Tucson becomes eclectic: Emilie Marchand and WestOasis
Tucson's music scene is nothing if not diverse these days and this week's live music lineup is evidence of this to an all but insane degree. From gleeful teen punk bands to fuzzy and glorious garage rock to a Desert Rock revival to visits by punk and rockabilly legends to piano jazz and lonesome honky-tonk there is an unbelievable array of worthy gigs to be witnessed this week — few of them dull and none of them remotely the same.
Thus, it's only fitting this week that your friendly local music columnist introduce you to a couple of acts that are not the slightest but in the rock and roll mainstream but are definitely worth checking out all the same.
First, we enter the world of glam and glitter of alt-cabaret chanteuse Emilie Marchand, better known as Lola Torch.
Whatever Lola wants...
TucsonSentinel.com: How did you first fall in love with live performance?
Emilie Marchand (aka Lola Torch): "I've been singing and performing since I was a small child. It's one the thing that I can't not do! It's in my blood. I sang and danced all throughout my childhood, had a band in high school, and continued to explore live music as an adult. I've been in many bands of varying genres. Moody jazz standards, old school country, '60s soul, and have even tried my hand at being a singer/songwriter. Cabaret was my inspiration to start doing burlesque and I've always loved that smoky, mysterious thing. I named myself Lola Torch after Marlene Dietrich's character, Lola Lola, in "The Blue Angel." The "Torch" is for torch songs; my favorite kind!"
TS: You have been a long time fixture of the Tucson music scene, not just as a cabaret and burlesque performer, but also as a former bartender at the Rialto for many years. You got to see a lot of great touring bands and live shows over the years, I'd imagine! Which ones most stick in your memory?
EM: "After 10 plus years of working at the Rialto, I have seen so many shows that I have forgotten a lot of them! But, ones that have stood out in my mind, there and elsewhere, are Etta James, Janelle Monae, the B-52's (we got to open for them!!), Black Sabbath, Father John Misty, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Tony Bennett, Iron Maiden, Wanda Jackson, Jane's Addiction, St. Vincent... god there are so many!"
TS: Favorite local bands and venues?
EM: " I LOVE my brothers-from-other-mothers Tom Walbank and Naim Amor. I also love Katie Haverly, the Sugar Stains, Lenguas Largas, Cash Lansky, Golden Boots, Jivin Scientists, Jillian Bessett, Miss Olivia & the Interlopers, Jaime J. Soto, among so many others! As far as local venues go, it seems we're losing them at a rapid rate. Of course, I love the Rialto and 191 Toole. Exo is a really great venue for that intimate vibe I'm craving."
TS: Thoughts on the local music scene?
EM: "Honestly, the local music scene is one of the things that made me fall in love with Tucson but I fear I've gotten a bit out of touch with it lately. I'm trying to actively change that now that I have more nights free. It has always had an ebb and flow of so many talented folks and I can't wait to see how people grow in their music and what else comes down the pipeline!"
TS: What are you up to these days?
EM: " Oh man. I have so much going on! As Lola Torch, I will continue with the Torchbearers playing here and there when the right occasion arises, I will continue to produce and perform in my burlesque show, Tucson Libertine League and continue to mentor students of burlesque performance and produce shows for them. Upcoming beurlesque shows include REVEAL at 191 Toole on January 24 and Tucson Libertine League at 191 Toole on February 22. As Emilie Marchand, rather than performing as Lola, I have a few shows coming up with varying accompanists. Dillinger Speakeasy at Hotel Congress on January 18, Valentine's Day at Agustin Kitchen, and the Mercado San Agustin courtyard on February 23."
TS: You sound busy! Besides the revolving crew of accompanists, who are your regular musical collaborators?
EM: "The Torchbearers are Ben Nisbet, Dimitri Manos, and Thøger Lund/Sean Rogers. When I perform as Emilie Marchand, I mostly play with Naim Amor, Dante Rosano, and Sean Rogers."
TS: What's your overall style as a perfomer and musician? Do you write news songs or mainly interpret existing ones a la traditional cabaret?
EM: "I mostly interpret classics but have been wanting to resurrect some songs that I've written in the past and write some new ones!"
TS: Favorite music of all time?
