Juju Fontaine: Young band, old souls
Plus, a Bisbee road trip, a burlesque battle & a return of the Resonars
If you search online for local chanteuse Gabi Montoya and her current project Juju Fontaine, one of the first things you'll come across is a cover of the song "Waiting Round To Die" by Texas troubador and alt-country pioneer Townes Van Zandt.
Montoya's take on the folk-blues outlaw ballad is captivating, with dramatic stops and starts and a haunting vocal that suggests the unearthly union of Janis Joplin and Jeff Buckley. The material is dark and difficult, a surprising choice for this upbeat, charming young singer songwriter.
It turns out that Montoya was first introduced to Townes and his ilk by a long-gone boyfriend with an enviable record collection. As such tales often go, the boyfriend didn't last long, but her love of the music never waned. Flash forward a couple of years and a multitude of new musical discoveries, heartbreaks and hard-won experiences and Montoya is a far cry from the young millennial ingenue she might appear to be.
In contrast to her quick smile and warm demeanor, Montoya is a disciplined perfectionist when it comes to her musical output. Musically inclined from an early age, she quickly showed talent for piano and classical theory and structure. However, it was her love for the soundtrack of her youth, a combination of grunge, classic rock and the Lillith Fair folk rock of the late 1990s, that gave her the bug to perform.
As a teen, Montoya taught herself to play guitar and began writing and eventually recording live music, first on her own and then with a changing line up of side players. Juju Fontaine was formed at first in response to a light-hearted conversation with a friend regarding potential band names. After playing around with several silly monikers, the names Juju and Fontaine, inspired by Montoya's pet dogs, were combined to create an image of a late '60s European Warhol superstar-type starlet. The name and the imagery were too good to keep to the realm of fantasy, and Montoya soon embraced the moniker as an alias for her solo work.
The earliest incarnations of Juju Fontaine included primarily Montoya with a bit of support from others, including a short stint with a second guitarist that spawned a few completed recordings and an NPR Tiny Desk submission.The music Montoya played during those early days pushed her to expand and stretch her vision and helped her to grow as a solo artist. However, it wasn't until drummer Isaac Stockton joined the lineup that the project truly began to gel.
Stockton, a talented self-taught DIY musician, is a veteran of several local bands as a guitarist and vocalist, but had long wanted to pursue his dream of playing drums. Although he'd had short stints as a drummer in a few rock groups around town, his melodic playing and love of unusual time signatures got him quickly booted from many projects who just wanted someone to show up and keep to a simple beat. For Montoya, however, that non-traditional style was exactly what made Stockton such a perfect fit.
A "lyrics first, melody later" songwriter, Montoya puts little stock in adhering to traditional song and chord structure, instead fitting the music to the patterns suggested by the poetry and verse of her lyrics. While this free form and open style of writing was might frustrate other side players, for Stockton it presented a happy challenge. The interplay between guitar, rhythm and vocals gives Montoya's compositions a charged call and response dynamic that owes much to performers like Buckley and Van Morrison and improvisational jazz, especially during the group's emotionally driven live performances.
Juju Fontaine's first gig was a fortuitous stroke of luck or a terrifying prospect, depending on how you look at it. The band was asked by another band to fill an opening slot for a show at Downtown Tucson's Club Congress.
While a lot of new bands would be intimidated to start their live career on a stage frequented by members of indie rock royalty, Montoya had a secret weapon in the character of "Juju." In the style of rock and roll actors including David Bowie, she threw herself into the character, dressing the part and inhabiting the role completely, with vintage wardrobe, floppy hat, Nico-esque imperial gaze and a retro, jazzy cosmic blues sensibility. Stockton soon followed his band mate's confident lead, losing himself in the wordless, intuitive mind meld that he and Montoya had developed in the course of practicing and recording as a duo.
