OH YEAH!In the year-and-a-half since Brooklyn trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs first visited Tucson, a hell of a lot has happened to them. When they performed along with Liars and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in the parking lot at Hotel Congress, back in October 2002, they had just one self-titled five-song EP (2001, Touch and Go) under their belts, but were already being bandied about as one of the brightest rising stars of a fertile--if largely over-hyped--New York rock renaissance. And the EP supported that claim, with the trying-so-hard-to-be-sexy-that-it-shouldn't-be-but-is "Bang" as primary evidence that the combination of Nick Zinner's guitar playing--which veers from skeletal angularity to power chord bliss--Brian Chase's steady drumming and singer Karen O's sex-kitten-on-fire persona was just too much to be sloughed off as mere hype.
There were major-label bidding wars over them for a reason: Even the mighty Blues Explosion couldn't follow the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who upstaged Spencer and Co. at every turn at that show. (A quick aside: Zinner--a humble sweetheart of a guy--has a hobby in which he photographs every bed that he sleeps in. When Rolling Stone published four of these photographs last year, his bed at Hotel Congress was one of them.) Shortly after the Congress appearance, the band issued another EP on Touch and Go, the three-song quickie Machine (2002), before inking a deal with Interscope, who released the YYYs debut full-length, Fever to Tell, in April 2003.
Perhaps the most suprising thing about Fever is that, for a band that made their name as an art-punk trio fronted by a sex-obsessed woman known for dousing herself in beer onstage, it was the ballads that truly stood out. Nearly a year after the album's release, the gorgeous "Maps" is finally getting play on radio and MTV, courtesy of a video that sees Karen O crying by song's end, which, instead of coming off as cheesily contrived, actually manages to enhance the song's pathos. The other slow stunner is "Modern Romance," a heartbreaking lament on the futility of romantic relationships; it closes the album.
That Fever to Tell actually surpassed expectations, showing facets of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs previously not demonstrated, is quite a feat; that it was recorded in a climate of pressure under which most bands would crumble, and still managed to surpass expectations, is a minor miracle.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs return to the parking lot at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, March 9. Beehive and the Barracudas open at 8 p.m., along with Entrance. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $10 at the hotel or online at www.hotcong.com. They'll be $12 on the day of the show. For further details, call 622-8848.
HERE COMES MR. JORDANWe were rather shocked to learn that jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan would be playing this week at such an intimate venue as Vaudeville Cabaret instead of, say, Centennial Hall. Then we figured tickets for the show at a venue with such a small capacity must be going for about $30 to make up for it. But, no. As it turns out, advance tix are only $18, a pittance compared to what he must command at larger venues in larger cities. Kudos to both Pro Motion booking and Vaudeville for keeping ticket prices so low.
As for Jordan, he somewhat revolutionized jazz guitar in the '80s. Although he didn't invent the tapping technique for which he's known, he did take it to a new level, enabling him to play two separate guitar lines at once, not unlike a piano. In other words, Jordan has the ability to sound like two guitarists at once. What Eddie Van Halen did for rock guitar in the '80s with his hammering technique, Jordan did for jazz guitar with tapping.
Get your tickets early for Stanley Jordan's performance at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Saturday, March 6. An opener TBA will start the show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Rainbow Guitars, which will host a meet-and-greet with Jordan from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the same day. Questions? Ring up the club at 622-3535.
HEAR AN ECHOHailing from the heartland of Dubuque, Iowa, fresh-faced co-ed power trio Echo 3 have been touring the hell out of their self-titled debut album (2002, Skip Planet), charting 10,000 miles over the course of six weeks last summer alone. It's easy to imagine that, along the way, they've converted a hell of a lot of folks to their brand of energetic, punky pop, which features charming boy-girl harmonies and more hooks than your grandpappy's tackle box.
Let Echo 3 win you over when they perform along with Tucson's Nowhere Man at 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 11 at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. $3 gets you in the door. Call 670-9202 for more info.
WE WANT ALA new month means another excellent line-up of guest performers at Mark Insley's Arizona's Most Wanted, a weekly showcase of some of the finest singer/songwriters that outlaw country has to offer. Each Wednesday, Tucson's Insley hosts a different guest performer, ranging from locals to legends. This week, on March 10, those two qualifiers are combined, as Al Perry takes the guest slot. Performers in future weeks include Rick Shea and Patty Booker (March 17), Kevin Pakulis (March 24), and one of the instigators of insurgent country, "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother" songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, whose two most recent albums, 2001's Eternal and Lowdown (Rounder) and last year's Growl (Philo), had critics drooling.
Arizona's Most Wanted hits Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., each Wednesday night at 9 p.m. For more information, call 622-3535.
ON THE BANDWAGONMost bands that draw on Black Sabbath and their ilk for inspiration merely bludgeon you with big-ass riffs with all the subtlety of a jackhammer, but Washington, D.C., trio Dead Meadow are different. On last year's Shivering Kings and Others, their third album and first for tastemaker label Matador, they combine guitar heaviosity with layers of psychedelic fuzz, Jason Simon's crooning vocals, J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired lyrics and a gift for dreamy atmospherics. The combo works far better in execution than it sounds on paper. Dead Meadow perform on Friday, March 5 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Playing their first show since December and debuting a batch of new songs is Tucson's Manifold, who will take the middle slot, following Phoenix's Batter the Drag at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. For more info, call 622-8848.
Local ska-funk-punk sextet Chango Malo will also be debuting some new songs at their performance this weekend at Plush. The band will headline a gig that also features a middle slot set from Phoenix's Existi, whose self-released 2003 EP, Vein and Wire, merges snarling, screamo vocals and technically proficient math-rock arrangements that veer from jangle to Slayer-esque guitar hailstorms in the course of a single song. Tucson's up-and-coming young'uns Our Cure the Rocketship open. It all goes down at 9:30 p.m. at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, March 6. Cover is a mere $3. For further details, call 798-1298.
Guitarist extraordinaire Keller Williams brings his whimsical "one man band for the new century" aesthetic to town this week in support of his latest album, Home (2003, Sci Fidelity), yet another winning collection of songs that are, simply put, a hell of a lot of fun, both musically and lyrically. By not taking himself too seriously, Williams avoids the trappings of other like-minded but too often self-important jammers. Keller Williams performs at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $15 at the theatre's box office and Bookman's. For more 411, call 798-3333.