POR VIDAThe dire situations in which people sometimes find themselves always seem to inspire compassion in those who care about them, and the musical community in Tucson is certainly no exception to that rule. When circumstances warrant--which seems to happen all too frequently--local musicians set any semblance of ego they may have aside to selflessly come to the aid of their fellow artists.
This, sadly, is another story to add to that bittersweet history.
Longtime locals likely remember Ricky Gelb as the creative force behind late-'80s/early-'90s band Low Max. Shortly after disbanding the group, Gelb relocated to Los Angeles, where he took a job with the Musicians' Assistance Project (MAP). (Following the death of Kurt Cobain, record labels came under fire from the media--most notably in a front page article in USA Today--for the lack of intervention into the substance-abuse problems of their artists. In attempt to save face, the Recording Industry Association of America funded MAP, an outreach program, to deal with these problems.) In addition to the satisfaction of helping his fellow musicians get their lives back on course, Gelb also walked away from the experience with a yacht-load of interesting stories about famous musicians and an idea: to create an online resource center that could deal with similar problems nationwide.
Not long after the idea struck him, Gelb fortuitously met the founder of video game giant Sega, who was also a venture capitalist. With the intention of eventually taking the Web site public, the investor gave Gelb funding to begin the project. For two years, Gelb and his co-workers toiled away in a swanky Studio City high-rise, creating a comprehensive database to get the project to the point where it could become profitable, and they took home sizeable paychecks in the process. But once the bottom dropped out of the dot.com market, the investor pulled the plug on the company overnight, leaving his employees to fend for themselves in a less-than-friendly economy.
Around the same time, Gelb's wife, with whom he shares four children, left him. Shortly after moving himself and his family back to Tucson, Gelb's financial situation was so bad that he found himself living in his van for the next year.
Thankfully, there's a happy ending to this story: Eventually, Gelb pulled himself out of the muck and scored a job with a nonprofit, educating kids in schools about the voting process. He's also recently begun writing songs again. The icing on the cake: Gelb reunited with his family and reports that things these days with his wife and kids are "better than ever."
We can only hope, at this point, that local musician Mike Hyde enjoys a similar turnaround.
Around the same time Gelb was playing in Low Max, his friend Hyde was a member of Earl's Family Bombers. He would later go on to play with The Wholesome Brothers and the Studdrifters.
On a recent early morning visit to a Circle K, Gelb ran into Hyde, and he could tell right away from his appearance that something was drastically wrong. Hyde explained to Gelb that he was suffering from liver failure which had become so severe that his kidneys were now being affected, and he had been placed on a donor list for a liver transplant. His situation had become bad enough that, for the last eight months, he hadn't been able to work. Additionally, he was going to have to move from his longtime residence--a guest house behind Naked Prey's Van Christian's house--because it was being sold. With only a $170 check and food stamps coming in each month (he's currently waiting to begin receiving Social Security), Hyde's situation couldn't get much worse.
But, with his experience in similar matters both professionally and personally (not to mention his awfully big heart), Gelb was the perfect person to hear Hyde's story, and he decided to take action. He helped Hyde find a temporary place to live and has run numerous errands for him, but that still left Hyde's financial situation wanting. So, Gelb decided to turn to local musicians to do what they do best, in the form of a fund-raising show to benefit Hyde.
This weekend, Gelb's brother, Howe Gelb, will reunite with his former drummer in Giant Sand, John Convertino, to headline the benefit concert. Also on the bill are Tim Wiedenkeller and Gila Bend, and all of the musicians are generously donating their time and energy to help out their friend. (It should also be noted that Steven Eye is donating the use of his Solar Culture Gallery for the event.)
We here at Soundbites sincerely wish Mike the best in his fight, and urge you, our readers, in the strongest terms to show your support by attending the show.
The Benefit for Mike Hyde is open to all ages, and begins at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is a $5 donation. For more information, call 884-0874.
RUSTIC ROMANCEHusband-and-wife team Victoria Williams and Mark Olson return to town this week on the first stop of their soon-to-be-current tour, bringing along their rather impressive resumes.
Louisiana native Williams attracts a lot of attention for her unconventional voice, which often leads her tremendous gift for penning a song to be underestimated. It shouldn't be, nor should her efforts in social work. She founded the Sweet Relief Fund, which raises money for insurance-lacking musicians in need of medical assistance, and was the subject of the first tribute album in the Sweet Relief series, in which artists donate their renditions of songs written by musicians who have endured medical problems (Williams has battled multiple sclerosis). The Williams tribute featured the likes of Lou Reed, Evan Dando, Pearl Jam, The Waterboys and Giant Sand. (A photo of Williams graces the cover of Giant Sand's album Glum. ) Her latest release is 2002's Victoria Williams Sings Some Ol' Songs, a collection of standards as reinterpreted in her distinctive vocal style.
Along with Gary Louris, Olson was half of the songwriting team behind Minneapolis' The Jayhawks, who, with their gorgeous, wistful songs and transcendent harmonies, helped give life to modern alt-country. In 1995, Olson left that band (which continued without him) and has since released albums on which he's backed by his band, The Creekdippers, which counts Williams as a member. While his approach to creating albums has gotten looser and more lo-fi since he left The Jayhawks, his eye for lyrical detail has only sharpened.
Victoria Williams and Mark Olson and The Creekdippers perform a 21-and-over show Sunday, Sept. 5, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The night begins somewhere around 9 p.m. with an opening set from Kevin Pakulis, who took home the award in the Songwriting Competition at this year's Tucson Folk Festival. Advance tickets are available for $8 at the hotel's front desk or online at www.hotcong.com. They'll be $10 at the door. For further details, call 622-8848.
AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE! HO, HO, HO!No one quite personified the glorious transformation from virgin to whore like Aussie MILF Olivia Newton John did starring opposite John Travolta in the film version of Grease, thereby setting unrealistic expectations for horny young boys across the globe. If you need proof that the influence of her performance in that film still endures, look no further than the duet by Nelly and Christina Aguilera at last week's unusually horrendous MTV Video Music Awards: Aguilera stole everything she knows about coy/sexy dance moves from John.
Before that, though, in the early '70s, she--or, probably more accurately, her label's marketing team--helped usher in a trend that continues to this day: marketing pop music under the banner of country. That's right: Thank Olivia for helping to ruin mainstream country music and for inventing the term "crossover hit." And an impressive string of crossover hits it was: "I Honestly Love You," "Have You Never Been Mellow," "Let Me Be There," "Please Mr. Please," "A Little More Love" and the Grease soundtrack were all released in the 1970s.
In the '80s, she scored two hits--"Magic" and the title track--from the soundtrack of the roller-disco fantasy fiasco Xanadu, before tarting it up in leg-warmers in the aerobicexy video for "Physical." After charting a few more times, she suddenly found herself irrelevant, releasing a series of "comeback" albums that went completely ignored. Later still, she mounted a successful and well-publicized battle against breast cancer, and has released a trio of albums since.
Olivia Newton John performs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, at the Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road. Advance tickets are available for $50, $35 and $25 at the casino's box office, or by calling 393-2799 or 866-DDC-WINS. For more information, dial the latter number or log onto www.desertdiamondcasino.com.