Local release roundup; plus drummer-of-all-trades Daniel Thomas
There are music critics and there are music writers and the two are not the same.
Music critics measure and opine and compare bands in the spirit of their spiritual forefathers such as the late great Lester Bangs. Music writers report the news, describing the sound and soul and essence of the bands they write about and the scene in which the music emerges, a great example being legendary punk scene chronicler Legs McNeil.
When it comes to this unspoken division, your friendly neighborhood music columnist (for all that she adores good old Lester) pretty much always sides with Legs. The reason being that live music is largely in the ear of the beholder and musicians in a local scene are, for the most part, giving their art their all. Better to leave one's personal tastes out of it and endeavour to play rock and roll yenta, doing one's best to capture a band's style, spirit and influences of each band in a way that resonates with potential fans.
In light of this approach, it's pretty rare that this column will run anything like an "album review." Yet the CDs and Bandcamp codes and vinyl and cassettes (yes, cassettes) keep coming my way and, well, sometimes a new release is the news.
Thus, in the spirit of never saying never, your friendly local music yenta presents the New Music Column, featuring a guide to some new releases by TWGS, La Cerca and the latest Midtown Island compilation tape featuring more local bands than you can fit on your average summer music festival line up.
3 Song EP - TWGS
TWGS has been quietly building up a fanbase locally over the past several months, playing with the likes of the Rifle, Whispering Wires and musical birds of a feather The Exbats, but their presence has been largely limited to word of mouth of the "it's kind of hard to explain, but I think you'll really dig them" variety. But wonder no more, as your trusty reporter has listened and deemed it worthy. This three-track sampler is a love letter to NYC Bowery punk, Bowie, Lou Reed, science fiction writer JG Ballard (via the track "JG Ballad) and the faintest touch of Zappa-meets-Beefheart-meets-Violent Femmes weirdness. It's kinda hard to explain. But I think you'll really dig them.
Night Bloom - La Cerca
La Cerca's newest offering is a jangly, gorgeous meditation with echoes of '80s neo-psychedelia à la the Church and the Chameleons and My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze introspection. A more somber and mature outing than the band's last offering, 2014's "Sunrise For Everyone," "Night Bloom" is at its best when it showcases the swirling, dueling psychedelic guitar compositions of frontman Andrew Gardner and longtime musical partner in crime Bill Oberdick infused with Gardner's smart, melodic pop lyrics. Stand-out songs include "Asteroid" and "Spacedad" as well as the title track.
Midtown Island Studio Volume 2 - Various Artists
In 2015, Resonars frontman and Midtown Island Studio owner/engineer/jack of all trades Matt Rendon released Midtown Island Studio Volume 1, a compilation cassette featuring some of that year's best local (and a few not local) bands and solo artists as recorded at the then emerging local studio's Tucson home base. As a who's who of the local music scene alone, that first official comp was pretty sublime, but more importantly, it was released via beloved indie garage label Burger Records, thus exposing some of Tucson's finest (as well as Midtown Islands itself) to a much larger music loving world.
In the short three years since that freshman effort, the musical landscape has grown and shifted quite a bit, as local musical landscapes tend to do. But the net result is the same. Midtown Island's second compilation outing features a lot more non Tucson talent, as word of Rendon's trademark recording style spread beyond our dusty cowtown, including the roaring punk of FEELS, the perfectly vintage garage of the May Company and Phoenix's Nanami Ozone as well as Bisbee's Exbats.
That said, this comp is still relatively rich with Tucson based garage, psych, rock, punk and indie acts and still a great way to get to know some of the best Old Pueblo bands currently (and recently) playing including Louise Le Hir, the Rifle, Flight Thirteen, Gayboys, Casey Golden, and studio based projects Butterscotch Cathedral, Anchorbaby and Sea Wren.
TWGS 3 song EP is available at the band's Bandcamp page: https://feelfree.bandcamp.com/album/3-song-ep.
