"ECLETIC IN THE EXTREME"
As founder Chris Black puts it, "ChamberLab is dedicated to tunneling under the wall that separates classical music from ... well, from all the other music in the world."
What has become a quarterly performance series began as a one-off concert in 2010 with this concept: Get a bunch of songwriters and musicians who normally perform pretty much anything but classical music, and get them to compose chamber music pieces which would then be performed by local classical musicians culled from the UA, University High School, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the like for a one-time-only show. That first performance featured performances of pieces written by locals Black, Howe Gelb, Gabriel Sullivan, Dante Rosano, Marco Rosano, Tony Rosano and others, as well as Austin-based composer Graham Reynolds of the Golden Arm Trio.
The idea was to try to attract audiences to classical music performances who otherwise might not give the music a second thought, by getting composers with name recognition outside of the classical music world. Similarly, it gave musicians who don't normally work in the genre the opportunity to spread their musical wings and expand their horizons. And to add another dose of quirk to the proceedings, the now-quarterly performances take place in unconventional venues for classical music: nightclubs, movie theaters, restaurants.
This week's installment of the series will take place at Café Desta, the downtown Ethiopian restaurant, and the composers this time around are series veterans Black, Benjamin DeGain (of Discos), Dante Rosano, Marco Rosano, Tony Rosano, and making his debut in the series, Sergio Mendoza. Meanwhile, Black says that the instrumentation for this installment is "eclectic in the extreme, featuring several bassoons, contrabassoon, French horn, viola, violin, double bass, piano, Wurlitzer, vibraphone, clarinet, tuba, and more."
Chris Black presents ChamberLab at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 24, at Café Desta, 758 S. Stone Ave. Admission is a suggested donation of $10. For additional info, plus recordings of previous ChamberLab shows, head to http://chamberlab.tumblr.com.
YOU SHOULD GO SEE ROBBIE FULKS
If you're a fan of roots music in its many varied forms, this is a very good week for you. Let's take a gander at some of your options, shall we?
It's been ages since we've heard anything about the Chicago-based alt-country singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks. So it was rather odd when his name popped up on the Solar Culture Gallery schedule recently with an announcement that he'd be performing there next week.
Starting in 1996 with his debut album Country Love Songs (Bloodshot), Fulks was good for an album every year or two, even releasing two albums in 2001. But it's been a full six years since his last release, Revenge! (Yep Roc), and that was a double live album. It appears he's been performing around Chicago and Wisconsin during the last several years, but hasn't embarked upon a full-fledged tour during that period.
Fulks is a songwriter's songwriter, literary with a sense of humor that veers toward the dark. (This is a guy who titled an odds-and-sods collection of demos and previously unreleased tracks The Very Best of Robbie Fulks [Bloodshot, 2000]). Over the years his sound has evolved from largely spare, traditional old-timey country to a more fully fleshed-out sound that borders on country-rock at times.
What to expect at his show here next week is anybody's guess. Is he road-testing new material for a new album? Is it a greatest hits tour? The show isn't even listed on Fulks' website, furthering the mystery. The only way to know for sure is to show up, but if you're a fan of smart alt-country, you aren't likely to be disappointed by whatever he's playing.
Robbie Fulks performs an all-ages show at 8 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 28, at Solar Culture Gallery. Cover is $8, and an opening act had yet to be announced at press time. Keep your eyes peeled to solarculture.org or call 884-0874.
Speaking of acts we haven't heard from in a while, Leftover Salmon will return to town this week for the first time in many years.
The Colorado band, which was largely responsible for bringing bluegrass (albeit with drums) to the jam-band circuit, had pretty much broken up in the mid-Aughts, with its band members pursuing other musical interests. But they played some reunion shows a few years ago, and last year released Aquatic Hitchhiker (LoS), their first new album in eight years, and their first-ever collection of nothing but original songs.
Along the way they've had some personnel shakeups, including the death of banjo-playing founding member Mark Vann in 2002. The band's current lineup features founding members Vince Herman (vocals, guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Drew Emmitt; bassist Greg Garrison and drummer Jose Martinez, who both joined in 2000; and recent addition Andy Thorn, who joined in 2010, on banjo.
Catch the recently revived Leftover Salmon at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. An opening act was still to be determined at press time. Tickets for the all-ages show are $24 in advance, $26 on the day of show. Head to rialtotheatre.com or call 740-1000 for more info.
Maryland-based band Cotton Jones drew local raves when they opened for Dr. Dog at the Rialto last year, and this week they return for a headlining show of their own.
Although they get lumped into the Americana thing that's all the rage these days, they've got a sound that's unique and haunting. Typically, a Cotton Jones song can include elements of dream-pop, psychedelic overtones, and folk, with lots of reverb all over the place. But at the heart of the band's sound is the ethereal vocals of Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw, especially when they're singing together. This is gorgeous stuff, people.
Cotton Jones perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Feb. 26. In an inspired pairing, Silver Thread Trio opens this early show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 on the day of show. For further details head to hotelcongress.com/club or call 622-8848.
I may be doing something of a disservice in mentioning Austin's Dana Falconberry in this rootsy roundup. She's generally categorized as a folk artist, but her spare sound has as much to do with 4AD acts like Cocteau Twins as it does any folk artist. The real draw in her music is her voice, which is ethereal and girlish and doesn't sound like anyone else I can think of.
Dana Falconberry performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Sunday, Feb. 24. Steff Koeppen and the Articles open the show at 9:30 p.m., and cover is five bucks. For more information check out plushtucson.com or call 798-1298.
TRIPLE DOUBLE LOSING A SINGLE
Eclectic indie-folk-pop locals Triple Double Band will perform their last show with Preston Winter, who has played bass for the band for the past eight years. The group has found a replacement for its future endeavors in Rip Nolan, who is a member of both the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. The band, which released its latest album >IV in May of last year, is currently at work on a new album to be released later this year.
Triple Double Band performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 23. Leila Lopez and her band kick off this early show at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Head to hotelcongress.com/club or call 622-8848 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
We've barely scratched the surface of all the great shows happening around town this week, so be sure to check out our listings sections for the big picture. In the meantime, a few highlights:
Caspian, Junius, and North at Club Congress on Wednesday, Feb. 27; Psychic Ills and Liila at Solar Culture Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 23; Lenguas Largas, the OBN IIIs, and Destruction Unit at The District Tavern on Sunday, Feb. 24; We Came as Romans at The Rock on Saturday, Feb. 23; Adam Faucett, the Plastic Arts, and Kaia Chesney at Plush next Thursday, Feb. 28; Kix Brooks at Desert Diamond Casino on Saturday, Feb. 23; General Smiley and Planet Jam at The Hut on Friday, Feb. 22; Logan Green Electric, Ex-Cowboy, and Talk2Strangers at La Cocina on Wednesday, Feb. 27; Birthday Suits, Boo Boo Kiss, and Psygoat at The District Tavern on Monday, Feb. 25; ABK and Blaze at The Rock next Thursday, Feb. 28; Leftmore, Reptilian Shape Shifters, Terra Alive, Best Dog Award, and Spider Cider at Tucson Live Music Space on Saturday, Feb. 23; Denney and the Jets at Plush on Saturday, Feb. 23.