Call it the post-Fourth of July hangover, but things are a bit sleepy around the Ol' Pueblo this week where live music is concerned. Still, do a little digging, and there are certainly some options. Here are a few of them.
THAT SPECIAL SATURDAY
If it's the second week of the month—which it is—then it must be time for the monthly, family-friendly downtown street party known as Second Saturdays Downtown. If you've never been, now would be a good time to check it out. Meet your neighbors! Buy some crafts! Eat some street meat!
If it's music you seek, the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., will feature Atom Heart Mother, a local Pink Floyd tribute band, who will play two sets—one from 8 to 9 p.m., and another from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. Expect to hear the album Dark Side of the Moon played in its entirety.
Meanwhile, the Scott Avenue Stage will feature performances by the 4th Street String Band (6:30 to 7:30 p.m.), the Imperial Blue Bloods (7:45 to 9 p.m.) and The Modeens (9:15 to 10:30 p.m.).
Perhaps the best part of all: The entire thing is free to all comers. For more information, visit www.2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com.
CROONERS HAVE OPTIONS
Tucson certainly has no shortage of karaoke nights, and a couple of places in town are getting a bit creative with the format.
Every Wednesday night from 7 to 11 p.m., La Cocina, located in Old Town Artisans at 201 N. Court Ave., features Rock Star Fantasy Karaoke. The twist? The music isn't pre-recorded, and there's no bouncing ball on a screen to tell you when to sing. Instead, music is provided by a live band—specifically, the Jim Howell Band, which, in addition to Howell on drums, features Michael P. Nordberg on guitar, and Larry Diehl on bass. All three sing, too, which comes in handy when the singer falters a bit.
The band has a list of songs about 2 1/2 typed pages long—roughly 100 tunes—from which aspiring rockers can choose, and they can often fudge their way through songs that aren't on the list. Beyond that, the band has a sign-up sheet where you can request songs for them to learn for subsequent weeks. A lyrics sheet is also provided.
The night we visited, a couple of weeks ago, the talent ran the gamut from karaoke pros to wobbly-voiced bundles of nerves—and all were given a warm reception from the crowd, who seemed to understand that it takes some pretty serious cojones to get up there at all. The highlight of the night: a 9-year-old boy named Sam who was singing his very first karaoke song, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." (Yes, those of all ages are welcome.) The night was a real hoot, and the kid was freakin' adorable. Admission is free, and you can head to lacocinatucson.com or call 622-0351 for more info.
If you're an experienced karaoke-er, head over to Mr. Head's Art Gallery and Bar, the relatively new joint at 513 N. Fourth Ave., on Thursday nights. Starting around 9 p.m., the bar features Cutthroat Karaoke: Choose from the thick book found at normal karaoke nights, and sing your song. But here's where it gets tricky: If you suck, the crowd will make it known with catcalls and boos. If the boos get loud enough, one of the bartenders will strike a gong located behind the bar, and your song is cut short. Make it through the whole song, however, and you're rewarded with a drink ticket. Based on a visit we made there last week, the crowd can be merciless: We witnessed a couple of golden-throated singers who were dinged when they should have gotten drink tickets. Admission is free, and the number to call for further details is 792-2710.
REAL GUITAR HERO
Though Eric Johnson is known to guitar geeks the world over as being "one of the most respected guitarists on the planet," according to Guitar Player magazine, a younger generation was introduced to the instrumental rocker—who suffuses his music with shades of everything from the blues to new age—via the video game Guitar Hero, which used his song "Cliffs of Dover," from the 1990 album Ah Via Musicom (Capitol), in one of its most popular editions (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock). The song also earned him a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Rock Performance.
A perfectionist who regularly goes years between album releases, his latest is 2010's Up Close (Vortexan), a blues-heavy collection that features guest appearances by Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughan, Jonny Lang and Sonny Landreth.
Eric Johnson performs at 8 p.m., Friday, July 8, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets for the all-ages show are $25. For more information, head to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
Unfortunately, the link sent to me by the band ZOO didn't work, so I have no idea what they sound like. Why am I mentioning them, then? Because in the e-mail they sent, in which they describe themselves as "former members of Little Teeth who are now a demented and sweet two-piece from San Francisco," they say they're recommended for listeners who like Danielson, Faust, Gowns, Neko Case and Animal Collective. None of those acts sounds anything like the other, so consider my curiosity piqued.
ZOO stops at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., on Friday, July 8, as part of their two-month Tender Tour 2011. Female Trouble and Brass Tax open the show, which gets rolling around 10 p.m. Admission is, as always, free. Head to redroomtucson.com, or call 623-7621 for more 411.
Attention fans of bygone Tucson bands Found Dead on the Phone and Mala Vita: The man responsible for those bands, the ambitious and excellent singer, songwriter and guitarist Gabriel Palacios, has a new band. Masque Anonymous is said to be a folkier pursuit than Palacios' earlier bands, and you can check them out when they perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, July 11. Music starts at 9:30 p.m., and admission is free. For further details, check out plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Sonora Review Community Reading Series with Brass Tax and Havarti Orchestra at Plush on Wednesday, July 13; Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, Rodeo Ruby Love and the Maxies at the Rialto Theatre on Monday, July 11; Serene Dominic at Plush on Tuesday, July 12; Electric Summer Vol. 2 with Liquid Stranger at Club Congress on Friday, July 8; Faster Pussycat at The Rock on Friday, July 8; Banda el Recodo at AVA at Casino del Sol on Saturday, July 9; Ballyhoo! at The Hut on Monday, July 11; Actor Slash Model, the Homoticons and Elias Krell at Dry River Collective on Tuesday, July 12; Gabriel Sullivan, Al Perry and Billy Sedlmayr at the Red Room at Grill on Tuesday, July 12; Race You There, The Mulhollands and The Monitors at Plush on Friday, July 8; Acorn Bcorn at the Red Room at Grill on Wednesday, July 13 (residency: every Wednesday in July); Greyhound Soul, The Possibles and Sunny Italy at Plush on Saturday, July 9; Ferrodyne and Lunar Light Collectors at Sky Bar on Saturday, July 9; Chris Holiman at Plush on Sunday, July 10; Fortunate Youth at The Hut next Thursday, July 14.