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MIGHTY TASTY LAMBCHOP

It takes some balls for a band from Nashville, a traditionally traditional country town that has come to love its pop-country in the last few decades (it makes money, see), to proclaim itself "Nashville's most fucked-up country band." But that's exactly how the members of Lambchop described their band upon its inception. It probably hasn't exactly helped the band gain fans over the years. Add to that some provocative song titles—early singles were called "Moody Fucker," "Soaky in the Pooper" (about an acid trip gone wrong), "Playboy, the Shit," and "Your Fucking Sunny Day"—and you can understand why they didn't fit the mold of either traditional country or pop-country. Nashville's most fucked-up country band, indeed.

Still, even if the Nashville bigwigs or the general public didn't quite get it, attentive critics and fans did: Their entry in Allmusic.com calls them "arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s." While there's certainly no shortage of competition for that title, Lambchop's brilliance is undeniable.

The band is rooted in country, sure, but mixes in elements of soul and jazz and lounge music for a sound that is usually quite understated, despite the fact that there have been points where they became a dozen members deep (including Calexico's Paul Niehaus). They use an awful lot of players to achieve a beguiling minimalism, and if there's any music that can be called chamber country, Lambchop is it.

Leading the group is singer Kurt Wagner, one of its only consistent members over the 20-year-old band's history (they started out as Posterchild), whose lyrics fall squarely in the literary camp, and whose voice is a deep croon, somewhere between Lou Reed and Dean Martin. Even when a song is headed into maudlin territory, Wagner has a way of pulling you back in with a single, often funny line.

Check out what you've been missing over the last 20 years when Lambchop headlines a show at Club Congress, 311 N. Congress St., on Monday, May 6. Howe Gelb opens the show. Doors open at 7 p.m., and tickets are $13 in advance, $15 on the day of the show. For more information call 622-8848 or head to hotelcongress.com/club.


BURGER FEST AT LA COCINA

Fullerton, Calif.-based cassette, CD and record label Burger Records has taken a shine to Tucson, it would seem.

The label has released material by Tucson and Tucson-associated acts such as Nobunny, Harlem and Lenguas Largas (a cassette version of their debut album with a pair of bonus tracks), as well as national acts like King Tuff, the Black Lips and Thee Makeout Party, which includes Burger Records founders Sean Bohrman and Lee Noise.

In March, La Cocina was the site of a jam-packed two-night Burger Records Showcase of bands headed to Austin on their way to SXSW. And last week, three Burger Bands—Lenguas Largas, Cosmonauts, and Feeding People—did a show at The District, the latter two bands playing for gas money on their way back to Texas for the Austin Psych Fest, which took place last weekend.

This week, those same two bands, plus The Night Beats and Tucson's own Resonars, Matt Rendon's recently revived '60s guitar-pop band, which recently began playing live shows again after a 16-year absence (and which is currently recording an album, Crummy Desert Sound, for Burger), will all perform at La Cocina for a show being billed as "Yet Another Tucson Burger Explosion."

If you like rock 'n' roll, do yourself a favor and show up at this gig.

Cosmonauts, Feeding People, The Night Beats, and The Resonars perform at 9:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, May 3, at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-0351.


MIDWEST ROCK BLOWOUT

Two shows this week show off what Midwestern rock of the past sounded like.

For starters, AVA at Casino del Sol will host a double bill of some of Illinois' most enduring bands from the 1970s and '80s (if they added Cheap Trick to the bill, it would be the holy trinity of Illinois rawk).

Styx, whose music straddled the line between middle-of-the-road rock and a more prog-influenced take on it, scored oodles of hits including "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Lady," "Come Sail Away," "Renegade," "Babe" and, yes, "Mr. Roboto."

REO Speedwagon's career followed a similar trajectory, with the band starting out as a hard-driving paragon of the Midwestern rock of the day before toning things down, releasing more ballads, and selling more albums by doing so. Their hits have included "Ridin' the Storm Out," "Roll With the Changes" and, from their 1980 breakthrough album Hi Infidelity, "Keep on Loving You," "Take It on the Run," and "Don't Let Him Go."

REO Speedwagon and Styx co-headline a show billed as the "Midwest Rock N' Roll Express Tour" at AVA at Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road, on Friday, May 4. Tickets are $32, $50, $65 and $85. For tickets or more info, head to casinodelsol.com or call 800-344-9435.

Playing a far rootsier brand of Midwestern rock, Wisconsin's the BoDeans made a splash in 1986, when they released their critically lauded debut LP Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (Slash/Warner Bros.), which was produced by T Bone Burnett. On their follow-up, 1987's Outside Looking In, produced by Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, the band seemed like they rushed things a bit and lost a lot of the songwriting chops and grit established by the debut along the way. They were clearly courting the mainstream. Still, they ended up opening for U2 on their Joshua Tree tour, gaining new fans along the way, and Rolling Stone magazine named them Best New Band.

The ensuing years—when they weren't on an eight-year hiatus that ended in 2004, that is—have seen them steer ever closer to the middle of the road, and they scored their biggest commercial success when the band's 1993 song "Closer to Free" became the theme song to the TV show Party of Five. Most of the post-hiatus albums have returned them to the good graces of critics and fans alike, and on June 12 the band will release its 11th album, American Made (Megaforce).

Catch the BoDeans playing an all-ages show at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., next Thursday, May 10. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 on the day of the show. Call 740-1000 or point your browser to rialtotheatre.com for more info.


LOCAL NOTES

Ph8, one of the most successful hard rock/metal bands to emerge from the Old Pueblo in the last couple of decades, is reuniting for a one-night-only show, though the members are leaving the door open to more music and shows in the future. For now, you can check out their return to the stage on Saturday, May 5, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Opening the all-ages show are Scorned Embrace and Powered Wig Machine. Doors open at 6 p.m., and admission is five bucks. For more info, call 629-9211 or head to rocktucson.com.

Because they clearly don't have their hands full between respective solo careers and several different bands between them (Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, Taraf de Tucson, Giant Giant Sand, Marianne Dissard, etc.), Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan have begun a new project called Chicha Dust, which performs "'60s psychedelic Peruvian cumbia music." They'll play first on a bill that also includes the Holy Rolling Empire and Scrilla Gorilla at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, May 5. The show begins at 9:30 p.m., and admission is $6.

The previous night, also at Plush, a new band called Secret Meetings, a dark post-punk trio that includes HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS's Josh Levine, will make its debut as part of another three-band bill that includes the Early Black and Caught on Film. This one goes down at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, May 4, and admission is $5.

Finally, Dylan Charles and the Border Crossers (Charles is also a member of the Dusty Buskers) will celebrate the release of a new album, Scorpions, Sickles and Skyscrapers, with a pair of performances this week. He'll perform at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, at the Plaza Stage at the Tucson Folk Festival, and again at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, May 7, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. For more details, head to tkma.org or plushtucson.com, respectively.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Michael McDonald at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Sunday, May 6; Go Radio at Skrappy's on Saturday, May 5; Devin the Dude at Club Congress on Wednesday, May 9; Briana Marela, Run-On Sunshine (solo), Wooly Mammoth, and Arthur Barnes Is Dead at Skrappy's on Wednesday, May 9; Wizard Rifle at Solar Culture Gallery next Thursday, May 10; Allo Darlin', The Wave Pictures and A House, A Home at Club Congress on Friday, May 4.

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