Tucson Sounds: First Fest and 2022's best in local music
New Year's Eve shows and all-day music festivals are two of the most egregious offenders when it comes to promising big things and delivering disappointment. High cover charges, expensive drinks, obnoxious crowds and the like can sour your experience quickly. But then there are the exceptions. Welcomings of the new year that feel like great big house parties with found family. Low-key, low-cost music fests that focus on local music and bands that play because they love playing. Sometimes when we're lucky, we get both, as is the case with Bisbee-based First Festival.
Now in its second year of existence, the fest takes place in one of Bisbee's favorite dives, the Hitching Post and runs from noon to closing time on New Year's Day, with 14 Tucson and Southern Arizona bands playing in roughly the order that follows:
- 12 pm - Hank Topless
- 2 pm - Borts Minorts
- 2:45 pm - Machine Oil
- 3:30 pm - the Freezing Hands
- 4:20 pm - Lemon Drop Gang
- 5:20 pm - Female Gaze
- 6 pm - the Websites
- 6:20 pm - the Bird Lords
- 7 pm - Fool Aloof/ Jimmy Descant
- 7:45 pm - Happy and the Ghosts
- 8:20 pm - the Dirty Licks
- 9 pm - Lost Ok
- 9:45 pm - Watercolor
- 10:20 pm - Awkward Moments
- 12 am - Sherbet & Champagne
Your friendly scribe checked in with festival organizer John Sweeden who also organizes the regular Habitation Realty Speakeasy concert series and plays guitar in the band the Websites.
Tucson Sentinel: Hey, J.S., what's the deal with this First Festival thing? And how did it all come together, anyway.
John Sweeden: "So it started last year right about this time. I had this crazy idea to try to throw together a last-minute music festival for Soule. I knew of this bar (the Hitching Post) in Bisbee that was kind of sleepy and under new management. So I asked if I could have January 1 to bring a bunch of bands down and play. Of course they said yes and so now this is the second year for the first festival."
TS: So, give us the deets!
J.S.: "It's on New Year's Day, starting at noon and it goes until 2 a.m. on January 2. This year we're asking for a $10 suggested donation at the door. The bar is also planning on contributing some money, but all the money will go to the bands just like last year. This year it'll be very eclectic and the fest will most certainly have a little bit of something for everybody. For instance, we're introducing a horseshoe tournament from noon to 2 p.m. Hank Topless is going to play while that goes on, with Johnny O'Halloran serving as the gamekeeper. After that, from 2 p.m. till 2 a.m. there will be 12 hours of live music inside the club. From noon on (till probably around 2 p.m.) we will be giving out free coffee and donuts while they last.
TS: Sounds like a blast. I just might see you there!
The Second Annual Bisbee First Festival will take place at the Hitching Post, 316 Pirrung Ave in Bisbee, beginning at noon on Jan. 1, 2022. A $10 donation is requested at the door, with all proceeds going to the bands.
And, if you want to make a weekend of it, head up to Bisbee on New Year's Eve to catch Bisbee's finest, the Exbats, who are headlining the New Year's Eve "Liquid Light Show Party" with Treasure Mammal and Class. The show will start at 9 p.m. in Brewery Gulch at 54 Brewery Ave, Bisbee.
Meanwhile, back in Tucson, you can check out one of these fine events and get back home in time to comfort your fireworks weary pets:
- Miss Olivia's New Year's Eve Celebration - 8:30 p.m. Sea of Glass
- Noir Year's Eve (featuring Xixa) - 8 pm Club Congress
- Sophia Rankin & the Sound - 6:30 pm Tucson Times Sqaure (5th St & Toole Ave.)
- The Bennu and Whiskey Treats - 9 pm 191 Toole
- New Year's Eve with Golden Boots - 5 pm Westbound at MSA Annex
- Queer Year's Eve 9 pm - The Rock
- Stranger Things NYE Snow Ball - 9 pm Surly Wench
- New Year's Eve Block Party 5 pm 400 E. Toole Ave
JJP's local best of 2022 (reimagined as road trip movies)
It's the time of the season when music writers get asked about their top releases for the year and, as is tradition, your trusty neighborhood music writer has once again narrowed her top picks to local releases. Behold my top three local picks for 2022 (along with a fancifully imagined 1970s B movie trilogy to which they could serve as imaginary soundtracks.
