Mudpuppy's quarantine comeback & more news from the local music lockdown
The streets of 4th Avenue should be a lot more crowded on a sunny Saturday morning in early May, buzzing with the overlap of the lazy late morning brunch and coffee crowd and families heading to the avenue for shopping and lunch. Instead, the street is rather desolate, full of shuttered storefronts, mostly empty sidewalks and the occasional take-out food customer or dog walker.
Tons of open parking spaces. No hot dog or taco trucks. No street preachers warning about the end of the world, though you'd think this would just be the moment they'd been waiting for. No buskers, not even the guy who's played across from Haggerty Plaza for a decade or with his static-heavy portable amplifier and limited blues rock repertoire.
The local gig flyers that usually litter the windows of the retail shops and bars have been replaced by handwritten signs scrawled hastily with sharpies.
"Still open for curbside pick up only."
"Package liquors available for take out and delivery."
"Temporarily closed. Stay safe."
Your friendly local music columnist wanders past it all with a heavy heart, but a hopeful mission. To grab a little token of a Tucson-produced labor of love that might just be the closest thing to a night of Downtown venue-hopping that can be had in these socially distance days.
Around the corner from the avenue, Robin Hunn was holding court on her colorful downtown porch, decked out in a custom Rolling Stones mask and t-shirt advertising Tucson Vibe Volume One, the CD compilation and companion coffee table book Hunn recently crowdsourced and produced to celebrate the musicians and venues who make up the Downtown live music community.
The book arrived from the printer just a couple of days ago and your friendly scribe was here to pick up a copy, along with the physical CD. But, damned if it didn't feel great to see a familiar face downtown on a Saturday, and swap stories about our mutual musician friends and wistfully speculate about the fabulous happenings the future might hold "when things go back to normal."
While the Tucson Vibe Project is at least a few months away from being able to have the epic live release party Hunn had once hoped for, it's in some ways the perfect artifact for the times. A full-color, glossy coffee table book bound in cool, summery sherbet tones, the book gives a virtual tour of 15 Downtown and Fourth Avenue venues, with one song and musician assigned to each and photos by a sampling of Tucson's most beloved chroniclers of the music scene.
If you look and listen at the same time, it's almost, kinda like being there. And since the proceeds from sales will go to the venues and artists involved, it's yet another way to support local creators in a time when live shows and in person tip jars aren't on the menu. With a little luck, a little stubbornness and a lot of love, we'll no doubt see these very bands on these very stages before too much longer, but for the time being, the Vibe and projects like it provide a much needed echo of the places and faces we've all been missing.
More info: Tucson Vibe Volume One
Louise Le Hir gets 'montage famous'
Speaking of local music friends we miss, Tucson folks have known and loved Louise Le Hir's music for a few years now, but it looks like the rest of the world will get another pass at being turned on to this songwriter and chanteuse's signature brand of French-kissed, desert-dusted cosmic Americana pop. A wide-scale re-release of Le Hir's self-titled 2015 debut album has just been announced, and a "little birdy" tells us that the reissue was timed to coincide with the inclusion of the album's closing track, "Les Birdies," on the finale of NBC show "Good Girls." Theepisode, titled "Synergy," features our hometown heroine's upbeat, French ye-ye-inspired single as the background music to a rather epic heist planning montage, and can be viewed on various streaming platforms.
Meanwhile, Tucson band Weekend Lovers also has some new tricks up their sleeves. A few months after Marta De Leon and her band irst offered us a tease of their sophomore record, with the January release of the track "Baby," the band is giving us another little fix of what's to come. In these times of cancelled tours and delayed live release parties, the old-school single release is king and De Leon's hook laden, hummable, '80s-inspired pop gems make great singles.
The band, whose current roster includes Gabi Lisk, Danny Perez and Brandon Douglas, plans to unveil a series of standalone releases throughout the summer, culminating in a new full length album "I Love U In Real Life" sometime this fall.
