Now Reading
Tucson Sounds: Catching up with the elusive Limes; Keeping Tucson DIY alive

Note: This story is more than 3 years old.

Weekend music

Tucson Sounds: Catching up with the elusive Limes; Keeping Tucson DIY alive

  • The Limes at Club Congress
    Charlotte RonstadtThe Limes at Club Congress
  • The Limes dance with fans at Club Congress
    Pat WatersThe Limes dance with fans at Club Congress
  • Mark Beef spinning tunes at the late, great District Tavern
    Lawrence Miller via FacebookMark Beef spinning tunes at the late, great District Tavern

Sometimes it's hard to track down a story subject.

Case in point, a couple of years ago, your friendly neighborhood music columnist was trying to arrange an interview with noted local music prodigy Roman Barten-Sherman, who's been playing pitch-perfect delta blues and rock guitar since the tender age of about 8 or 9 into his teens. The local music game being as busy as it is, Barten-Sherman had a number of other engagements as did your humble reporter and after a couple of weeks of email tag and missed connections, the story proposal died on the vine as other subjects and music news took focus. No hard feelings, though. Such is the way of a small local music scene.

Flash forward to a few months ago when your trusty scribe reached out to one of the crop of teen-powered rock and punk bands that seem to be hiding around every local corner in Tucson these days. The band was the Limes and they eagerly agreed to be the subject of a feature. And then, didn't respond to emailed interview questions. For several weeks. And then an entire summer. And then for another week or so, after a very apologetic Instagram message swearing they'd get back with the answers soon. 

Did your reporter forgive them? Hell, yeah she did! These kids have balanced school, music, recording outside commitments and adolescent ennui with recording a debut album and  helping build a local DIY scene. Who are we to judge? 

Besides, they eventually did get back to me. All of them. Including the band's bassist. The talented (and very elusive) Mr. Roman Barten-Sherman. 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Limes. What they lack in response time, they more than make up for in talent and tenacity. And, hopefully, a healthy sense of humor. Hey Limes! Nice to meet you finally. How was your summer? And what's new with the band?

Luka Vonier (the Limes): "Hi! This was a really great summer for us, I got a haircut."

TS: But, seriously...

LV: "This summer, the band has been focused on improving and diversifying our sound. We've made a couple new singles and I can honestly say that I don't have a track of ours that I dislike. My new favorite is a low tide surf jam we like to call 'Beaches and Corona' because it not only breaks the genre we have set for ourselves thus far into making music, but it also has one of the best bass solos in the history of audio thanks to the unfathomable talents of Mr. Sherman. We've also been recording and mixing an album to get our music out there and finally make some money off this thing."  

TS: The Limes are well known in the local teen/youth DIY and house party circuit, but to the rest of us you're kind of new to the rest of us. In the style of your preferred comic book universe, what's the band's origin story?

Chris Schiff: "Oh boy. Taha, Roman, Rafe, and I all jammed, pretty spontaneously, at a party in 1968, maybe ‘69. We started playing together more often at Rafe’s place and formed a band, initially named The Crimebusters. You might remember us for ending the war in Vietnam or suppressing evidence of the Watergate scandal, but the government tends to hide that stuff from the general public."

TS: Wow, boys. You've aged well?

CS: "Anyways, after a life-changing Rough Draft and Sad Dance Party house show, Luka ended his exile on Mars and joined us, forming The Limes. We scrapped our old setlist and composed another for the sake of the human race. Note: We were never named The Crimebusters."

TS: But, of course, I'm the rest of that stuff is obviously true. Even though I'd bet $5 not a one of you is over the age of 18. 

TS: Moving on, then. Who's who in the band and what other projects are you part of?

Rafe Centuori: "Well, to start, Chris plays guitar in a way that you genuinely cannot comprehend while watching or listening to him.  He also recently joined the incredible local band (shameless plug) Carnival. Rafe is the other guitarist and also plays bass for (other shameless plug) Stripes, look them up they’re really good. Taha started drumming for the first time when we formed the Limes and has already managed to record an entire album with phenomenal drum tracks. Roman is already a well established musician in town for his undeniably god tier blues guitar and vocals. His beautifully constructed bass lines are the backbone of every song the Limes have ever made. The Limes would not be the Limes without Luka and his lyrical genius. He’s hands down the greatest front man to have with you on stage, not to mention his incredible versatility as a vocalist."

TS: A lot of the various bands of Tucson's DIY scene, especially the teen or youth-based ones,seem to play gigs constantly. How does everybody manage playing so often?

Taha Ben Abdallah: "Well, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs when it comes to availability. We had to take a pretty long break because Roman was touring Europe as a prodigious blues guitarist in June. And we’re gonna have to take an even longer one because I’ll be attending college out of state, so we’ll hopefully have our fair share of jams when I’m in town. However, when all of us are here, we have gone lengths to make sure that the Limes are able to successfully sesh. Luka missed an audition because we had a show, and I remember seeing him run out immediately after we finished our last track, and all of us were just hoping the lad could make it.

TS: Favorite genres of music and fave musicians of all time and currently? Favorite local bands? Favorite venues?

Roman: "One of the things that I love about this band is how the music we play represents a crazy amalgamation of different tastes and genres. We’re into math rock, funk, punk, jazz, emo, hip-hop, etc. Somehow all of that comes together into a strange construction that is the Limes. Some artists we listen to a lot include American Football, Art Tatum, PFunk, Thelonious Monk, Vulfpeck, JPEGMafia, Daft Punk, etc."

"The local DIY scene is so incredible and diverse but some of are fav bands out of it are Rough Draft, Carnival, Logan Greene, Somniac, and Stripes to name a few. Our favorite venues are the Scheme, SHOR, Club Congress, and Ward 6."

TS: RIP, Ward 6. But more about that later. Favorite performing moments ever? Weirdest?

Luka: "One of my all-time favorite performing moments was when we were playing at Congress and someone in the audience took a leap of faith off the stage during our set. It was really flattering that someone got into our music in such a punk-rock way. It was even cooler when no one in the audience caught him and he landed face first on the floor and got really hurt, I mean that's almost too punk-rock to even comprehend." 

"One of the weirdest venues we played which also just so happened to be one of my favorites was our second show where we jammed out on the U of A mall. It wasn't what you'd necessarily call a "good show", in fact, if I may put it bluntly, it sucked. But about 90 percent of the performances before us were college students doing solo sets that ranged from looped guitar tracks to violin solos, but no actual bands were really playing until we got up on stage and gave the audience the most tone-deaf performance of their lives. Then Rough Draft followed us and sang about beastiality.  Needless to say, I don't think we'll be playing there again anytime soon."

TS: Any plans for upcoming recordings, or touring?

TB: "Funny you would mention that. The Limes have officially released ‘Squeeze It’, our debut album, this last Sunday on all streaming platforms. This was a project that has been in the works all summer, even through our hiatuses, so we’re so relieved and hyped to be finally releasing music. It will have all our completed tracks from our entire discography, so I suggest you check it out and jam with us." 

TS: Thoughts on the house party, DIY and youth music scene in Tucson? 

CS: "It’s incredible. Like a lot of things about Tucson, it’s totally unexpected, even hidden, but flourishing nonetheless. I’m not sure if there’s a new 'Tucson' sound yet, but some of the acts out of here are mind blowing and I think it’s safe to say we’re honored to call those talents our friends. And all the shows have this palpable energy, it feels spiritual to play them. I don’t know if I’d want to start a band anywhere else. "

TS: Details on your upcoming gigs? And where can folks find out more about your music?

TB: "We’re playing August 16 at the Scheme for our last show of the summer. You can find out more about us through that show, or you can find us on Instagram @thelimesaz, and now you can find us on Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming services."

The Limes play a house show this Friday night, August 16, at 6 p.m. along with Rough Draft, Carnival and Hallow at a DIY venue known as the Scheme. Where is the Scheme? Nice try. We're not telling you. Contact the bands for details.

Tucson DIY: Same as it ever was 

Your humble correspondent has devoted a lot of digital ink in the past year or so to the rising tide of young bands like the Limes and their fellow travelers. Thanks to the availability of spaces like Schoolhouse of Rock and a surge in underground all ages shows, an impressive swell of young rock, punk, garage and other DIY bands have emerged to make their presence felt in Tucson’s greater music community, to the point where mainstream venues such as Club Congress and 191 Toole are beginning to host all ages shows to attract the packed houses these bands bring as part of the deal.

While playing big stages as a teenage bands may seem like a huge stroke of luck, however, this small taste of local success isn’t something that hasn’t come without a whole lot of work, a whole lot of support and a decent amount of risk.