Golden Boots - "Liquid Ranch"
Imagine a couple of good hearted, good time boys with guitars and checkered shirts, packing up for a road trip circa 1976 or so in some kind of cool but low key anonymous Oldsmobuick with an extra powerful antennae with which to pick up slightly staticky AM radio signals.
Now imagine that antennae has an uncanny ability to hone in some kind of fantastic cross-country free-form radio station specializing in music from an uncanny valley somewhere between power-pop and country-rock with a touch of vintage psych-garage, some Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young overtones, and lyrics that seemingly channel weird futuristic dispatches from alien visitors, quasi-supernatural societal collapse and the post-apocalyptic reign of our future robot overlords. And, strange as that soundtrack may sound, you realize pretty quickly that it's catchy as hell and fun to dance to.
This imagined film and very real album is the latest from Tucson's own Golden Boots and you owe yourself at least once listen.
Check it out for yourself at https://goldenboots.bandcamp.com/album/liquid-ranch where you can also buy a digital download or order the album on vinyl or CD
Birds and Arrows - "Electric Bones"
Now that your mind's eye is hanging out in a mid -'70s cinematic universe, you might as well stick around for another local release with an equally retro sound. To be fair, though, you'll probably need to flip your Oldsmobuick's dial to the FM band for Birds and Arrows' 2022 release "Electric Bones," which wouldn't be out of place hanging out on the dial with bands like Heart, Bad Company, Zeppelin, Skynyrd and Buckingham-flavored Fleetwood Mac. If the imaginary Boots movie from the last review went a little bit SciFi weird, be assured that this imaginary sequel is chock full of road-house roughhousing, motorcycle gangs, sketchy hitchhikers with hearts of gold and a surprise unlikely love story that doesn't resolve till the movie ends. It's more or less the perfect accompaniment to a road trip of your own.
You can find this prime nugget of local ear candy (and purchase a copy if you're so inclined) here: https://birdsandarrows.bandcamp.com/album/electric-bones
Class - "Epoca de Los Vaqueros"
So now we've arrived at the third film in our imagined road trip film franchise, a lesser-known movie that not many folks have seen, but is certainly a cult classic. Get it, a CLASS-ic. We've arrived in NYC in about 1978 and we're hanging out in a dingy club that's sort of a cut-rate version of CBGB trying to win the money to fix the Oldsmobuick in some sort of insane battle of the bands with guest appearances by the Ramones, some lesser Sex Pistols and a couple of down on their luck New York Dolls. Bebe Buell stars as the love interest and there's a weird cameo by Iggy Pop because he needed the money. In real life none of this ever happened, but in my ears (and yours once you've heard the record) it's not only real, it's worth seeing again and again. In lieu of that, you'll just have to listen: https://nowthatsclass.bandcamp.com/album/epoca-de-los-vaqueros
Freezing Hands - "It Was a Good Run": https://thefreezinghands.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-a-good-run
Abes Bones - "Caught in the Act": https://abesbones.bandcamp.com/album/caught-in-the-act
Lenguas Largas - "Is This Still Laughing Hyenas?": https://midtownislandrecords.bandcamp.com/album/is-this-still-laughing-hyenas
Sherbet & Champagne - "Elderfraud": https://sherbetandchampagne.bandcamp.com/album/elderfraud-ep
Gabrielle Pietrangelo - "Home Recordings": https://gabriellepietrangelo.bandcamp.com/album/home-recordings-2004-2020
Hank Topless - "Thank Your Dirty Stars": https://hanktopless.bandcamp.com/album/thank-your-dirty-stars
Watercolor - "Time and Space": https://watercolorband.bandcamp.com/album/time-space