La Cerca's Night Bloom is available courtesy of the band's label Xemu records: http://xemurecords.bigcartel.com/product/la-cerca-night-bloom-cd
Midtown Island Studio Volume 2 can be purchased locally at Wooden Tooth Records or via the Burger Records website: http://burgerrecords.11spot.com/v-a-midtown-island-studio.html
Hardest-working Tucson musicians part 2: Drummer Daniel Thomas
When your humble reporter put out a call recently for folks to nominate their favorite "non-lead" musicians in the local music scene, certain names came up again and again, including maybe the most prolific drummer in town, Daniel Thomas.
Thomas's current load of just three regular bands is actually somewhat light compared to his gig schedule of the past year or two. A multifaceted player who seems up for almost any challenge, he's a familiar face behind the kit at local venues and has played in everything from a goth band to soul based rock to pysch to proggy new wave to even an '80s cover band.
TucsonSentinel.com: You've been kind of locally famous for being more or less the busiest drummer in town, sometimes in like five bands at a time. What have you got going on lately?
Daniel Thomas: "I currently play in three bands: Miss Olivia & The Interlopers, Silver Cloud Express, Millers Planet. I'm still doing some cover bands on the side, as well. I play drums in all of these projects, mixing up the drum set configuration based on the style each band produces."
TS: Tell us about those three bands.
DT: "Miss Olivia & The Interlopers offers phenomenal musicianship with the forte focusing on the art of variation; a fresh mixtape of cover tunes you may not necessarily recognize right off the bat and the introduction of new, deep and soulful original tunes in which we're currently tracking in the studio."
"MOI also gives rise to jazz tendencies where we can often improvise and stretch out song formats allowing lots of spontaneous breath and creativity to the live set. What I love most about MOI is the versatility and love we share playing music live together... you can easily hear it and it really shows."
"Silver Cloud Express' songmanship is off the charts good. Jaimie Laboz and Cristina Williams are excellent songwriters and our equally gifted musicians. Our focus is on the song blending psychedelic and trippy styles to rock and roll reminiscent of late '60s and early '70s pop. And with Jaimie's producing experience, SCX benefits by being able to craft the sound specifically to our liking."
"What I love most about SCX is the quality and reliability of the songwriting. We also know when the right time to hold back and the right time to let loose! A tension and release we surely have mastered well."
"Millers Planet is by far the most courageous and experimental group of the three. While the sound boasts prog rock tendencies, the songs bring back post-modern pop and new wave styles of the '80s with a focus on shorter, quirky and clever songmanship. MP blends technicality into hook driven vocals, a slightly unorthodox rhythm section and colorful guitar and keyboard layering. The music is ever-expanding, always exploring the ambitious side of songwriting."
"What I love most with MP is the welcoming of collective creativity and openness to new and exciting ideas. The attention to detail is very evident when you listen to MP, which being a perfectionist has its comfort zone already built in."
TS: Three bands seems like a lot for most drummers. But I suppose it's actually kind of a light load for you! What else are you up to?
DT: "I also play in several cover acts: 80s & Gentleman, the Yacht Rock, and 70s soft rock specialists Love Boat Tucson, and covering Irish folk and pop with the Bastard Sons of Patrick. Additionally, I often help sub in bands when I get the call."
TS: What makes you tick as a drummer?
DT: "I tick as a rhythm player because it's the rhythm that moves me most... not just with drumming, but how bands integrate with the drummer. I always want to feel the music, and drumming is primarily the root of that feeling. If the audience is moving in some way, I'm doing my job and I get a rush seeing how people react to the rhythm. I often joke when people ask me what I do in the band... I answer with 'I take lots of calcium. Need strong bones to hold the body together.'"
TS: Do you play other instruments?
DT: "My favorite instrument to play is obviously the drum set. But I also play most percussion instruments, and I also play a lot of keyboards. My own music is primarily written in the production sense utilizing sequencing and sampling."
TS: But presumably with a real drummer! How did you fall in love with music and decide you wanted to play?
