HAVE SOME 'FITS'
When Austin trio White Denim last played in Tucson, opening for Tapes 'n Tapes in May 2008, they were a very young band with only a couple of singles and a four-song EP, Let's Talk About It—released on the band's own label, Full Time Hobby—to its credit.
This week, the band returns to Club Congress, but what a difference a couple of years makes. Since that last local appearance, the group has released a pair of albums, 2008's Workout Holiday, and last year's Fits (both on Full Time Hobby), the latter of which was all over critics' year-end best-album lists.
It's no accident that people are freaking out over this band. Fits is a complex album that hits you in the holy trinity of rock "H"s: the head, the heart and the hips. The band gets compared most often to the Minutemen, and there's some truth in that, but there's so much more. Imagine the Minutemen if they listened to '70s soul and AM Gold along with their Stooges and Blue Öyster Cult, and dropped acid long before drinking that cheap American beer, and you're on the right track. In fact, White Denim are far more garage-y than the Minutemen, and steeped in '60s psychedelic rock acts like Blue Cheer.
Oddly enough, singer/guitarist James Petralli told the Weekly's Gene Armstrong before that 2008 show that he had never heard the Minutemen when the band was recording those early, pre-album releases: "I just recently heard about that stuff and love it. But we didn't have that in mind when we recorded any of our stuff, such as the EP. I think that we were more into the Sonics and the Monks while we were recording. That's soul music, too, I think. Just of a different time and place."
Another tidbit revealed in that interview, which seems shocking once you've heard the band's music: The bulk of Petralli's writing is done on acoustic guitar.
White Denim returns to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., for an early, all-ages show on Saturday, Jan. 16. Brazos opens at 7:30 p.m., and admission is a 10-spot. For more information, call 622-8848.
Two benefit shows for worthwhile causes are among the week's musical options, though you'll have to choose carefully, as they're both on the same night, Friday, Jan. 15.
A Memorial Show for Mario Lopez, who passed away at the age of 33 on Nov. 4, will be at Club Congress that night, and will feature a handful of the Old Pueblo's brightest hard-edged bands: The Gallery, Juarez (who haven't played live in what seems like ages), Love Mound, the Gentlemen of Monster Island and Phoenix's Tight Holes.
Doors open at 8 p.m., and there is a suggested donation of $5. All proceeds will be donated to Lopez's wife, Gretchen, and their 17-month-old daughter, Eva. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Get further details by calling 622-8848.
The Tucson Rock Alliance and ND Promotions are earning karma points that same night by organizing a benefit for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. This one gets rolling at 9:30 p.m. at the Bum Steer, 1910 N. Stone Ave., and features four local bands: Crash Academy, Red Star Rebellion, The Breakdown and The Wolfgang. Suggested donation is $5. Call 884-7377 for more info.
COLBERT'S SWEDISH 'DISCOVERY'
It seemed rather odd when Movits!, a tuxedo-clad Swedish trio no one had ever heard of, performed on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report last July. But what happened next was even more surprising: The group shot to the No. 2 spot on the iTunes hip-hop chart, and No. 18 overall. Apparently, the Colbert Bump works for "Swedish swing-hip-hop-jazz bands," too.
According to the group's bio, and their Colbert interview, brothers Johan and Anders Rensfeldt, and their friend Jocke Nilsson, grew up in Luleå, Sweden, as huge fans of "acoustic hip-hop." (Which makes one wonder: What do the Swedish know that we don't?) But one fateful night, at a music-festival post-party, an American swing-jazz legend would change not only their music, but their lives.
From the band's press kit: "It was a simultaneous revelation. We were out dancing in a backyard when someone put on Benny Goodman's 'Sing, Sing, Sing.' The three of us were totally blown away!" From that point on, they infused their Swedish hip-hop—yes, all of their lyrics are in Swedish—with a very hearty dose of American swing jazz à la Goodman and Cab Calloway.
According to that TV interview, Colbert stumbled across one of the band's videos on reddit.com and invited the group to come on the show. By that point, their debut album, Äppelknyckarjazz, had already been released in their homeland; it would be released digitally in the U.S. the day after the Colbert Report appearance, and the rest is history.
Or is it? Despite the claims that Colbert "discovered" Movits! and brought them to U.S. audiences, one fact is telling: Äppelknyckarjazz was released domestically on Comedy Central Records. Synergy, people. Synergy.
Movits! perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., next Thursday, Jan. 21. Tracy Shedd opens at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $6. For further details, call 798-1298.
It's coming up on three years since the release of Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul (Fargo), the third album by Seattle's Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, which displayed a bit more musical muscle than the group's first two releases, 2002's Reckless Burning (Devil in the Woods) and 2004's Oh, My Girl (Barsuk). At least part of that beefed-up sound came courtesy of Phil Wandscher, a veteran of Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, and an absolute beast of a guitarist. Sykes' vocals were as gorgeously world-weary as ever, but it was clear the Sweet Hereafter was mixing things up a bit. Whether this week's acoustic performance by Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher gives us any clues as to where the band is headed remains to be seen. But you can bet that, just as with all of their performances I've seen, it will be heartbreakingly gorgeous.
Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher perform an all-ages show at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Monday, Jan. 18. Doors open at 7 p.m., and The Ghost Dove opens the show. Tickets are $8 in advance, or $10 on the day of the show. Call 622-8848 for further information.
After releasing a debut album of mostly acoustic, solo and fairly traditional Delta blues, Guy Blakeslee, who recorded under the name Entrance, added multi-instrumentalist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) and drummer Derek James to the fold, revamped his sound and renamed the band, appropriately, The Entrance Band. That group's self-titled debut album was released last year on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label, and it blends elements of the dirty, dirgey, howling blues that appeared on the last album under the Entrance name with a more refined, melodic indie-rock sensibility.
The Entrance Band performs at Club Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 19, along with openers FourFiveSix and Wolves. Doors open at 7 p.m., and admission is $8. That number again is 622-8848.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Legendary Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leader John McEuen at the Vail Theatre of the Arts on Friday, Jan. 15; acclaimed folk singer-songwriter John Gorka and Kevin Pakulis at ZUZI's Theater in the Historic YMCA on Friday, Jan. 15; Ohio funk royalty Zapp at the Monsoon Nightclub at Desert Diamond Casino on Friday, Jan. 15; Behemoth and others at The Rock on Friday, Jan. 15; Little Joe y La Familia at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino on Saturday, Jan. 16.