THE RETURN OF THE SLOW SUMMER
There was a time not too long ago—four or five years ago—when Tucson positively died in the summer. Students and snowbirds would flee, leaving us locals with a few months of peace and quiet.
The bummer was that the peace and quiet extended to local music venues, too. Even as more and more artists were playing Tucson in the non-hellfire months, the summers remained dry as a bone.
But in the last couple of years, something funny happened: More students began to stay during the summer; greater Tucson grew to a million residents; and bands actually began playing here in the summertime, ostensibly because they now had an audience.
This summer, however, will break that trend.
For whatever reason, this summer is shaping up to be very slow where music is concerned. I have no explanation, not even a hypothesis. Bands are still touring, even through Arizona, so the heat doesn't seem to be a factor. But I see a lot of tour itineraries, and Tucson is rarely on them.
With Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, behind us, all I can say is: Take it where you can find it. There are still shows happening, don't get me wrong; there just aren't as many to choose from, which means that it's now more important than ever to get out and support the ones that are happening.
Go see some local bands. Catch the touring acts that are braving the heat. And who knows? Maybe it'll improve our chances to have a busy summer again in 2013, assuming the Mayan calendar is not to be trusted.
FROM CALCULUS TO MULTIPLICATION
Though its members are from all over the U.S. (Texas, Indiana, Hawaii), the four gents in Maps and Atlases met at an art school in Chicago. Like so many Chicago bands, the group began as a math-rock outfit, as evinced by its early EPs. But by 2010, when the band released its debut full-length album, Perch Patchwork (Barsuk), it had learned how to translate its considerable chops into easy-to-digest songs. Those songs weren't exactly straightforward pop tunes, but there were at least some hooks.
The same trend extends to the band's new album, Beware and Be Grateful (Barsuk), released on April 17.
If those early EPs were calculus, Beware is multiplication. "Fever" manages to be quirky, catchy and almost pastoral at once; "Old and Gray" sounds an awful lot like one of those harmony-rich TV on the Radio songs—accessible, but just complex enough to remain interesting; "Vampires" is one of the most-straightforward rave-ups the band has released. It's a fantastically interesting album, and my guess is that they'll kill it live.
Maps and Atlases perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, June 5. The Big Sleep and Sister Crayon open at 8 p.m., and the show is open to those 18 and older. Tickets are $12 in advance, or $14 on the day of the show. For more information, head to hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
Most bands have to slog it out in clubs for a few years before—if they're lucky and expand their audience enough—they graduate to larger venues. Not the case with Iceland's Of Monsters and Men, who just released their debut album, My Head Is an Animal, in April, and will perform for the first time in Tucson this week at the Rialto Theatre.
It's not surprising they've taken off so quickly; their sound is very now, combining the emotional bombast of Arcade Fire and the sweet boy-girl vocal interplay of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. In fact, so many of the songs on My Head Is an Animal are so huge-sounding, even as they remain firmly planted in a folk-rock foundation, that it's difficult to imagine them being played in a small club. Anthems usually go over better when people are there to sing along, after all.
Of Monsters and Men perform an all-ages show at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., tonight, Thursday, May 31. Yellow Ostrich opens at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $22 for general admission on the floor, and $29 for reserved seats in the balcony. Floor tickets will be $24 on the day of the show. For further details, hit up rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
BLASTERS IN BULK
After recent visits to the Plaza Palomino Courtyard and Zuzi's Theater, frequent Tucson visitor Dave Alvin brings it back to the clubs this week for a performance at Plush with his current backing band, the Guilty Ones.
Alvin is a Los Angeles roots-rock lifer—a founding member of the Blasters, who helped kick-start the roots-music revival of the early '80s; a onetime member of X, who combined those rootsy tendencies with the urgency of punk, as well as its even rootsier offshoot, the Knitters; and a member of the goth-punk outfit the Flesh Eaters.
Along the way, he also launched a respected solo career, which has only cemented his reputation as an extremely gifted songwriter, favoring dark, literary tales from the underbelly. His latest album, Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc), was released about a year ago, but was re-released on May 15 in an expanded edition.
Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, June 6. Al Perry opens the show at 8 p.m. Admission is $15. For more info, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
Speaking of the Blasters, two members of that band—one current (bassist John Bazz) and one former (drummer Jerry Angel)—constitute the rhythm section of the Mike Eldred Trio. Eldred, for his part, is a hot-shit guitarist, a decent singer and a musician's musician who counts among his fans Billy Gibbons and Brian Setzer. (There's another Stray Cats connection, too: Eldred is the former guitarist for Cats bassist Lee Rocker's solo band.)
The group has released three albums: a self-titled debut; last year's 61 and 49, which appeared on a Los Angeles Times list of the best albums of 2011; and its latest, Elvis Unleaded, the trio's largely reverent if slightly more high-octane take on 20 classics by the King.
Expect to hear tunes from all three when the Mike Eldred Trio hits Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., on Saturday, June 2. The show begins at 7 p.m. with an opening set by Tony and the Torpedoes. Eldred and his band will start around 9 p.m., and cover is $7. For more details, go to boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991.
The Whiskey Tango, 140 S. Kolb Road, will host a benefit for local drummer Tom Thompson on Saturday, June 2. Thompson, who has been dealing with hepatitis C for several years, leaving him largely unable to work, has been diagnosed with liver cancer. According to an e-mail we received, he "has no health insurance other than what the state will provide, which isn't much." The event will run from 6 p.m. to midnight, and will feature performances by The Usual Suspects, Garcia Brothers, AmoSphere, Cross Cut Saw, Black Cat Bones, The Pueblo Boys, Susan Barrett and Chris Gebbia, and Randy Wilder, plus some special guests. E-mails to determine the suggested donation went unanswered, but you can try your luck by calling the venue at 344-8843.
Best known as the guitarist behind local Led Zeppelin tribute band Whole Lotta Zep, Pete Fine debuts his new, all-original band Beyond Words this week. Based on a clip Fine sent us, the band is a prog/fusion outfit that ably shows off the members' considerable chops (Fine is a monster on the six-string) while remaining accessible enough for anyone with a record collection that includes the Mahavishnu Orchestra; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Yes; and Bitches Brew. Catch their first show, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, June 1. Ghost Cow opens at 9:30 p.m., and admission is $6. Call 798-1298, or head to plushtucson.com.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Geoff Tate of Queensryche at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday, June 5; Eve 6, Greek Fire and Fall From Grace at The Rock on Wednesday, June 6; Signals CD-release show with Adam and Aaron and The Gallery at Club Congress on Saturday, June 2; Womb Tomb, Gun Outfit and Secret Highway Secrets at Topaz on Tuesday, June 5; Pretty Things Peepshow at Surly Wench Pub on Wednesday, June 6; Brandon Jim Band, CMG and We Are the Night, Black Cat Bones and Brown and Blue at The Hut on Friday, June 1; Chelsea Wolf at Club Congress on Wednesday, June 6; The Strikers, Bricktop, The Besmirchers and Stitch Hopeless and the Sea Legs at Surly Wench Pub on Saturday, June 2; Becky Alter at Brewd on Saturday, June 2.