A number of live shows later, Juju Fontaine is a solid act and one that keeps getting stronger and tighter with each performance. Stockton and Montoya have been spending several hours recording new material and hope to release their self produced single very soon. In the meantime, you can catch a gig this very weekend at South Tucson's favorite neighborhood bar, Saint Charles Tavern.
Juju Fontaine plays Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S, 4th Ave, on Saturday at 9 p.m. (S. of Downtown.) Free.
Getout of town (and into a flying saucer)
Bisbee, our quirky/cool neighbor to the South, has long been a host to refugees from Tucson's summer heat and for the last few years, The Quarry has been hosting Tucson and Arizona bands to keep those folks entertained. This weekend the Bisbee bar and restaurant celebrates its third anniversary with an "Alien Abduction"-themed party. Who better to kick it off than Tucson's own masters of creepy cool rock and roll, The Mission Creeps?
Alien Abduction featuring The Mission Creeps (Tucson), Cadaver Dabba Doos (Phoenix) and Girl Fry (Los Angeles), 40 Brewery Ave., Bisbee, 8 p.m. Two hours SE of Tucson.
Battle of burlesque
Watch some of Tucson's best burlesque performers strut their stuff to the tunes of the loud, luscious lady punk of the Sugar Stains and Tucson's own Delta bluesman from across the pond, Tom Walbank. Featured performers include Lola Torch, Kitty Catatonic, Fiametta Mink, Ms. Midnight, Jaime J Soto,Rambo Rose and special guests Hi Polish Floor Show and Les Femmes Marveilleuses..
Tucson Libertine League presents the Burlesque Battle of The Bands at 191 E. Toole on Saturday at 9 p.m. (Downtown) $12 at the door
Following a brief Southern California tour, Tucson-based Burger Records darlings The Resonars continue their recent stint of "unretirement" with a last-minute gig at Che's this Saturday. The current incarnation of the band, featuring members of The Flight Thirteen on guitar and bass, plays loud, energetic, fuzz-ridden psych/garage influenced rock and roll that'll make you proud to be from this dusty little cowtown. The addition of local baroque indie geniuses The Rifle to the bill make this one a show not to miss.
The Resonars and The Rifle play Che's Lounge, 350 N. 4th Ave. on Saturday at 10 p.m. (Downtown) Free.
Also this weekend...
Friday, July 28
- 25th Hour w/ Marley B, DJ Hoppa. Cash Lansky and more at Club Congress, 311 E, Congress St., 8 p.m. (Downtown)
- Still Life Telescope album release party w/ Peppermint Hippo at Monterey Court, 505 W, Miracle Mile, 8 p.m. (North Tucson)
- Mason's Midnight Road Party w/ Sugar Stains and Half Broke Town at 191 E. Toole, 8 p.m. (Downtown)
- Penetrators, Southpaw, The Sindicate, Lipstick Stains, Slack Bastards at The Loudhouse, 915 W, Prince Rd., 9 p.m. (North Tucson)
- Michael P & Mighty Joel Ford at The Parish, 6453 N. Oracle Rd., 8 p.m. (Northwest Tucson)
- Los Lonely Boys with Lisa Morales at The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., 9 p.m.(Downtown)
Saturday, July 29
- The Old Pueblo Opry Linda Ronstadt Brunch w/ Lisa O'Neill, Half Broke Town, Gerald Collier, and Mariachi Tucsonense at Exo Coffee Roasters, 403 N. 6th Ave., 10:30 a.m. (Downtown)
- Infinite Beauties at Dusty Monk Pub, 201 N. Court Ave., 10 p.m. (Downtown)
- Mick & Scott at Skybar, 536 N. 4th Ave., 9 p.m. (Downtown)
- Digisaurus at Borderlands, 119 E. Toole, 7:30 p.m (Downtown)
- Sur Block at Hotel Congress, 7 p.m (Downtown)
- Sick Mystic at The Loudhouse, 8 p.m. (North Tucson)
- Main Street Reloaded at Fini's Landing, 5689 N, Swan Rd,, 8 p.m. (North Tucson)