The largely youth led underground scene from whence these bands emerged owes its existence to a solid network of underground house parties, DIY collectives and other non traditional spaces where most of these bands formed and where the majority of them play several times a month. And, great as they are for fostering creativity and community running these spaces comes with a lot of risk both financially and legally. Running a legitimate venue comes with a ton of expenses, regulations and legal hoops to jump through. Running a non-sanctioned venue, while it saves on expenses and red tape, can be playing with fire both legally and financially. 

Which brings us to the topic at hand. 

One of the more prolific local DIY venues/collectives in town, the space known as “Ward 6” was shut down this past week, due to fines issued by the city of Tucson, presumably for running an unlicensed venue. The organizers of Ward 6 are now faced with not only the expense of paying these fines, but are also obligated to pay rent, damages and fees for breaking their lease now that the space can no longer host events and therefore no longer has a means of paying the bills.

While the current crop of underground bands and venue organizers may be new to the struggles of dealing with the downside of DIY spaces, it’s hardly a phenomenon new to Tucson. In fact, our local music zeitgeist owes a good deal to Tucson’s original underground punk and hardcore movement and the basements, band houses, desert parties and improvised spaces that spawned it. 

Ever since the early days of bands like Bloodspasm and U.P.S., Tucson has been home to a revolving slate of DIY live music spaces and the risks that come with them. 

And nobody knows that topic better than long time Tucson musician, writer, venue organizer, booker, local punk historian and noted contrarian, Mark Beef. Mr. Beef? You’ve been through the trenches a time or two. What’s the best advice you can give to folks looking to run a DIY space in this day and age?

Mark Beef: “So, an underground venue just got shut down this past Sunday. I don't think they were around for even six months."

"You can read more about it on the GoFundMe page for Ward 6  but I'm going to write about what you might want to do if you're planning on opening something similar. I've got lots to say, both from opinion and personal experience. Hell, I think I still have an unpaid disturbing the peace ticket in Tucson as a result of being the 'responsible' party at a non-official venue."

"Just for some background, I started going to shows in Tucson at places that might not be considered official in 1984 or ‘85. Started being involved with putting them on in ‘88, and I guess I still am somewhat involved since I just did that thing last Sunday ('that thing' being the Celebration of Friends fundraiser for Leo Schwamm.) I'll follow this up with a perspective as a band member playing shows and what not but this is already getting crazy long so just sticking with the venue side for now."

Be rich.

Have parents who are cops, judges, or lawyers.

Pick an area where a loud band playing to people at night is less of a problem than the typical activity.

Know the neighborhood from the people and businesses surrounding you to the cops patrolling the area. Become friendly with them as much as possible and get them on your side or become invisible to them as much as possible. Use your head to figure which is the better choice.

Let your neighbors know to come talk to you if there is a problem before they call the cops. Then, if they do come talk to you, handle the problem!

Don't let people hang out on the street or in the neighbor's areas.

Make sure to have a stash spot for the money (or person you trust) so if the cops do come you don't have a wad of cash on you when you talk to them in the event they arrest you.

Make sure you get permission to post flyers before doing so.

Keep your address off said flyer and all online promo as well. Only word of mouth for an actual address.

Keep the noise to a minimum outside the venue - soundproofing, keep doors shut, etc.

Think about classifying your space (and doing whatever paperwork you might need to do) as a church or private club.

Stress the performance part of the venue and do that possibly by having other performances besides music. Plays, comedy, performance art, whatever you can do that will cement it more as an art space than a 'teens and other undesirables socialize in ways that society frowns on' space.

There's a fine line to walk with catering to kids and getting support from their parents and straight jacketing yourself into not being able to have any type of controversial acts that would offend the kids' parents.

"I haven't even gone into financial stuff, but basically everything I've ever done music-related in this town has been a labor of love. One of the only times I got paid (usually that wouldn’t happen not even to cover rent on the space) was when I booked Vaudeville from around 2004 to 2008. I was getting $600 a month flat booking at least four shows a week, plus doing sound for an extra $50 a night five nights a week. Usually the $50 I'd give to the touring band to supplement the measly amount they'd get from the door cover."

"If you are looking for fame and fortune look elsewhere."

Good luck to the hard working, hard promoting, risk taking, Tucson DIY community new and old. 

Also happening this week...

In other news from the local DIY scene, local garage punk wunderkinds Stripes officially announced the cassette release of their debut album "520" on Burger Records, coming September 6. The bands recently laid down more tracks at Midtown Island Studio for a future release, joining the Exbats, the Rifle and Weekend Lovers in prepping for pending releases from Matt Rendon's local recording haven. 