EM: "I just love singers! Really anyone with a great voice will move me. Whitney Houston was my musical hero as a kid. Peggy Lee is a huge influence. I've been really loving pop singers like Robyn, Sia, Selena Gomez, and Ariana Grande. I've always been a huge R&B fan. Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill, SZA, Janelle Monae. Obsessed with Sevdaliza. I mean, everyone. Julie London, Carmen McRae, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minelli, Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, and Sam Smith. Those are just a fraction of the singers who influence me, ha ha!"
TS: Anything else you want to tell us about?
EM: "For those who don't know, aside from performing and producing I teach fitness and dance classes at Floor Polish on 4th Ave. I also lead burlesque workshops for any and everyone who is interested in learning the art! The next beginner's workshop (which is called REVEAL I) is on January 19. All information about these classes and workshops is available at floorpolishdance.com. I am also launching a line of lingerie, in February, called Hi, Tiger!"
TS: You ARE a busy bee! Tell us about your upcoming gig.
EM: "Lola Torch & The Torchbearers play Exo Bar on Saturday, Jan. 12. This is a new project of mine where I explore some of the songs that have influenced my performance over the years; everything from standards of the 2'0s-'50s, vintage country, '60s soul, '70s ballads, and songs from classic musicals. My aim is for a cabaret vibe with song and storytelling - a way for me to really connect with the audience and create an intimate experience for us all. Expect laughter, tears, and sequins."
Local Torch and The Torchbearers play Exo on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m.
Haunting sounds, gorgeous unearthly loops...and a conscience: Introducing WestOasis
The first time your interpid neighborhood music columnist encountered WestOasis it was on a $1 sticker at an all-ages house show near Downtown, complete with teen punk bands and a bonfire. Since then, this reporter has narrowly missed seeing WestOasis at least a half-dozen times, barely missing appearances at live gigs and feminist showcases including from Ladytowne Live and Chick Magnet. The intrigue eventually caught up with your friendly local scribe, however, and the music was weird and gorgeous and haunting - unearthly, acoustic looping over hazy and ethereal vocals. And so, it was time to meet the artist - "Bex WestOasis."
TucsonSentinel.com: What is the origin story of Westoasis as a project?
Bex WestOasis: "Well, I first started playing music again when I was 22, after growing up playing music in school and then a six year break I wanted to approach music in a less structured way. I didn't intend on playing out but after a few years of messing around and recording a bit got asked to play some shows, at first playing simple and acoustic but the project evolved a little over time. I mainly play solo but collaborate for recording sometimes with a friend who goes by ALHHLA and a friend named Spencer Keizer in Joshua Tree. Both make music I really like so the vibe felt natural. Every once in a while I play live with other musicians and I'd like to experiment with it more"
TS: How did you fall in love with music and who and what have been your inspirations musically and lyrically?
BW: "Personally music is like a casual/magical healing practice, I'm mostly drawn to hard-hitting tones and vibrations that emote heavily and lyricists who weave different types of off rhyme and alliteration together while evoking a lot of feeling through vocals and overall composure, like Lana Del Rey or Yoni Wolf of the band WHY?. I get really stoked writing styles like that, it's cool seeing words coming together that work with each other for aesthetic and conceptual reasons, like assembling a meal that looks pretty and has a healthy intention to it as well."
TS: It turns out that looped ukulele is a really unique and haunting musical approach. How did you go about crafting and creating your sound?
BW: "Actually my buddy ALHHLA who loops really cool beats got me into using a the body of the ukulele as an echo chamber for looping beats and back up vocals. I love seeing how different artists play with loop pedals and whatever instruments, it's a really neat way to build compilations from scratch live or jam by yourself or with friends. Playing with effects or the way sounds can go together has been fun, a friend described my music writing style as like an organic generative experiment which I thought was kind of funny, it has a life of its own?
TS: Favorite bands of all time?
BW: "I mentioned LDR and WHY? earlier who are long time favorites for sure, Chelsea Wolfe, Grouper, Kikagaku Moyo are artists I like to put on a lot as well."
TS: Thoughts on the local music scene? And Tucson as a community? What are your favorite local bands and venues?
