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Al Foul, The Knockout Pills, Al Perry & Chango Malo

Club Congress, Friday, March 19

Right smack in the middle of the club at Hotel Congress is a big ol' pillar that holds up many a bed and bath of the upstairs hotel. It used to be that if you got stuck behind that pillar during a show, at least one member of the band would be out of your visual field. Those days of segmented band-watching are over, for the folks at Congress have ripped out the old stage (which used to fill a corner of the club), ripped out a wall and moved the stage to the easternmost side of the club. Now the viewing space is bigger, the stage is shinier and higher, and that pole no longer screws up the sight line.

Last Friday night, locals Al Foul, the Knockout Pills, Al Perry and Chango Malo took the new stage for a test drive. Al Foul warmed up the show with his mean rockabilly guitar while his feet banged out the drum beats on a snare turned sideways and a cymbal.

Then the Knockout Pills wrenched the stage out from under the calmer opening act and beat the living hell out of everyone's eardrums. All of the members of the Knockout Pills have been doing the punk rock-thing in Tucson for years; the band's comprised of former members of the Weird Lovemakers, Los Federales, and the Resonars. The Knockout Pills combine the best parts of all those bands; fast, catchy, loud and fun with a crispy, sun-baked bite--you could fry an egg on these guys. The Pills just received word that Estrus records, which counts The Drag, Man or Astroman?, the Mooney Suzuki and the Cherry Valance among their roster, will be putting out their next record.

Al Perry and his band calmed things down a bit with their country-fried rock, and the show ended with Chango Malo, who took to the new stage like gun dogs to dead ducks. Chango Malo may not be the most melodic or remarkable band to combine saxophone with metal-esque guitars, but their live show eclipses all that, what with lead singer Quin Davis' expert wielding of a megaphone and Justin Lillie (bass) and Ian Philabaum (guitar) flailing around as if they'd been recently released from a straightjacket.

It's a good thing Congress finally got around to building a new stage strong enough to support bands like the Knockout Pills and Chango Malo. And it's damn nice to be able to see everyone without a big ugly pillar in the way.

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