To kickstart the march of songs to come, the Lovers dropped two new releases this week, via Soundcloud. Recorded and mixed at Midtown Island Studios, "2Soon" is a hard edged, passionate lament evoking the Pretenders and De Leon's beloved Fleetwood Mac, while the second track, a gender-flipped version of George Michael's "Father Figure" is a slyly sexy, winking take on a dance pop classic.
The dual debut is just the beginning of a slow but steady drip campaign of future releases by Weekend Lovers, culminating in the unveiling of the full album sometime this fall, when we can hopefully all help celebrate in person. Other treats from the band include a recently released Tiny Desk concert entry of another song from the upcoming album, "The Moon on Mars" as well as an exclusive to TucsonSentinel.com live video of the track "Me" as part of Tucson Sentinel Fest, this publication's virtual live local music festival.
The new Weekend Lovers tracks "2Soon" and "Father Figure" are available for streaming via YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud and Google Music or for purchase at the band's bandcamp site: weekendloversaz.bandcamp.com
The kids are (still) all right: checking in with Mudpuppy
While not in a position to share any new music yet, Tucson band Mudpuppy also has some news worth sharing these days. While the local teen duo announced a hiatus earlier this year, drummer and songwriter Odalys Catalan is relaunching the band with an all-new lineup and an evolution of the band's sound. Catalan recently checked in with your trusty reporter to talk about Mudpuppy's new direction and what it's like to be a high school senior during a global pandemic.
TucsonSentinel.com: Hey, Odalys! I hope that quarantine's been treating you well. Want to tell us a little bit about Mudpuppy 2.0?
Odalys Catalan: "In the new lineup, I'll be taking over vocals and guitar, which is kind of fun, because I'm not really a guitar person, but I'm going to have to be! And, I'm going to be still playing some drums. We're still working out, like, what songs I'm gonna play drums and sing on. But the new drummer is Leo Ruiz, who's also in the band Pelt. So, that's going to be very fun. And we're definitely looking to expand to more members. We're looking at having a bassist and a second guitarist. We had a practice with one of our friends, and that went really well, but then…you know what happened."
TS: So, other than you taking over vocals and guitar duties, what are the biggest differences in the new version of the band? Are the songs the same? The sound?
OC: "You know, we're keeping the same values of course! And pretty much the same inspirations and basic sound. We're carrying the same songs over, and my songwriting hasn't changed so much. But both of us stepping outside of our comfort zones has really helped twist these things around, musically. Having to write guitar parts, since I'm not used to it yet, has made me really rethink how I write. I'm still the primary songwriter for now, but Leo and I hope to collaborate a lot more on future music. Our last few practices went really well!"
TS: What are your plans for the immediate future of Mudpuppy, present circumstances being what they are?
OC: "I'm trying not to put pressure on myself to feel like because we're in a quarantine I have to create stuff. But I also don't want to say that since we have so much free time, I'm gonna do nothing because I'll never have this much free time again! I definitely want to get some music out, even if it means just recording something in Garage Band on an iPad. At least it's something! But we've already worked on booking gigs for after things get back to normal. We don't want to put anyone at risk, so it's been hard since we can't meet up or anything. I've been trying to focus on live streams for now. Although, it's kinda funny. I announced one live stream and lost track of what day it was and totally forgot about it! I didn't remember until my friends started asking me what happened after the fact."
TS: That's both mortifying and totally understandable! Time is kind of arbitrary these days.
So, Mudpuppy, and Pelt too, are part of a local youth music scene that up until now seemed to have shows happening like every other day. And those house shows are really remarkable because of the joy and energy that feeds back and forth from the crowd to the bands and back again. I feel like that's what makes all of these bands so special, and I've got to admit, I've been wondering how all of you are holding up with DIY shows and house parties off the table for the time being! What's filling the gap?
