With only three live performances to date, Burning Palms are the best new band in Tucson. For the most part, these four young women have little prior musical experience, and that's part of what makes them great. An intoxicating concoction of blues, garage-punk, and various religious musics, Burning Palms have the energy, songs, and the ability to sound like they're cursing you to hell from three echo chambers away.
A hair less impressive were Otherly Love. I've seen this three-piece a few times before, and they have played better. But Otherly Love on an off night are still pretty great. You could say they're a hippie jam band. You could've also said that about Funkadelic in 1971. And like Funkadelic, Otherly Love work heavy and loose grooves into mindless oblivion. The singer has a soul-inflected falsetto, and the guitarist sounds like a horn section. Only the opening and closing high-speed country songs fell flat.
Colleen Green, on tour from Los Angeles, presents a very contradictory act. Musically, with her archaic drum machine beats and three chord pop-rock songs, she most closely resembles the late '80s records of the Jesus and Mary Chain. But where JAMC singer Jim Reid put on dark sunglasses and mumbled to stylize his own lack of emotional resonance, Colleen Green wears the shades to be invulnerable as she expresses true feelings. Green's anti-ironic masquerade of coolness covering fragility makes her a compelling performer and artist, but not a mainstream celebrity.
Time will tell whether Tacoma, Washington's Widowspeak will make it to that status, but if they don't, it's not for lack of talent. A quintet led by singer/guitarist Molly Hamilton, Widowspeak mine a territory not since heard from the likes of Mazzy Star in the early to mid-'90s, albeit louder and more indebted to traditional rock and roll. More congruent and immediate than the rest of the bands on the bill, Widowspeak, and especially Hamilton, dwarfed the tiny confines of Topaz Tundra with their fine music and oversized charisma. A left-field, but totally sensible cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," and the fact that people were actually making out throughout their set, only served to elevate the overt sensuality and warmth already evident in their music. While Burning Palms provided the finest performance of the night, the energy Hamilton and Widowspeak conjured was akin to a meteorite landing in a living room. And with that, a star is born.