BW: "My dynamic with the music/art community in Tucson has been really encouraging and supportive. I had no idea when I was first getting asked to play in shows it would be such a consistent connection to a myriad of really sweet and talented folks. I've seen a lot of really nourishing gatherings with people I consider family through the years of creating and sharing ideas with each other, very grateful to be a part of it. I love seeing the projects Lano, Mute Swan, Cool Funeral, Feverfew, Dayak, BringYourOwnMolotov, Oolalong all make a spectrum of feeling rise in people for sure. I like playing shows that feature people who do different things, events like Chick Magnet or venues like Subspace that showcase different visual and interactive art as well as music."
TS: What's on the horizon for you as a musician/performer?
BW: "Definitely intending to record more, I've written a few tracks since last recording a year and a half ago. Also been playing with different instruments and people so looking to evolve the project or make the set styles more ephemeral.
TS: You have played a lot of events that celebrate women and femme musicians and some DIY and house party type shows as well. Do you feel spaces outside the mainstream and especially femme and youth friendly spaces are helping our local music scene grow and evolve? Do we as a music community need to do a better job of making spaces like this possible and available?
BW: "Well, spaces for people to get together that aren't directly connected to capitalist establishment are crucial for inclusion/group morale to be frank. For example a lot of the people I appreciate the most here are not allowed in bars and/or don't want to be in them so availability for those folks is really nice. As far as accessibility for people outside of cis men goes I think a lot of people don't realize how they categorize and put people they think of as 'not normal' aside sometimes. We're all doing cool stuff we can all play shows together, people feel safe and welcome when the people around them are nice and respectful and actively work on their unhealthy behavioral tendencies regarding social and skill hierarchy. I think events centered around those mindsets are really enriching."
TS: Favorite gig or favorite gig story of all time?
BW: "I'll never forget this little DIY venue in Durango, Colorado called Sweet 101. It was packed with people who just love music of all kinds, I was touring with some friends who play the project Oolalong now, really feel good psychedelic type stuff and we played with a few local and touring punk bands. There was a wide age range there and the venue provided a bunch of food for everyone. It was rad seeing such a stoked scene in a town I hadn't heard of at the time, reminded me there's a lot of sweet stuff going on that I don't know about yet, gave me hope."
TS: What else would you like us to know?
BW: "Hmm keep an eye on my Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages for new recordings in the next couple of months!"
TS: Tell us about your next show!
BW: "The next show I'm playing is actually gonna be pretty rad. It's a harm reduction benefit at Owl's Club on January 15th; Golden BooTs, Cool Funeral, and BAM are also on the bill. I'm playing at Owl's again January 21 with Lonely Hunting and Fentanvl Donüt, hope to see lotsof friends after not playing out the last few months."
SAP Harm Reduction Benefit Show with WestOasis, Golden Boots, Cool Funeral, and BAM takes place at 8:30 p.m.Tuesday night, January 15 at Owls Club.
Friday Night Shows: Desert Rock vs. That Evil Drone vs. The Teen Scene
It seems like there's no brand of Tucson music quite as polarizing as the genre known as Desert Rock. Most folks who've been plugged in to the local band scene over the past few decades either loathe or love it.
Back in the late '80s and early '90s, though, everyone seemed pretty sure that the Desert Rock explosion was going to put Tucson on the map as certain local bands began to make their way on to college rock radio playlists. This reporter will admit, in fact, to being old enough to remember the small thrill of hearing hometown heroes of the day, The Sidewinders, played on San Diego's infamous 91X FM...right before they had to change their name to the Sand Rubies and basically start all over again in the quest for mainstream airplay.
Ironically enough, in the end it was a Phoenix area band, the Gin Blossoms, who finally broke through to the charts with their album "New Miserable Experience" in 1992.
Meanwhile, around the same time, a totally different Tucson sound was born as the earliest version of the Resonars took shape, creating a harmony-laden, psych and garage-infused, decidedly anolog sound that would someday have a huge influence on our rock and roll community but, sadly, at the time got largely overlooked in the shadow of the Desert Rock phenomenon.
Now, more than 25 years later, the tables have largely turned as indie garage focused labels like Burger and Trouble In Mind have embraced the garage-pop aesthetic with Tucson's own Midtown Islands Studio, owned and operated by Resonar-In-Chief Matt Rendon, contributing some of the best examples.
This Friday night, however, it's kind of like old times as Tucson audiences once again must choose between Desert Rock mainstays and the psych garage revivalists.
