A FINAL GEM FROM THE SAND RUBIES
It's a momentous week for Tucson music: The Sand Rubies, the band that began as the Sidewinders 26 years ago, is calling it quits and playing one final show.
OK, so we've heard this one before. From 1993 to 1995, for example, the band wasn't simply broken up; bandleaders David Slutes (vocals, guitar) and Rich Hopkins (guitar, vocals) didn't even speak to each other. But with a shared history as rich as theirs, it seemed inevitable that they'd make amends at some point.
The Sidewinders began life in 1985 and quickly gained a loyal following, helping to usher in the golden age of desert rock. By the time I arrived in Tucson—in the fall of 1987, just in time to see the release of their debut album, ¡Cuacha!—they were one of the biggest local bands around, if not the biggest.
Following a 1988 tour, the band signed to Mammoth Records, which soon became a subsidiary of RCA. RCA released the band's next two albums, 1989's Witchdoctor and 1990's Auntie Ramos' Pool Hall, and those years would constitute the Sidewinders' salad days: national tours playing shows with The Replacements and Pearl Jam, an article in Rolling Stone, a video in rotation on MTV.
But then things started getting a bit weird. They couldn't hang on to a rhythm section; they had to change their name to the Sand Rubies after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from a North Carolina band called Sidewinder; and their new manager convinced them to switch labels—twice.
In a 2007 interview with the Weekly, Slutes said of that period, "I can remember that all the way from '89 to '93, we'd have all these wonderful things happening, but at the same time, all these bad, crazy things were happening to us as well. I vividly remember telling Rich on more than one occasion, 'But these are the kinds of problems we always dreamed we'd have.' And we'd smile. But by the 80th time ... pretty soon, we were just not enjoying it at all anymore, and Rich and I were at each other's throats and needed to get away from one another. We'd carried the thing for eight years by that point."
But we all know what time does to wounds, and in 1995, the band played a reunion show that felt good. They've been playing shows sporadically ever since, and even released a studio album of all-new material, Mas Cuacha, in 2007.
But according to another hoary cliché, we know what must happen to all good things, and this week, in conjunction with the release of Came on Like the Sun—a coffee-table book of vintage photos of the band put together by Doug Finical—the Sand Rubies will perform what they're calling their final show. Why now?
According to Hopkins, "After 26 years, it's hard to keep it going, ya know?"
Says Slutes: "This just seemed like the perfect time to end it. We want to go out while we're on top," he laughs.
The drum stool at the show will be filled by Bruce Halper, while Ken Andree, the band's final bassist, will be traveling here from Texas to play the gig. But don't be surprised if past members of the band jump onstage for a song or two.
Catch a slice of Tucson music history when the Sand Rubies perform their final show at 9:30 p.m., next Thursday, June 2, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is $5, and copies of Came on Like the Sun will be available for purchase. For more information, call 623-3200.
TUNES AMONG THE PINES
Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and that can only mean one thing: Music on the Mountain is back!
The series, which will begin its third year this weekend, brings mostly local bands and performers to Mount Lemmon each Sunday as a way to enjoy live music outdoors while not sweating your balls off.
This year's inaugural act is Chuck Wagon and the Wheelchairs, the rockin' Tucson country act formerly known as Chuck Wagon and the Wheels, which made it big in the '70s when its "Disco Sucks" became a national hit after being played on the radio by Dr. Demento.
As with all of the other acts in this year's series, bands begin playing at noon (Gary Alan Durrenberger opens this week) and end at 4 p.m.
New this year is an 11 a.m. acoustic jam session and song circle, so be sure to bring your instruments if you'd like to participate. Feel free to bring a lawn chair, too, but leave your food, drinks and coolers behind—food and drink will be available for purchase to help offset costs. (Admission to all Music on the Mountain performances is free for all ages.)
Take a gander at the list of performers participating this year: Chuck Wagon and the Wheelchairs with Gary Alan Durrenberger (Sunday, May 29), GRIND (Sunday, June 5), Bad News Blues Band (Sunday, June 12), Five Way Street (Sunday, June 19), Bryan Dean Trio (Sunday, June 26), Kevin Pakulis Band (Sunday, July 3), Last Call Girls (Sunday, July 10), The Van Dykes (Sunday, July 17), Cochise County All Stars featuring Sabra Faulk (Sunday, July 24), Anna Warr and Giant Blue (Sunday, July 31), Stefan George and Friends (Sunday, Aug. 7), Dreadnutts (Sunday, Aug. 14), Top Dead Center (Sunday, Aug. 21), Marnie Chastain Band (Sunday, Aug. 28), Chuck Wagon and the Wheelchairs with Kevin Schramm on accordion (Sunday, Sept. 4).
All shows take place under a large tent in Summerhaven, near where the Mount Lemmon Alpine Lodge once stood. For complete information, head to lavamusic.org.
John Vanderslice, whose songs are as densely layered and rich with meaning as anyone's indie-rock songs, takes the stage at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., for an early show on Friday, May 27. Leslie Stevens and the Badgers open the show at 7 p.m. Cover is $12.
Stick around afterward for the third monthly installment of Balkumbia, a night of exotic dance music as performed by the Gabriel Sullivan-led Taraf de Tucson. DJ Dirtyverbs will also be on hand to spin cumbia for this month's edition. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $5. Head to hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848 for more info about either show.
Celebrated Yaqui guitarist Gabriel Ayala returns to La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., for a performance with his trio this weekend. According to a press release, Ayala "is at the forefront of a new generation of Native Americans performing classical music," though he also incorporates elements of jazz and flamenco. He records for what is arguably the best Native American recording label, Phoenix-based Canyon Records.
The Gabriel Ayala Trio performs at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 28, but you are urged to arrive early, as seating is limited. Tickets are $10 at the door. For further details, head to lacocinatucson.com, or call 622-0351.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Asobi Seksu, Scattered Trees and Dead Western Plains at Plush on Friday, May 27; Poco and Firefall at the Tucson Fox Theatre next Thursday, June 2; Earth, Wind and Fire at AVA at Casino del Sol on Friday, May 27; Woodsman, Crystal Antlers and the Electric Blankets at Club Congress on Wednesday, June 1; Kellie Pickler at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino next Thursday, June 2; Acrassicauda at Club DV8 on Saturday, May 28; Jason DeVore at The Hut on Friday, May 27; West, Sleep Driver and Wolves at Solar Culture Gallery on Saturday, May 28; Split Hoof, Hogjaw and Love Mound at Plush next Thursday, June 2; Jessy J at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and Spa on Sunday, May 29; Gwyneth and Monko at Plush on Monday, May 30; Mustache Party with Alter der Ruine at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, May 27; Mike Pinto at Club Congress on Saturday, May 28; 2Cents at The Rock on Sunday, May 29.
In last week's Soundbites, we omitted the name of Larry Horvath's partner in the Church of Rock Revelations. It is Dave Carroll. We apologize for the omission.