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Soundbites

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WELCOME TO THANKSGIVING IN TUCSON

Based on a scan of this week’s music happenings, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that most musicians don’t like to be on the road for Thanksgiving. Heck, which sounds better to you: a golden-baked turkey with all the accoutrements, friends and family, followed by a tryptophan coma; or a soggy turkey sandwich at a truck stop?

Hats off to the diehards who don’t mind that day-old turkey sandwich if it means they get to be onstage.


MIXING IT UP

Michael Sempert is apparently the type of guy who likes to mix things up for each release while writing songs for his band, the Bay Area-based Birds and Batteries. Last year’s Up to No Good EP, for example, was an exploration of the synth-funk of the ‘70s and ‘80s with some Scary Monsters-era Bowie experimentalism thrown in the mix. On the band’s latest full-length—Panorama, released in October as the band’s sixth effort on Blue Velvet Music—Sempert and co. largely pay homage to California and the bevy of songwriters who, whether from the state or not, are associated with it.

The opening/title track, for example, sounds like vintage Randy Newman on a baroque-pop bender, all squiggly synth sounds and other sonic details commingling with acoustic guitar. “A Million People” channels a swamp-bluesy take on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, complete with soaring chorus harmonies. “The Machine and the Vampire,” meanwhile, sounds a bit like Tom Petty covering a Harry Nilsson song: “What doesn’t kill you won’t always make you stronger.”

Sempert is a fine songwriter, and his band’s primary strength is in combining elements both organic and ethereal, and making it sound so damn effortless.

Birds and Batteries perform a free show at Café Passe, 415 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 27. Maya Caballero opens at 7 p.m. All ages are welcome. Call 624-4411 for more information.


THE RETURN OF DISCO

Is it just us, or does it seem like it’s been far too long since the madcap mavens of debauchery known as Powhaus Productions have thrown a big-ass dance party? (Research shows it’s only been a month, but that’s just too long, dammit.) This week, the crew returns with Solid Gold, a salute to the music, dance styles, Afros, roller skates, and leisure suits of the Golden Age of Disco. The night promises a live performance from the sprawling, drag-clad collective Princess Eater; dance performances choreographed by Ivy Knipe; and music spun by the fabulous DJ Carl Hanni (a Weekly contributor); he’s my bet for having the deepest soul, funk and disco grooves in town.

Solid Gold gets spun at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 27. Admission is $3 at the door, and you must be 18 to enter. Questions? Ring ‘em up at 740-1000.


BENEFIT, OLD-WEST STYLE

It’s no accident that local country-rockabilly performer Jadi Norris named his 2009 album Man of Steel. A drunk driver once nearly took his life in an accident that resulted in numerous back surgeries and a body held together today by titanium. (And you thought your airport screening sucked!) More recently, he slipped and fell in a hotel shower, hitting his right arm on the soap dish so severely—he hit an artery—that he was told he’d never play guitar again. (He re-learned it.) In other words, Norris has much to be thankful for this holiday season—so he’s decided to give back a little bit.

Norris will be opening three shows for the Legends of Country Music house band, which performs classic tunes by country greats, at Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Road, over the weekend. Each show is, according to a press release, a benefit “for military men and women from Southern Arizona who have been deployed. Their families will receive support through social services and activities that will help them cope with a loved one’s deployment.”

On top of that, Norris is seeking contributions in the form of non-perishable food and personal items (i.e., toiletries and household cleaning products) to be donated to the Community Food Bank. To sweeten the deal, he’s providing an incentive in the form of personalized merch: Donate 10 items, and you get a free autographed CD; 20 items, and you get the CD and a T-shirt; and for those who see it in their hearts to donate 30 items (bring your own wheelbarrow), Norris will call anyone you choose, on the spot, to extend a personalized holiday greeting.

The shows begin at 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 26, and Saturday, Nov. 27; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28, and take place in the Grand Palace Hotel and Saloon at Old Tucson Studios. Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 on the day of show. For more details, call 883-0100.


TINY UNIVERSE, HUGE SOUNDS

In the 1980s, Karl Denson was just another sax player, grabbing gigs where he could and playing on some studio sessions. But in 1988, he received a call that would change his life.

A then-unknown Lenny Kravitz asked Denson to play on a song he was recording called “Let Love Rule.” Kravitz liked what he heard and asked him to play on the entire Let Love Rule album, which was followed by a tour, and another album, and another tour, etc. But by the early ‘90s. Kravitz wasn’t using as many horns as he did in the early days, and Denson decided that a change was in order.

In 1992, he began a jazz career, and in 1994, he teamed up with fellow San Diegan DJ Greyboy to create the Greyboy Allstars, one of the biggest names in the acid-jazz movement of that decade. But after a few years, the group’s members began to grow apart, and the band went on hiatus. Denson formed his own band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, which specializes in a potent hybrid of jazz and funk that appeals as much to fans of jam bands as it does jazz aficionados. The group’s latest album, Brother’s Keeper, (Shanachie, 2009), was recorded as a septet featuring Meshell Ndegeocello on bass.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., next Thursday, Dec. 2. Orgone opens the all-ages show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, or $20 on the day of the show. For more info, head to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.


SHORT TAKES

Spindrift, an instrumental band from Los Angeles, would not exist were it not for the spaghetti-Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, who via those compositions pretty much single-handedly created a genre of music that conjures images of the Old West in all of us. As Jarret Keene once noted in these pages, Morricone had more of an influence on rock artists than film composers, and it’s difficult to imagine what, say, Calexico might have sounded like had he not written those scores. Spindrift treads on similar terrain, though they add a touch of psychedelia, and their songs have no lyrics.

Spindrift performs an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Wednesday, Dec. 1. Things get rolling at 9 p.m. with opening sets from Brian Lopez and St. St. Admission is $6. For more info, go to solarculture.org, or call 884-0874.

Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., has a nifty bill of four bands scheduled for Friday, Nov. 26. The lineup, in descending order of appearance, is: local mod-prog-inspired rockers Mostly Bears; Ohio-based co-ed duo Mr. Gnome, who garner comparisons to Cat Power and whose live shows are not to be missed; local post-rock outfit Stareater, which includes members of Early Black, St. Rorschach and Strata Divide, and is back from a yearlong hiatus; and fourfivesix, a collaboration between Kevin William Lee and Mike DeCicco (Musica Obscura, The Daring Few) whose live appearances have become nearly nonexistent since DeCicco relocated to St. Louis to work at that city’s own Plush nightclub. The show begins at 9 p.m., and cover is $6. Head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298 for more information.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Logan Greene and the Bricks CD-release with David Neff and the Retroskeptics and Kaia at Solar Culture Gallery on Saturday, Nov. 27; Dimmu Borgir and others at the Rialto Theatre on Wednesday, Dec. 1; Sndtrckr and Otherly Love at Red Room at Grill on Monday, Nov. 29; Serene Dominic at Plush on Wednesday, Dec. 1; the Wayback Machine’s annual ”Dance of Thanks” and 10th anniversary party at Boondocks Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 27; Al Foul and Army of Garbage at Sky Bar on Friday, Nov. 26; Brian Lopez, the Silver Thread Trio and Loveland at Plush on Saturday, Nov. 27; Tom Walbank at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Nov. 26; Lenguas Largas and Discos at Che’s Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 27.

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