At Club Congress, once the epicenter of the Desert Rock phenomenon, the Sidewinders, former Gin Blossom Jesse Valenzuela and Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios will hold court once again. Meanwhile, over at Saint Charles Tavern, Matt Rendon and frequent collaborator (and fellow "Freezing Hand") Travis Spillers are going acoustic as The Midtown Islanders, opening for Burger garage punk darlings The Exbats.
Meanwhile, for those who prefer their music young, loud, and with maximum chaotic dance/mosh pit action, there's a third option as The CyberScape all-ages show takes over the historic El Casino Ballroom. The show features Rough Draft, Closet Goth, Weekend Lovers, ZCO, Kaizer, Yung Davon, and Rated R.
Jesse Valenzuela, the Sidewinders and the Luminarios play Club Congress at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. The Exbats with Midtown Islanders play Saint Charles Tavern at 9 p.m. on Friday. The CyberScape All Ages Show kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m. at the El Casino Ballroom.
All that was old is cool again...
The Desert Rock revival show is far from the only memento mori this week. Saturday night, Jan. 12, head to Wooden Tooth Records for "Lake Of Fire," a retrospective of classic photos from Tucson's '80s underground and hardcore punk scene by photographer Ed Arnuad.
Meanwhile, check out a brace of decent blast from the past shows at 191 Toole:
First on Wednesday night, Jan 16, psychobilly legend the Reverend Horton Heat returns to Tucson at the venue.
Then, on Thursday night, L.A. punk legends turned supergroup, The Flesheaters (now including X's John Doe and Blasters frontman Dave Alvin) hit the 191 stage with support from Tucson's own Mission Creeps and the legendary Kid Congo, formerly of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, doing a DJ set. Kid Congo has recently relocated to Tucson, so with luck we'll see more of him soon!
Lake Of Fire's grand opening at Wooden Tooth Records takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday night. Check out Rev. Horton Heat on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and on Thursday night head down to see The Flesh Eaters,The Mission Creeps, & DJ Kid Congo Powers at 8 p.m. Both shows take place at 191 Toole
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. If you've got a gig coming up and you'd like your event listed in this space (or if your local band has a major announcement or a new release) drop me a line at email@example.com.
Friday, Jan. 11
- Paul Jenkins - 7 p.m.Westbound
- Cyber Scape All Ages Show: Rough Draft, Closet Goth, Weekend Lovers, ZCO, Kaizer, Yung Davon, Rated R - 6p.m. El Casino Ballroom
- Jesse Valenzuela, The Sidewinders - 7:30 p.m. Club Congress
- The Exbats with Midtown Islanders - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Megan Diana - 9:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Zeppelin USA - 8 p.m. The Rialto
- Trash! DJ Night - 10 p.m. Surly Wench Pub
Saturday, Jan. 12
- Lake of Fire: Tucson Punk in the '80s - Photographs - 6 p.m. Wooden Tooth Records
- Stubborn Old Bastard, Scattered Guts, Magguts - 6 p.m.The Rock
- Speakeasy Sessions - 6 p.m. Dillinger Brewing Company
- Different Strokes (Burlesque) - 17 E Toole Ave
- Bryan Thomas Parker & Friends - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
- Rebel, Rebel: A Bowie Tribute - 9 p.m.Surly Wench Pub
- Street Blues Family and the Jozaya Project - 10 p.m. Che's Lounge
Sunday, Jan. 13
- Laura and Friends - 6 p.m. Che's Lounge
- Honey and Salt (Austin) // Spider Cider // Cement Shoes - 9 p.m.Sky Bar
Tuesday, Jan. 15
- SAP Harm Reduction Benefit Show - Golden Boots, Cool Funeral,Westoasis, BAM - 8:30 p.m. Owls Club
Wednesday, Jan. 16
- The Man Who Fell to Earth - Director's Cut - 7:30 p.m. The Loft Cinema
- Reverend Horton Heat - 7:30 p.m. 191 Toole
- Ladytowne Live at Club Congress - 8 p.m. Club Congress
Thursday, Jan. 17
- The Carnivaleros - 8:30 p.m.
- The Flesh Eaters,The Mission Creeps, & DJ Kid Congo Powers - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Losers' Lounge: Chris Hall/Hannah Yeun/Hank Topless - 9 p.m. Owls Club