Quarantine chorus: You can keep Tucson musicians at home, but you can't keep 'em quiet for long
In the past several weeks, as Tucson area bars and restaurants have shuttered their dining areas and festivals and live music venues have gone dark, there is an added bittersweetness to the timing of it all.
Late March in Tucson is usually one of the best times of the year to partake in live music in our dusty little town, as local favorites launch spring tours and album releases while touring bands from all corners of the nation (and, sometimes, the world) pop in on their way to or from Austin’s SXSW festivities. So the empty silence of Downtown’s streets at night seems all that more empty. And these dark times are darker still for many Tucson musicians, who not only have had to postpone tours and live appearances, but in many cases are facing massive income loss from cancelled gigs or losing the bartending and serving jobs that sustain so many creative folks.
It ain’t the best of times, folks. In fact, it very well might be the worst. But if you know Tucson’s music community at all, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that local voices are making themselves heard in spite of the current state of physical isolation.
So, if you have access to a computer or a smartphone, you have no excuse for not having something to listen to this would-have-been-spring-touring season. Tune into a livestream broadcast from your favorite band’s practice space or the stage of a deserted local venue. Listen to an early release of their new E.P. or digital album. Check out the quarantine induced creative fruits of local folks with access to home studios or at least decent video gear.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but your friendly neighborhood music columnist has had enough silence these days to last a lifetime. So, let’s gather in spirit if not in reality and let's all turn up the volume. To eleven.
Soundtracks to the end of the world as we've known it
Tongs - "The Adventures of Bouncy Boy"
"The Adventures of Bouncy Boy" by this local rhythm/synth supergroup eschews the hotel-lobby chillwave vibe of most modern electronica, sounding instead like some sort of fantastic mashup between an '80s Vangelis movie soundtrack and a Berlin-era Bowie/Eno instrumental. At a time when even the most innocuous lyric can bring an unwitting listener to tears, the hopeful unearthliness of tracks like this one are worth their weight in gold. Or maybe toilet paper.
Stream The Adventures of Bouncy Boy here.
JJP's grade = 4.85 out of 5 TP rations.
Miss Olivia & the Interlopers - "Tiny Tales"
While pandemic-related shutdowns have pushed back the timeline for a debut album release by Tucson's Miss Olivia & the Interlopers, the band offers up a solid EP to tide us over. Recorded at Tucson's famed Wavelab Studios, the three track collection feautures the band at its finest, Olivia Reardon's soaring blue-eyed soul vocals underscored masterfully by blues rock by way of Pink Floyd and Steely Dan instrumental magic of bandmates Mike Sydlowski and David Hostetler and former Interlopers drummer Daniel Thomas (recently replaced by ex Los Guapos percussionist Morgan Schlaline.)The standout track on this small apertif of a recording is "Blacklisted," a bluesy tale of a hard working woman in the "Me Too" era delivered with the guts, grit and gorgeousness of divas like Aretha, Tina Turner or Reardon's muse Erykah Badu.
Stream Tiny Tales here.
JJP's grade = 5 out of 5 TP rations.
The Resonars - "Blindside 2020"
Throughout the recorded history of the Resonars, the band has fluctuated between all-star ensemble and one-man show, and in these sequestered days, that fact gives Resonar-in-chief Matt Rendon an ace up his sleeve compared to most bands on hiatus from live shows. Currently a four-track EP (it began as two and could well keep growing at this rate) Blindside seemingly features every trick in the Resonar tool kit from never-ending layers of harmony to late-'60s baroque pop-laced psychedelia to clever and catchy Brill Building-worthy lyrical turns of phrase. While we don't want our local lockdown to last forever, the musings of this exile on Midtown Island are one of the silver linings of these gloomy days.
Stream Blindside 2020 on Bandcamp.
JJP's grade = 5.5 out of 5 TP rations, because I CANNOT EVEN.
Sentinel Fest Update
In the past few weeks, Tucson Sentinel has been devoting pretty much every waking hour to reporting news on the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on our community. Still, nothing keeps one's spirits up quite like a great soundtrack and, so far, Tucson's live music community has more than come through.
Our first batch of entries for Tucson Sentinel Fest will grace the digital front page very soon, and we promise they're absolutely worth the wait.
In the meantime, if you or your band want to contribute a set to our virtual music festival, celebrating 10 years of independent, non-profit, award winning online news from the Tucson Sentinel team, we'd love to add you to the lineup! We'll keep sharing entries throughout the month of April, so stay tuned.