DT: "I owe my love for music starting with the moment I heard 'Fool In The Rain' by Led Zeppelin. It was that song and the sound of John's drums that made me want to pursue drums. But if you really want to go way, way back, I remember the days where I got the entire second class to beat on their desks with pencils while the teacher stepped out for a few moments."
"As far as I can remember, I'd always be playing beats and rhythms in my head, and I listened to the radio non-stop, back when AM radio was the norm and everything music was surrounding me on a daily basis."
TS: That "always tapping on something" things is kind of the mark of a born drummer, isn't it? At least in my experience. But tell us more. What are your influences now and from back then?
DT: "My musical influences vary widely. Drummer faves include John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Manu Katche, Phil Gould, Budgie, Dave Weckl, John Ferris, Harvey Mason, Jose Pasillas, Adam Woods to name a few."
"I enjoy all styles of music but seem to gravitate towards the '80s new wave genre. From jazz to rock to R&B to punk, world beat to progressive and alternative to experimental, I can't seem to get enough of the continuing exploration of musical styles. My favorite quote comes from Peter Gabriel: 'I want people to think, feel and move to my music.'"
TS: What was your first band?
DT: "My first initial band started when I graduated from high school and attended junior college. There I met Brad Peterson and we formed East Of Eden. I remember thinking 'wow, I got lucky right out of high school running into this guy,' because he was inspirational and exceptionally talented and shared the same musical vision as I did. This was my beloved band."
"In the two years I worked with Brad, we released 2 albums, a debut EP, and an 18-song sophomore effort. The songwriting was incredible, even in its infancy stage. I highly recommend you find Brad Peterson, because he continues to this day to write some of the most clever original music I've heard at a local level. Genius musician and songwriter, and that's why I was so lucky at an early age to jump right into playing in bands thanks to Brad."
TS: So...what's next?
DT: "Yes, this is the question of the ages: What am I up to next? Well, I also compose and produce music for small films. I currently have about seven short films I've written for and about to start working on the eighth. Secondly, if I can get better organized, I want to start putting together the musicians for my own original music."
"This is the most challenging because I really need to find the right talent who 'gets' my music. Moreover, I'm fantasizing about a project that with feature a group of musicians who will cover music from chill and lounge styles."
"This will be a band that plays for specific audiences, venues that have the customers who enjoy this style of music. Right now, there are very few places I think will buy into this, but I am confident with the right research and confidence, I can pull this off. Just think Thievery Corporation, Cantoma, Sounds From The Ground, Washed Out, Bonobo, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Boozoo Bajou etc being performed live in one of those hidden nightclub venues in NY that you can only enter from the alley, darkly lit, artsy with cool, stylish people of all flavors, enjoying some relaxing music in which you can get up and dance to or sit back and still have a conversation with your partner."
"Lastly, I want to do a tribute to Thomas Dolby. He continues to be one of my main musical inspirations, so I want to honor him by covering his 'greater hits' and rarities with varied instruments."
TS: Any sage drummer advice for other players?
DT: "My advice to others playing in multiple bands and for those getting started in the music scene: I certainly recommend you have a keen sense of networking."
"Meet new people, suppoort local music. Go out and see all the great local bands and meet them. Meet the people going out and supporting local music. Develop relationships. Be a good person, be likable, have a friendly personality. Promote your talent. Enjoy what you do, influence others. Share enthusiasm. Stay organized!"
Mermaid surf party!
It's monsoon season at long last, and along with a break from the soaring heat it's time for an annual tradition. This Saturday on Fourth Avenue and in Downtown, local merfolk get to lose their land legs and show off their undersea finery as Tucson celebrates the return of the desert sirens who local legend tells us lay dormant until each year's monsoon storms revive them.
This year's event features all manner of festivities including a children's parade, costume contests and live mermaids. It also features beach-worthy music with performances by badass surf metal goddesses the Surfbroads playing at Boca Tacos and the all girl garage surf punk trio Taco Sauce at Mermaid Odette's Grotto in Haggerty Plaza.