OC: "I'm kind of obsessed with the live stuff other people have been doing lately. The live streams are really awesome because I love going to shows! I'm used to being at shows almost every week and if I wasn't playing one, I was going to one. So, you know, my concept of time used to be based on what shows were happening when."
"But, with the live streams, it's really, really awesome because it's almost a little more personal. You're getting stripped down versions of the music and interacting in a different way with the band by offering questions and comments instead of just being in a crowd. And at one show that Annie Jump Cannon did, I know some people who were fully moshing in their living rooms!"
"Not playing shows for a long time, I've been going on YouTube too and watching videos of my favorite bands. Missing that in person experience a little. Nothing is going to replace that feeling, of being in the crowd watching a live performance. But I think it's still really neat, how everyone's adapting. Over all, I think we're doing good."
TS: Being a high school senior during this really weird time, part of the Class of 2020, it probably seems like a lot of adults are speaking for your generation and making assumptions about what you're losing or gaining by graduating during quarantine. What would you want to say on behalf of yourself and the other teens you know who are actually living this right now?
OC: "At first, you want to blow it off and say this stuff is dumb and really isn't that important. I try to bargain with myself and say it's just high school things. But then when I sit down and think about it, yearbook signings and stuff like that are still so important to us, you know. We're missing out on prom, which we look forward to for most of high school. And those of us in arts programs aren't getting our final senior concert."
"I'm in steel drums at Tucson High and all the seniors always look forward to that very last concert with the senior piece and the senior night and that time when the graduating band members get honored. It sucks, because, you know, a lot of us go through a lot in high school. Is it the best four years of your life? Who knows. But to see how you've changed and grown in those four years and then have it suddenly end, reaching a turning point in your life and not being able to experience all of the things that usually go with it. My grandma was an alumni of Tucson High and we were looking forward to the alumni dinner, but we're not getting that now. So many little things. Obviously we understand why this is all happening. We understand, but it definitely sucks."
TS: Do you feel let down at all by the adults and institutions that are supposed to be in charge?
OC: "As a community, we're supposed to take care of each other, and our government isn't doing a very good job of that right now. And you see people who are not caring. It's almost a kick to the stomach when you see people who are acting nothing is happening. We're losing all of this for nothing, if people don't take this seriously. I haven't seen my family in days, but other people are posting that they're having brunches or going to each other's houses. I think a lot of people think they're taking things seriously, but they make exceptions for certain situations. And for other people, if it doesn't effect them directly, it seems like they don't really care. Maybe don't be hanging out with your friends right now. And you really can stay away from your partner for a couple of weeks, I promise. My dad works at the emergency room and the people in the emergency room are tired. Give them a break. You know what I mean?"
TS: What's your pandemic playlist?
OC: "One of the things I've had on repeat is a lot of Ultra Q. They've been really inspiring to me lately, putting out a lot of new stuff even in quarantine by collaborating remotely. A couple of tracks on my most played list right now are 'Lose, lose, lose' by Swimmers and 'Go Fish' by Cub. I've also been listening to a lot of Droll, from here in Tucson. And a lot of Suburban Lawns.
TS: Anything exciting on the horizon in the near future, as well as when things go "back to normal?"
OC: "We actually have a show scheduled for May 21 if it's safe for that to happen. Although it probably won't be, the way things are looking. It was supposed to be a house show for Slutbomb as part of their U.S. tour, along with Squeaky Buddha and Hussy. Whether that happens or not, we do have a live stream coming up! This coming Friday, May 8, we'll be part of the Groundworks Live show featuring us, Tonight's Sunshine, Familiar Curses and Gutter Town. The show will stream at 8 p.m via all of Groundworks' social media feeds (YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.)
TS: Thanks, Odalys!
We also checked in with Leo Ruiz, Odalys's bandmate and Mudpuppy's new drummer:
TucsonSentinel.com: Hey Leo! Thanks for checking in with us. Can you tell us about your "origin story" as a musician and the bands
you've played in besides Mudpuppy?
