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THE SEASON OF ROCK

Can you smell that?

That, m'friends, is the glorious stench of what we call The Season of Rock, the first of two such periods in the year when Tucson is overrun with more live music than your wallet (and those delicate ears of yours) can possibly withstand. Most people call it spring, but seeing as how we don't really have a spring, we call it The Season of Rock. Still, with as many choices as you're being offered this week, just you wait: Next week, The Season really kicks into gear, as bands begin making their annual trek to Austin for the South by Southwest music conference, and we Tucsonans catch many of the participants on their way to and from the shindig. In other words, enjoy this week's offerings, but be sure to save some of that loose change for the next few weeks.


WYNN AT WAVELAB

Sometime around the turn of the century, Soundbites had occasion for a good ol' fashioned sit-down with one of our heroes, Steve Wynn. Back in the '80s, Wynn and his then-band, the Dream Syndicate, blew our little minds with a platter of vinyl they called The Days of Wine and Roses. That album, which was somewhat wrongly lumped into L.A.'s paisley underground scene (most of those bands specialized in a brand of somewhat wispy psychedelic pop), was largely influenced by the Velvet Underground without resorting to mere copycatting. Instead, it took a template forged by Lou Reed and company, and bent and twisted (and we do mean twisted) it into something that sounded revelatory in 1982. It still does. It was a collection of tightly wound, edgy guitar-rock songs with enough space to allow guitarist Karl Precoda to freak out on the peaks, and thus provide repeated climaxes. But, with the exception of the classic "Halloween" (which Precoda wrote), it's Wynn's noir-ish songs and detached-but-invested vocals that anchor the album, which is not only one of the best of the '80s, but truly one of the great albums in the rock canon.

So, after a few beers, we began to gush to Wynn that, yes, we liked the Syndicate's subsequent albums just fine, just as we dug a good deal of his solo work, but that none had really affected us the same way that Days had. And while most songwriters would have likely argued that that was the past, and this is the now, Wynn graciously acknowledged that something truly special was etched into those grooves, that the band realized at the time that they were onto something that he hadn't quite been able to duplicate since--although he was excited about the album that he was in town recording during that visit.

While we couldn't have known it at the time, he was being characteristically modest about that album: the double-disc set that was released as Here Come the Miracles in 2001, on Innerstate. The ambitious album, recorded at Wavelab, was easily the best album of Wynn's solo career, and instantly marked Wynn as not just "that guy from the Dream Syndicate," but an artist worth paying attention to again; it was a sprawling, diverse album that was truly worthy of his legacy. So, it was no real surprise when Wynn and his band returned to the scene of the crime to duplicate the magic: The streak continued on the follow-up, Static Transmission (2003, DBK Works).

Wynn arrived back in Tucson last week, just in time for him and his longtime drummer, Linda Pitmon, to participate in the Exile on Congress Street show at Club Congress, so it's not too far a stretch to assume that they're holed up once again at Wavelab to add another entry to the saga. Meanwhile, they'll also be treating us to another scorching live performance of songs from Wynn's lengthy and ongoing career in rock. To quote the man himself, don't say we didn't warn you.

Steve Wynn teams up with the Sand Rubies for the first time since they toured together back in 1990, on Friday, March 4, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Al Perry and Tom Freund (see this week's Rhythm and Views) kick things off at 9 p.m. Cover is a paltry five bucks. Call 622-8848 for more information.


JOE CAMEL'S FAVORITE GROUP

While Tucsonans can proudly claim roots-rocker extraordinaire Mark Insley as our own, his equally talented brother, Dave, has been cranking out fine album after fine album in the Phoenix area in a series of bands (including Trophy Husbands and the Nitpickers) since the '80s. This week, his latest outfit, the hilariously monikered Dave Insley's Careless Smokers, drops in on Mark's ongoing Arizona's Most Wanted series (each Wednesday at Vaudeville Cabaret) to celebrate the release of his latest solo entry, Call Me Lonesome (self-released, but distributed by Redeye).

The album features a number of notable guest appearances, including spots from three former Peacemakers, Rick Shea (Dave Alvin Band) and Rosie Flores, who duets with Insley on "Maricopa Mountains." The album is an excellent showcase, not only for Insley's knack for country songwriting (the album opens with the couplet, "There's gonna be a few changes made around here / I'm expanding my vocabulary, beyond the words 'Yes dear'"), but also the breadth of his talent in a diversity of styles under the roots banner. Lonesome winds its way from honky-tonk traditionalism to hard-drivin' country-rock, horn-addled Southern rock to campfire ballads, and all are deftly executed. Additionally, the production and performances captured here are splendid throughout, as is Insley's distinctive baritone. All in all, it's another colorful feather in Insley's already-brimming cap.

Dave Insley's Careless Smokers celebrate the release of Call Me Lonesome at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Mark Insley also performs. Call 622-3535 for further details.


WHEN TECHNOLOGY ATTACKS

San Diego trio The Robot Ate Me's performance this week promises to be rivetingly original, if their most recent album, On Vacation (2004, 5 Rue Christine), is any indication. The wildly eclectic and ambitious album is a two-disc affair split into two parts. Disc one (Vol. I) is a concept album of sorts, aptly described by one writer as "a mixture of samples and live instruments, portrayed as if you were listening to a World War I era radio broadcast while taking refuge in a bomb shelter," and it's unlike any other modern album you've ever heard. Vol. II is a slightly more traditionally modern affair (no, that's not oxymoronic in this case), all moody, downcast soundscapes with graceful melodies placed on top, recalling what Sparklehorse might sound like if they were well acquainted with laptop technology. Unusual, engaging stuff, this.

The Robot Ate Me perform at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 4. Call 623-7621 for more info.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Seeing as how we're nearly out of space and have only begun to scratch the surface of the abundance of live musical offerings this week, here's a pithy run-down of other shows worth your time and cash.

Renaissance man Saul Williams is many things--an actor, rapper, singer, preacher and musician--but his week, he flaunts the gifts upon which he made his name, as he turns in a spoken word/poetry performance at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $10 at the venue, all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 321-1000. Call 733-6262 for further details.

Dallas' Max Cady return to town to promote their 2004 release, Tonight Alive (Sidearm), a highly enjoyable affair that successfully splits the difference between sleazy punk and '70s-style cock rock. They'll be at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Sunday, March 6. That number again is 622-3535.

Former Wall of Voodoo frontman and current back-alley tale spinner Stan Ridgway will inform you about the shady side of life next Thursday, March 10, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Greyhound Soul's Joe Pena starts things off with a solo set at 9 p.m. Advance tix are available for $8 at www.virtuous.com; they'll be $10 at the door. Questions? Call 798-1298.

East L.A. legends Los Lobos demonstrate how they got that lofty title at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 at the UA's Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets run anywhere from $10 to $40, and you can order them by calling 621-3341 or logging onto www.uapresents.org.

There are several other worthwhile shows that we simply don't have room for, so be sure to check out our listings to get the complete picture.

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