Catching only the last four songs of the Leila Lopez Band turned out to be my loss. Lopez's wonderful voice and the group's solid playing reminded me it had been far too long since I've seen one of Tucson's finest talents.
It took a few songs until Copper & Congress was fully warmed up. The local trio of bassist Patrick Morris, drummer Julius Schlosburg and frontwoman Katie Haverly began to ascend when Haverly moved from guitar to electric piano. The band's soul-jazz-infused aesthetic coalesced around hypnotic grooves that Portishead might consider sampling, should they return to what was referred to as "trip-hop" when it was popularized back in 1994. The occasional gaffe (read: bass solo) betrayed possible high school jazz band roots but Copper & Congress at its best is an act focused on groove. This is the area in which their interplay shines brightest and provides a foundation for Haverly's vocal improvisations, which get more interesting in direct proportion to the degree in which she is unhinged, nearly scatting at times.
For the last half of its performance, the band was joined by headliner Hello Dollface's keyboardist and local rapper Rey Murph. In this context, Murph recalled the lackadaisical flow of Tricky, another trip-hopper with ties to Portishead (both acts were born out of the pioneering Bristol, England, band Massive Attack). It was at this point that Copper & Congress really caught fire, with the call and response duets of Haverly and Murph punctuating the pulsating and hypnotic rhythms the other players conjured.
The set by Durango, Colo.-based Hello Dollface, while good on its own merits, took on a different relevance because of what preceded it. While it is unlikely they are influenced by Copper & Congress, the band mined quite similar territory, and worked out the possibilities and variations of what we had just heard. Hello Dollface is more overtly indebted to rock idioms, displayed in harder beats and material. Lead singer Ashley Edwards was visceral and aggressive, and was the highlight of her group's performance. Following a string of energetically played but unmemorable songs, they regained momentum on a surprisingly credible Sly and the Family Stone cover, which was unfortunately derailed by the reappearance of music's deadliest nemesis: the bass solo.