by Dan Gibson
The Sand Rubies/Sidewinders, the desert rock band that never quite made it, are hanging up their instruments tonight after 26 years as a band (albeit with a hiatus for the main components of the group - David Slutes and Rich Hopkins - to not speak to each other for a while). If you have any sense of Tucson's rock music history, you know you should be at the show tonight at the Hut already. Really, this post is just a reminder and an excuse to post some videos.
Music editor Stephen Seigel wrote about the band in last week's issue:
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.
Say farewell to the Sand Rubies at 9:30 tonight at the Hut. The cover's a wildly reasonable $5. Enjoy three songs by the band below the cut.
"Doesn't Anyone Believe":
"We Don't Do That Anymore":