Tucson sounds: The show must go on
Sidewinders anniversary, Little Cloud's big break, Gaza Strip back to work & more
You know what’s great about a local music scene? I mean, a real, honest to god, thriving, weird, messy, genius, eclectic, under-recognized, overly talented, in it for the love of it rock and roll community?
Well, lots of things, actually. But one of them is this. They show up. Especially in Tucson, where the fan base and the pool of musicians are often one and the same and familiar faces are sure to meet you at every major live event. It’s always been a joy to write about, support and advocate for these folks, because they’re not only good at what they do, but they take care of each other. And sometimes, they even take care of me.
When a family medical issue sidelined your humble scribe for some solid chunks of time both this year and last, she fully expected that local bands would feel let down, or maybe even forget about her altogether, shifting focus to the few other writers and DJs covering this beat around town. They did not. Nope. These stubborn and optimistic music folks not only kept sending me their gig invites, new release previews and word of their future plans, but they encouraged me to write again when I could. Or asked for my opinions/advice on projects they were working on. Or checked in on me from time to time, just because.
So, even though it’s been a while, I’m going to show up for them too. And by “them” I also mean you.
Dig in. We’ve got some catching up to do.
Little Cloud, Big Stage
C'mon, admit it.You've had that daydream where you close your eyes listening to a favorite band and imagine that you're IN the band, or you're playing a gig with them.
Imaginary you struts around the stage with pure and utter confidence and then belts out the lyrics full voiced with style and panache while a crowd of adoring fans of the other band cheers and admires their "new discovery" aka your badass self.
Yeah, we've all had that fantasy. But Josh and Jonica Butcher and their Little Cloud bandmates lived it last week when they opened for Squirrel Nut Zippers at the Rialto. And as a longtime champion of the Tucson local music scene, this columnist could not have been more proud or thrilled for them.
Joshua Butcher was at his absolute finest, pretty much owning the room with strong, pure, soulful vocals and bringing just a little bit of funk and fire to some already solid folk rhythm playing (alternating ukulele and acoustic guitar.)
Bassist Geremy Cady and drummer John McIntyre held the beat with maximum cool, while Anita Hershey's trumpet added swagger, soul and pageantry to the proceedings and guitarist Joe Fanning pulled out a couple of dazzling solos that honestly made me wonder if he's been meeting with the devil at the crossroads at midnight for guitar lessons or epic fiddle duels or something.
But it was the famously shy Jonica Butcher who absolutely stole the show, trading delicate harmonies and diva-esque lead vocals with proud papa Joshua and weaving dreamy melodies on accordion and uke.
At one moment in the performance, about halfway through the Little Cloud original "Don't Care," Jonica closed her eyes, threw her head back and let loose a Dusty Springfield meets Aretha Franklin soulful cry which left the audience damn bear breathless. And then she looked straight at the crowd and smiled with utter confidence and pure joy. Dear readers, it doesn't get much better than that.
Squirrel Nut Zippers were pretty rad themselves, but I think that Rialto audience has a new favorite band.
Little Cloud's Geremy Cady's other band, local alt-rockers Gaza Strip had their own triumphant show a couple weeks back at Surly Wench, their first in more than two years. The band was in fine form with new material, a new member (bassist Mike Fielder) and the same old Gaza sense of raw, radical grungy joy and humor that always make their live shows an absolute blast.
Every Gaza show includes some sort of costumed goofiness and overriding theme and this time around was no different. As the Wench's jukebox faded out on Fugazi's "Waiting Room" to make way for the not dissimilar sound of Gaza Strip, a "Zoom meeting" opened with the band member's faces framed in cardboard "chat windows" as they took the stage in their best work from home formal attire (business shirts and ties paired with pajama pants and fuzzy slippers.) Drummer Levi Misner's "mic" was depicted as muted (a visual joke of sorts) and various "technical difficulties" were outlined along with the "team's" need to "get up to date on TPS Reports."
Next time around you should go. They might even save a slice of the office birthday cake for you.
All the way to Memphis with the Exbats
Speaking of musical idols, it seems that Inez McClain of Bisbee's the Exbats has a new vintage music muse. Nezzie Bat, who famously "had the hots for" late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and has been know to worship at the musical shrines of both Mickey Dolenz and Harry Styles, recently embraced her inner Pet Sounds, appearing at Memphis music festival Gonerfest in a Brian Wilson-style bathrobe and "Help Me Rhonda" t-shirt. From the looks of things, the 'bats we're pretty much the toast of Goner Records' annual showcase, racking up some stellar reviews for their live set and clearly having a blast on stage.
When in Rome, you do as the Romans do but when in Memphis you ought to make the rounds of the places that made the Memphis sound. Sound engineer and honorary Exbat Matt Rendon, who joined the band as a second guitarist for their Gonerfest performance, made a loving pilgrimage to the Stax museum and took some wistful and worshipful pictures through the window at legendary Ardent Studios.