Also on the recording front, Juju Fontaine's John Matzek, drummer for a slew of local bands, including Tucson indie noise legends How To Build A Rocketship is at Waterworks working on his first ever solo release and new studio JIANTT, run by Jillian Bessett, has released its first CD single "Somebody's Talkin' Bout Jesus" by Just Najima, a sneak peek from the upcoming album Queenie.

Saturday night at Club Congress and Rialto, relive the days of Woodstock at a celebration of the iconic festival's 50th anniversary. The live show features sets by Katie Haverly, Little Cloud, SQWRL, Gabe Kubanda, Silver Cloud Express, Jeremy Cashman, Katherine Byrnes, Miss Olivia and the Interlopers, Pete Fine and Beyond Words, playing live takes on ten of the classic bands that were part of the original 1969 event in upstate New York. 

Coming soon in Tucson Sounds

Coming in the next few weeks in this space, stay tuned for more notes from the Tucson music underground, including some worldly wisdom, sordid tales of youthful abandon and loving (and loathing) memories of our city's illustrious DIY past. Also stay tuned for thoughts on the pros and cons of modern music festivals. And keep an eye out for an upcoming look at an age-old topic in our (and everyone's) local music scene: the money side of the music business. 

Till then, have fun, listen loud and be safe, intrepid adventurers!

Check Your Local Listings...

Friday, August 16

  • The Limes, Rough Draft, Carnival, Hallow - 6 p.m. the Scheme (House Show, contact band for details)
  • Still Life Telescope, Saint Augustine, the Unday - 6:30 p.m. Monterey Court
  • Cras$h Magic - 8:30 p.m. Chicago Bar
  • Big Grin - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner Vineyards
  • Grip Jensen - 8 p.m. Crooked Tooth
  • Corrosion of Conformity - 7:30 p.m. Encore
  • Mickey and Venus - 6 p.m. Dusty Monk
  • Soul Essential - 9 p.m. House of Bards
  • The Who Experience - 8 p.m. Rialto
  • Reveal: Burlesque - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
  • Be Kind, Rewind (DJ Jaza Zulu) - 10 p.m. Sky Bar
  • Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. Exo
  • Mastodonna (A Heavy Metal Madonna Tribute) - 8 p.m. Club Congress

Saturday, August 17

  • The Pork Torta - 10 p.m. Che’s Lounge
  • Woodstock 50th Anniversary w/ Katie Haverly, Little Cloud, SQWRL, Gabe Kubanda, Silver Cloud Express, Jeremy Cashman, Katherine Byrnes, Miss Olivia and the Interlopers, Pete Fine and Beyond Words - 6 p.m. Hotel Congress 
  • Moontrax, Panic Baby, DJ Resonance - 7:30 p.m. 
  • Battle of the Bands: Then When vs. Better on the Inside - 7 p.m. House of Bards 
  • Calexico and Iron & Wine - 8 p.m. Rialto 
  • Roaring 20s (DJ Ramrod) - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
  • SRS (Spontaneous Response Squadron) - 8 p.m. Exo 
  • After Dark (DJ Mijito) - 10 p.m. Passe 

Sunday, August 18

  • Sunday Summer Sessions: Maryrose Larkin and Nelene DeGuzman -2 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern 
  • Joe Novelli - 7 p.m. Che’s Lounge
  • Underground Rising - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12 p.m. La Cocina 
  • Dan Sabados Benefit w/ House Band, Beyond the Firewall, Night Brigade, Jam With Dan - 3 p.m.

Monday, August 19

  • Grails - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Kyle Craft, Showboat Honey, Logan Greene, Feverfew - 8 p.m. 191 Toole

Tuesday, August 20

  • Oshun - 7 p.m. Club Congress
  • Stick To Your Guns - 6:30 p.m. Encore 
  • Blackfoot Gypsies - 8 p.m. 191 Toole

  Wednesday, August 21

  • Divy, More Freaks, The Copper Queens - 8 p.m. Club Congress 
  • Mike Kanne - 6 p.m. Crooked Tooth

 Thursday, August 22

  • Zero Theorem - 7 p.m. House of  Bards
  • Molly Burch, Jackie Cohen, Brian Lopez - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
  • FST (Female Story Tellers) - 8 p.m. Club Congress

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


— 30 —

Best in Internet Exploder