For more information, check out the event's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TucsonMermaid.
Return of the Mermaids takes place from 3 p.m. into the night Saturday night in Downtown Tucson. The Surfbroads play Boca Tacos on Fourth Avenue at 5 p.m. while Taco Sauce plays Fourth Avenue's Haggerty Plaza, also at 5 p.m.
Poster Children for a great time
Even with the cornucopia of great live gigs available to Tucson music fans in the tail end of summer, there's always one show that stands out in the lineup and this week it's Sunday night's lineup at Cans Deli.
Champaign, Ill., band Poster Children has been making fantastic music since the late 1980s, but never got the wide scale recognition that they probably deserve. Perhaps this is because they're kind of hard to categorize — the group plays smart, catchy indie rock with an edge of classic East Coast hardcore punk here, a dash of primitive garage rock there, a subtle touch of grunge, and some slight Captain Beefheart meets Guided by Voices joyous weirdness throughout it all and if you haven't heard of them in their first three decades of existence, now's as good a time as any to take the plunge.
Meanwhile, an absolutely stellar lineup of three of local bands have hopped onto this bill including Golden Boots, the sonic tsunami that is Lenguas Largas and the first local gig in almost a year for Tucson based power-poppers Freezing Hands.
Poster Children, Lenguas Largas, Freezing Hands, and Golden Boots play Sunday night at 8 p.m. at Cans Deli in Downtown Tucson
Check your local listings...
Friday, Aug. 10
- Max Mileage - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth Brewing (Downtown)
- Joe Peña - 8 p.m. Club Congress (Downtown)
- Otep, Dropout Kings, Ragdoll Sunday, Saalythic - 8 p.m. 191 Toole (Downtown)
Saturday, Aug. 11
- Mermaid Festival Fourth Avenue & Downtown Tucson - 3 p.m.
- Surfbroads - 4 p.m. Boca Tacos
- Taco Sauce - 5 p.m. Fourth Avenue, Haggerty Stage
- Decayer,with crows,Tribunus,whitewolf - 5:30 p.m. The Rock
- Amor Lund Carruthers Trio - 6 p.m. Mercado San Agustin
- Flamenco en la Noche - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Just One Look - A Tribute to Linda Rondstadt - 7 p.m. Fox Tucson
- P.O.P - Paul Opocensky Project - 7 p.m. Tucson Hop Shop
- The Sea The Sea - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza
- Santa Pachita - 7 p.m. Playground
- Drop D, Waysted Youth, One Block West - 8 p.m. House Of Bards
- Frank and Friends - 8 p.m. Fini's Landing
- Taco Sauce, Zoso - 7 p.m. Rialto
- Mik and Scott - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
Sunday, Aug. 11
- The Two Amigos - 11 a.m.Playground
- Playground Bar & Lounge
- The Swamp Meet - 2 p.m. Cans Deli
- Voices of Vail - 2 p.m. Fox Tucson
- Monty with Frank n' Steel - 2 p.m. Monterey Court
- Charlie Hunter - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Poster Children, Freezing Hands, Lenguas Largas, Golden Boots - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
- Vanilla Fudge 8 p.m. Rialto
Monday, Aug. 12
- Knox Hamilton- 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Tuesday, Aug. 13
- Paul Jenkins brings a piano - 8 p.m. Revel
Wednesday, Aug. 14
- Ladytowne Live - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Ballot Party - 5:30 p.m. Dusty Monk Pub
- Leila Lopez - 7 p.m. Tap & Bottle North
- Matt and Rebekah Rolland - 7 p.m. Public Brewhouse
- Black Medicine, Taco Sauce, Dogmatic Addict, Dead Bird Son - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
Thursday, Aug. 15
- Mouse Powell - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Mute Swan - 8 p.m. Cans Deli
- Beach Goons - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Louise Le Hir - 8:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle