Greene and Nirantha Balagopal, prepare to launch all ages art, music and education space Groundworks at a newly announced location on Tucson Boulevard, just off Broadway. 

The space plans to open later in the year and will offer regular classes and hands on learning in addition to regular all-ages shows. With a location that will be in walking distance from used vinyl purveyor Desert Island Discs, it sounds like a music-lovers' paradise. Stay tuned to this column for more news as the project gets closer to its grand opening. 

Radio Radio

For a college town and “second city” Tucson is pretty spoiled for free-form and community radio options. In addition to one of the pioneers of independent community radio, KXCI, the Old Pueblo is home to a decent college radio station, the University of Arizona’s KAMP campus radio, as well as a handful of community centric LPFM stations. Two of these LPFM stations (which, coincidentally, are located in the same building - Downtown’s Steinfeld Arts Warehouse)  have been key to increasing the reach of local and independent music throughout the greater Downtown and Central Tucson areas - non-commercial rock station 99.1 FM Downtown Radio and local content focused 99.9 FM KMKR Radio. Both stations are also celebrating significant milestones as the new year gets under way.

Now in its fourth year of broadcasting, Downtown Radio has carved out a niche in Tucson’s music community by featuring locally based rock and underground shows and volunteer DJs playing handpicked playlists that are the antithesis of corporate rock and roll. The station faces a major transformation this year as the station’s founder, executive director and program manager, Jason LeValley has exited the station as of the end of 2019. For the short term, Bill Owens, a current Downtown Radio board member and volunteer DJ, has taken on the mantle of interim program director and all indications seem to point to a more DJ and volunteer-driven era for Downtown Radio in the coming months.

In other Downtown Radio related news, former DTR DJs Michael and Cassie Peel are launching an online station of their own on the Live 365 platform called Rarity Rock Radio, based on the duo’s former Downtown Radio show of the same name. The launch party for the new station will take place this Saturday at Hurricane Records on th Avenue. 

Meanwhile, sister LPFM KMKR Radio (where your friendly neighborhood music columnist currently volunteers and spins tunes from time to time) is about to celebrate its second year on the airwaves providing a mix of locally based DJs and Tucson/Arizona music rotations. 

Rarity Rock Radio's launch party takes place this Saturday night, January 11 at Hurricane Records, beginning at 6 p.m.

KMKR Radio’s second anniversary celebration takes place this Saturday night, January 11, at Club Congress with a lineup that includes Louise Le Hir, Miss Olivia and the Interlopers and Tucson indie psych-pop band La Cerca, a band that just happens to be fronted by KMKR DJ Andrew Gardner. The show starts at 7 p.m.

Seeking sanctuary

While local bands and musicians oft bemoan the trend of DJs supplanting live bands at local venues in town, the truth is that certain standing DJ nights have become communities of their own, especially long-running shows like many of the themed DJ shows that regularly take over Surly Wench Pub on Saturday nights.

One of the most venerable of these events has been Sanctuary, a goth and darkwave heavy weekly music mix hosted for the past decade plus by Plastic Disease — aka local musician, promoter DJ and Alter Der Ruine alum Tamara Jenney.

While Jenney plans to continue spinning her particularly noir brand of DJ magic at other promoters’ events both locally and outside of Tucson, this week’s Sanctuary will mark both the 11th anniversary of the series and the event’s finale. 

Club Sanctuary 11th Anniversary and Finale takes place next week on Saturday January 18 at 9 p.m. at the Surly Wench Pub.

All that jazz

While Tucson’s local rock, punk and pop bands are as active as ever this week, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the other big music news of the moment, the 2020 iteration of the Tucson Jazz Festival, which takes place in and around Downtown Tucson beginning this weekend and continuing through January 20. While many festival related shows are included in this week’s local music roster below, a full festival lineup and details surrounding the individual events can be found at the festival’s website

Check your local listings...

Friday, January 10

  • Big Grin - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Booker T. Jones - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Johnny A. - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Pigmy Death-Ray, Manguera, Noonday Devils - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
  • Brokedown Palace - 5 p.m. Metal Arts Village Tucson
  • Autumn Dominguez Quintet - 5 p.m. UA Main Gate Square6pm – 3am
  • Banda & Hip Hop - 6 p.m. Club 4th Avenue
  • Austin Hoffman - 6 p.m. Lindy's
  • Big Grin - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Don Armstrong & Gary Mackender - 6 p.m. Catalina Craft Pizza
  • Cadillac Mountain - 6 p.m  Harbottle, Friday, January 10th, 6-8pm
  • People Who Could Fly - 6 p.m. Playground Rooftop
  • Little House of Funk - 6:30 p.m. Cafe a la C'Art
  • FM Stereochild - 7 p.m. Sky Bar 
  • Rhythm Jax & Angel Diamond - 7 p.m. Monterey Court 
  • Tortolita Gutpluckers - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Super Gay Party Machine - 8 p.m. Club Congress
  • The AmoSphere! - 8 p.m. Hideout Saloon
  • Booker T. Jones: Time Is Tight - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Gregg Turner, Golden Boots, Al Perry - 8 p.m. Wooden Tooth Records
  • Johnny A. - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Corey Spector - 8 p.m. Loews Ventana Canyon
  • Louise Le Hir, Hannah Yeun - 8 p.m. The Boxyard 
  • Dry and Dusty with Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. Exo/El Crisol
  • Andy Hersey - 8:30 p.m. Bianchi's
  • Pigmy Death-Ray, Manguera and Noonday Devils - 9 p.m. Surly Wench Pub
  • Xception - 9 p.m. High 5 Grille
  • Zona Libre - 9:30 p.m. Brother John's
  • Brewfish with Desert Fish - 10 p.m. The Hut
  • lovelesslust - 10 p.m. Brodie’s Tavern
  • Los Streetlight Curb Players - 10 p.m. Chicago Bar

Saturday, January 11

  • Mr. Nature - 10 a.m. Silverbell Nursery
  • Like A Villain - 2:30 p.m. The Dive Bar
  • Top Dead Center & Ross Browne - 4:20 p.m. The Hut
  • Paul Opocensky Project - 5 p.m. BBQ Rush
  • 80s and Gentlemen - 6 p.m. Playground Rooftop (FREE!)
  • JoAnn & Monte 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Mindy Ronstadt & the 1 Bill Band - 6 p.m. Lindy’s
  • Rarity Rock Radio Launch 6 p.m. Hurricane Records
  • Naim Amor Trio - 6 p.m. Caffe Torino
  • Masters Of Puppets w/ Wildside - 7 p.m. Encore
  • Johnnie and the Rumblers - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
  • KMKR 2nd Anniversary: Louise Le Hir, Miss Oliva and the Interlopers and La Cerca - 7 p.m. Club Congress 
  • Grip Jensen - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Modular Synthesizer Sound Bath w/ Tony Obr - 7 p.m. Solar Culture Gallery
  • The Bird Lords - 7:30 p.m. Iron John's
  • David Sanborn Jazz Quintet - 7:30 p.m. Fox Theatre
  • Juju Fontaine - 8 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
  • John Coinman - 8 p.m. Exo/El Crisol 
  • Pushing Buttons - 8 p.m.Thunder Canyon Brewstillery
  • Rebel Rebel! Bowie Tribute - 9 p.m. Surly Wench Pub
  • Billy Shaw Jr Band - 9 p.m. Whiskey Roads
  • Gasolina Reggaeton Dance Party - 9:30 p.m. Rialto
  • Pump Up The Volume - 9:30 p.m. Sky Bar

Sunday, January 12

  • Matt Bruner - 11 a.m. Monterey Court
  • Mariachi Luz de Luna - 11 a.m. Brother John's
  • PD Ronstadt & the Co. - 3 p.m. St Mark's UMC
  • J Clay Koweek - 6 p.m. The Coronet
  • Grace Kelly & Aubrey Logan - 7 p.m. Rialto Theatre/Tucson, Arizona

Monday, January 13

  • Joyce Manor w/ Oso Oso & Peach Kelli Pop - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Eugene Boronow Trio - 9 p.m. Elliott's

Tuesday, January 14

  • BloodHound, Construct, New Methods, Omerta, Incentive - 8 p.m. The Dive Bar

Wednesday, January 15

  • Drew Cooper w/ Hank Topless, Chris Hall, & Caden Brewer - 7:30 p.m. Club Congress
  • Dan Stein & Friends - 7 p.m. Irene's Holy Donuts
  • Reverend Horton Heat - 7:30 p.m. Rialto
  • Black Hat Karaoke with Dang - 9 p.m. Surly Wench Pub

Thursday, January 16

  • Megan Diana w/ Soda Sun, Jillian Bessett, and Emby Alexander - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Keith Robinson Band w/ Ryan Biter - 7:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle
  • Tucson Sounds, Accepted
  • Thursday, January 16
  • 8:30 – 11:30pm
  • The Standby - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar
  • The Secret Jazz Series - Exo/El Crisol

Friday, January 17

  • Joyce Luna: - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
  • Speakeasy at Habitation - 6 p.m. Habitation Realty
  • AJJ Good Luck Everybody Release Party - 6 p.m. Zia Records
  • Creeping Death, Sanguisugabogg, Languish, Bloodlust, Skin Ticket - 7 p.m. The Dive Bar\
  • Surf Curse w/ Laika and Stripes - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Lisa O'Neill - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Little House of Funk - 7:30 p.m. House of Bards
  • Afro-Cuban All Stars - 7:30 p.m. Rialto Theatre
  • Neil Hamburger - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Better Off Dead /80's Dance Party - 9 p.m. Surly Wench Pub
  • Tucson Sounds, Accepted
  • Friday, January 17
  • 9pm – 2am
  • Winter Chill - 9 p.m. Irene’s Holy Donuts 
  • FeverFew, B&TW, Still Life Telescope - 9 p.m. Sky Bar


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