The ground rules:
2) Performances can include one to four songs and should ideally be no more than about 15-20 minutes in length.
3) Include a brief band bio and/or "liner notes" about the performance or song(s) performed.
4) Original compositions are strongly preferred, but if you do choose to post a cover, please acknowledge the original songwriter and performer and add a few words about why you chose to cover that particular song.
5) Have fun, be creative and let Tucson get to know your band!
Submissions will be featured on TucsonSentinel.com both as stand alone mini-features in the coming weeks and as a footnote to each week's Tucson Sounds column. We'll also create a growing playlist on the Sentinel's YouTube channel for your sharing and watching pleasure!
Livestreams, Zoom parties and virtual venues
In the past week and a half or so, many bands and solo artists from around these parts have bridged the distance between our homes and the stage with livestreams and your trusty scribe has done her best to catch a few as they've aired.
The first performance I witnessed, a lengthy practice space set from Tucson's the Rifle will be featured soon as part of Tucson Sentinel Fest is a portrait of a band that may well be at its creative and musical peak, blending surf-rock inspired guitar motifs, spare and impressionistic lyrics, Phil Lesh meets Entwhistle bass meanderings, waves-on-a-cliff crashing percussion and the magic that is a nearly psychic freeform, intuitive jam session in action.
The Desert Rovers hosted a fun and interactive livestream set on Saint Patrick's Day via Facebook Live with a mix of original tunes and Celtic traditional fare.
The aforementioned Miss Olivia and band Zeppelined up the empty floor of Saint Charles Tavern for a live stream late last week that made viewers feel like they were right where the action was.
Desert Rover alum BTP (aka Bryan Thomas Parker) offered up a Wednesday "Day Drinking" livestream set showcased a local troubador traveling the musical byways where Jim Croce intersects with Tracy Champan. While I think there was a Jimmy Buffet song somewhere in that set, it was forgivable given the times at hand. Context, my friends, is everything.
Last, but by no means least, a virtual trip to Tap & Bottle with Katie Haverly and her band the Aviary, consisting of Haverly on piano and vocals, Ben Nisbet on guitar and bonded-for-life rhythm section Christopher Pierce and Tom Beech (also known as two thirds of Tongs) offered an evening's musical repast by a world class band and an incredibly passionate performance from Haverly, featuring tracks from past recordings as well as her newest album, "Matter."
Since livestreams are much easier to schedule than venue based gigs, it pays to pay attention these days, so be sure to follow your favorite bands or the musicians you've always wanted to chek out on social media and the web. In the meantime, check your local listings below for a selection of this week's offerings, as well as some resources for musicians in need.
Check your virtual listings...
Assorted ongoing livestream feeds, record label sites and musicians' resources:
Tucson Musicians Covid 19 Relief Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tucson-musicians-covid19-relief
Fund to support Exo & El Crisol Employess: https://www.gofundme.com/f/fund-for-support-for-exo-amp-el-crisol-employees
KXCI Community Radio: https://kxci.org
Downtown Radio Tucson: https://downtownradio.org
KMKR Community Radio: bit.ly/kmkraz
Covid 19 Freelance Artist Resource Page: https://covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com/emergency-funding
Musicares COVID-19 Relief Fund: https://www.grammy.com/musicares/get-help/musicares-coronavirus-relief-fund
Burger Records Self-Isolation Scavenger Hunt: https://burgerrecords.com/its-the-burger-records-self-isolation-scavenger-hunt/
Wavelab Studios Livestreams: https://www.facebook.com/wavelabrecordingstudio
Tap & Bottle "Tap & (empty) bottle" Livestreams: https://www.facebook.com/pg/thetapandbottle
Saint Charles Tavern Livestreams: https://www.facebook.com/SaintCharlesTavern
Polygon Records Livestream: https://www.instagram.com/sisterpolygonrecords
Friday, March 27
- Big Grin -7 p.m. at (virtual) Sand Reckoner https://www.facebook.com/events/650360042421952
- DJ Mijito - 8 p.m. at (virtual) Owl's Club via Twitch: http://twitch.tv/dj_mijito
Saturday, March 28
- DJ Mijito - 8 p.m. at (virtual) R Bar via Twitch: http://twitch.tv/dj_mijito
Monday, March 30
- Eviscerated the Musical (Horror soundtrack) Livestream - 1:30 p.m. via Twitch : https://www.twitch.tv/evisceratedmusical
Thursday, Apr 2
- BTP "Day Drinking" - 2 p.m. via Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/events/1229688603899399
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