No doubt there will be a little extra old school soul in future Midtown Island recordings as a result, but in the meantime we'll just have to settle for the Hollies/Everly Brothers/CSNY/Beach Boys and Byrds influences that have sweetened the Exbats signature bubblegum blitzkrieg pop sound on their new Goner Records release."Now Where Were We." Album highlights range from a play by play of a blackout disaster of an evening (Best Kiss) to a jangly Flying Nun Records tribute ("Hey New Zealand") ro the band members imagining themselves as part of the Scooby Doo crew ("Coolsville, USA.") While Inez still does most of singing, guitarist/Papa Bat Ken McClain and bassist Bobby Carlson get their moments in the spotlight, and collaborator Matt Rendon's signature harmonies permeate the tracks.
This time at bat, the Exbats have scored yet another home run.
"Now Where Were We" by Bisbee's the Exbats is available at record stores and online at theexbats.bandcamp.com.
Shooting Dirty Pool with the...Sandwinders?
Once upon a time, some hometown heroes almost put us on the map. Long before Calexico exported the notion of Southern Arizona "border rock" and Howe Gelb was around but not exactly world-renowned, Rich Hopkins and Dave Slutes were for a time the best-known ambassadors of the power-pop meets jangle rock that makes up the specifically Tucson style of earnest rock and roll grit. That '80s and '90s phenomenon is known as Desert Rock (at least until that other kind of Desert Rock nabbed the term.)
A name change (from the Sidewinders to the Sand Rubies) and a college rock almost-hit or two that didn't quite land in the right place at the right time kept the boys from ever being a household name outside these parts, but they did manage to escape the clutches of unscrupulous would-be producers and managers from L.A. (the downfall of many of their contemporaries) and put out a handful of great records that are fondly remembered by those lucky enough to know about them.
This week, the band are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their "Auntie Ramos' Pool Hall" album — their last before a lawsuit forced the name change. It featured the single "We Don't Do That Anymore."
If you missed the SidewinderRubies in their heyday, you can still get a little taste of what all the fuss was about this Friday, Nov. 5, at Club Congress, as they do it again with support from '90s local favorites Pet The Fish. Show starts at 7 p.m.
Luz De Vida
Music has always played a part in the All Souls Procession universe, from the Japanese taiko drummers who walk behind the community urn to the the musicians who accompany the event's well choreographed finale to the "Night of A Thousand Parties" and "Night of the Living Fest" fundraising shows of the not so distant past.
This year is no different in this regard as Homicide Survivors and All Souls Procession weekend present Luz De Vida II, a benefit show featuring past Procession musicians XIXA as well as music from Soda Sun and Hannah Yeun.
The original Luz De Vida concert was held in 2011 as a response to the shootings of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and several staffers and constituents at a Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson on January 8 of that year.
Much like that first Luz De Vida show, the second incarnation of this event has an accompanying album, featuring all the performers on the show's live bill as 1ell as artists as disparate as Tracy Shed, Calexico, Acorn Bcorn and even a new track by the Resonars.
Luz De Vida II: A Celebration of Life takes place this Saturday, Nov. 6, at the MSA Annex festival grounds with a show time of 6:30 p.m.
Saying the quiet parts out loud with These Loud Thoughts
Bryn Parker's project These Loud Thoughts may have started out as a mild-mannered lofi Pandemic bedroom rock project, but like everything this stylish indie folk-rocker does, it evolved into a collaborative effort, complete with hand drawn "animated" art, fun videos and cameo musical appearances by many of Parker's friends and collaborators.
In the wake of fun and catchy singles like "Goodbye Lover, Hello Friend" and the rollickingly fun "DPDQ" Parker has announced their debut E.P. "11:11" which will be released on...you guessed it, November 11 with a live show in Phoenix at the Rhythm Room.
Tucson peeps can catch a sneak preview at this Saturday's KMKR Presents show at Steinfeld Arts as These Loud Thoughts join Gutter Town's Jessie Williams and the band Barefoot on Bumblebees for an outdoor, house party style show in conjunction with KMKR Radio and Steinfeld Artist's monthly Artwalk.
All the (not so) young dudes
If you were among the legendary few that once frequented Tucson's underground punk and hardcore scene, well, first of all, congrats for making it this far. Between tragedy, happenstance and the all too common effects of rough living, far too many of your fellow travelers aren't around anymore, so you're doing something right.
With that said, you aren't alone by any means and there are some long lost (or maybe not so lost) who'd love to catch up over a beer or a plate of potato salad while remembering hanging out at a local F.U.C.T. or Bloodspasm show, or crashing at the Spasm house or going out to see bands like Crass or M.D.C. or the Dwarves.
This Sunday afternoon, Nov. 7, you can join some friendly faces, stuff your face and find out whatever happened to that one guys you used to know at a potluck and "beer bust" held by members of the local punk scene of yore.
For details, hit up Obie Serious or Mark Beef or check in with the the "Fallen 520 Punx" group on Facebook . And if you don't know who Mark or Obie are, these probably aren't the droids you were looking for.
The 520 Punx Potluck and Beer Bust takes place by invite only this Sunday afternoon, Nov. 7, at a certain midtown park. Bring some food or beer or paper plates to share if you go and don't forget to bring a good story or two to go with it.