Leo Ruiz (drummer for Mudpuppy and Pelt): "I don't have much of an origin story, ha ha, but I've played in a few bands. Iplayed in the Trees for their first show ever, also a metal band called Dead Rose, a hardcore band called Bruiser and my primary band, Pelt.
TS: How did you fall in love with music and when did you start playing?
LR: "I fell in love with music when I was a really young kid. My dad and uncle would always play a bunch of 80s music, hair metal bands, country and many more other genres. I just loved the way all that music made me feel and I knew that that was something I wanted to do."
"I started playing music more in middle school just learning a lot of Blink 182 riffs and playing with guitar backing tracks. I started on drums my sophomore year in high school just playing around and, well, just took off from there. Guitar Hero 3 was also a big start!"
TS: As a young person in these strange times and part of a very crowd-driven DIY scene, things must be super weird for you right now. How are you holding up during quarantine?
LR: "Things are super weird these days ,but I always find something to do, there's definitely more time on my hands to practice on my instruments And to be more creative."
TS: Favorite music of all time? Guilty pleasures? Newer stuff? Local stuff?
LR: "I love any kind of music, but my absolute favorite are any '80s, classic rock and any rock in general. As for newer stuff, I like alternative, post hardcore, shoegaze and many more bands like Title Fight, Turnover and Citizen"
"My favorite local bands in order would be Carnival, Annie Jump Cannon, Yum!, the Sinks and many others! All local bands are really talented. My guilty pleasure is listening to Cyndi Lauper."
TS: Favorite live performance memories? Weirdest ones?
LR: "My favorite live performance was when Pelt played our first show at Club Congress and being able to meet all these other really cool bands and people, even if it was a bit nerve racking for me!" One other favorite was playing Pelt's album release party."
TS: You've only been with Mudpuppy for a short time but what do you love about you this band? And what are your hopes going forward?
LR: "What I love about Mudpuppy is being able to play music that is fun, fast, and well just the creativity that Pigeon (Odalys) has, her passion for this band is also really cool. I'm lookin forward to play with a lot of bigger bands and to have fun!"
TS: Paint a picture of your very first live show once we can walk the world again. What do you hope it'll be like?
LR: "I hope our first show as the new Mudpuppy to be really fun and crazy and I'd hope people would dig out new music, to like the new Mudpuppy!"
You can see Mudpuppy play "live" as part of the Groundworks Live multi-band live music stream this Friday May 8, at 8 p.m. See below for details
While planned local learning/live music space and all-ages venue Groundworks is being forced to delay their launch plans for a bit, the spirit of the project is very much alive. The project had hosted a number of fundraising focused house parties and DIY events in the past year or so, all in preparation for its planned grand opening.
Now the Groundworks crew is taking the show online, with a virtual live event planned for Friday. The show starts at 8 p.m. and can be viewed on multiple streaming sites including Groundworks' YouTube, Facebook and Instagram profiles.
Groundworks Live takes place Friday May 8 with Tonight's Sunshine, Familiar Curses, Mudpuppy, and Gutter Town. Stream via FB Live, YouTube TV and Instagram TV
Sentinel Fest 2020
Tucson Sentinel Fest is still under way! Check out our Sentinel Fest 2020 playlist on YouTube and submit a live video if you want to join the party.
Here's how your band can take part in the first virtual musical festival hosted by TucsonSentinel.com:
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!
Check your local listings...
Friday May 8
- Groundworks Live! With Tonight's Sunshine, Familiar Curses, Mudpuppy, and Gutter Town - 8 p.m. via FB Live, YouTube TV and Instagram TV
Saturday May 9
- Paul Opocensky Project Live Stream from Sentinel Peak East - 5 p.m. via FB Live
Saturday May 9
- Big Grin Live Stream from Catalina Craft Pizza 5:30 p.m. via FB Live
Saturday May 9
- Tucson Helping Tucson Live Stream 7 p.m. via FB Live