MADE IN AMERICA: If flying the flag just isn't enough for you these days, you might want to check out the Charlie Daniels Band show this week. Once one of the primary progenitors of Southern-fried rock, the CDB got increasingly proud of its status as an American band in the 1980s. American in the good way, as in undertaking the unpopular effort of writing songs about POWs left behind in Vietnam a decade or two previous. Not American in the bad way, like, say, Lee Greenwood resurrecting his career of bland and blindly patriotic pablum during this time of blind patriotism.
OK, so for every "Still in Saigon" Charlie wrote, there was an "In America." But at least "In America" rocked; you sure as hell can't say the same for "God Bless the USA."
And did I mention that I saw the newly ubiquitous Mr. Greenwood, in one of his dozen or so talk show appearances in the last couple weeks, actually hawking his lame-ass patriotic CDs that came out 10 years ago to a grief-stricken nation ready to grasp any straw of patriotism? Cash in, fuckhead! You'd never catch Charlie doing that.
And did I mention that Charlie co-wrote and performed "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," one of the finest good vs. evil guilty pleasures that ever existed?
And did I mention that when I was 10, I met Charlie, and he put me on his lap, just like Santa? Wait, maybe he's kinda creepy after all.
The Charlie Daniels Band performs at the Budweiser High Noon Arena at Old Tucson Studios, 201S. Kinney Road, on Thursday, September 27. Doors open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $29.95 at the Old Tucson Box Office. For more info call 883-0100, or go online to www.oldtucson.com.
FAINT OF HEART: First Bright Eyes, and now The Faint. Who knew that Omaha would turn into a hotbed of up-and-coming, highly individualistic indie bands? The Faint just passed through town a few months back, and managed to pack Solar Culture even without its mainstay college crowd in town. Nobody went home disappointed.
The band fuses cheesy new wave synths à la Depeche Mode or New Order with a slightly sinister, post-industrial guitar edge. It's dance music for these confusing times, and if you close your eyes and shake it real hard, you might even convince yourself it's 1985 all over again. If you're into that sorta thing.
The Faint, along with openers Captured By Robots and Now Its Overhead, perform at 9 p.m. on Monday, October 1 at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $7 at the door, and the number to call for further details is 884-0874.
FARM OUT: I'm always suspicious of a band whose first single out of the gate is a remake of a song familiar to us all from days of yore. And so it was with Alien Ant Farm's cover of "Smooth Criminal," originally performed by the King of Pedophilia, Michael Jackson. But eventually, just like the rest of you, I succumbed, wandering the streets of downtown late at night, hypnotized by the sheer razor groove of it all, concerned about the welfare of an Annie I never met. And though the band's publicist neglected to send me a copy of the band's New Noize/Dreamworks debut, Anthology (2001), the snippets from the rest of the album I listened to online were better than I expected.
Maybe it's due to the underrated phenomenon of diminished expectations (AAF--one of 2001's greatest success stories--is, after all, signed to the label operated by Papa Roach, one of last year's biggest success stories), but sound-alike nu metal this ain't. Instead, the band's songs--though often rather fungible--sport a concrete pop sensibility that opens the proceedings to listeners beyond the testosterone-addled, crowd-surfing mooks who pledge allegiance only to grinding guitars and growling vocals.
Pressure 4-5, meanwhile, has that moody verse-into-homogenized aggro "chorus" thing down pat. Expect--but don't hope for--the band to be one of the big success stories of 2002.
Alien Ant Farm, Pressure 4-5 and Dredg perform at 8 p.m. on Monday, October 1 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $10 at all Zia locations. For more info call 798-3333.
VALLEY CHURLS: Portland pop trio Sunset Valley brings its economic, psych-lite tunes to town this week. The band was previously compared to the Flaming Lips and Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Its sophomore release, Icepond (Barsuk Records, 2001), reveals these guys to be the penguins of indie pop: Those wings look promising, but they're just not quite strong enough to achieve liftoff. Well, not often enough, anyway.
The band certainly has its moments: "Wired Nights" is a sturdy, frenetic little rocker; "Blackberry Bushes" isn't near as dreamy as they intended it, but it splits the difference between Donovan and Robyn Hitchcock nicely; and "Misery Jet" is pure ear candy, a would-be Top 40 hit back in '73. Too much here, though, can be neatly placed in a box labeled "aimless, faux-psychedelic plodding." If they ever wise up, take their time, and sift out the filler, we're looking at a fine damn pop record, instead of half of one.
Sunset Valley, along with headliners Breaking Pangea and fellow openers Burning Troy, Table for One and Soybomb, performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 28, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Cover is a mere five bucks, and you can call 620-1824 for bonus info.
STRUNG UP: Brian Kenney Fresno is a one-man band who plays the Stick, a five-string bass and seven-string guitar combo. I know what you're thinking: another virtuoso who needs 12 strings to show you just how kickass his licks are. Not so for Mr. Fresno. He is, instead, one of those performers who uses his chops as a springboard for rockin' comedic lunacy.
The promo CD I received contains three live songs. The first is a song about getting drunk set to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which doesn't sound so funny right now, but hey, that's not his fault. The second, which I imagine is called "Bobby Salazar" (no track titles were supplied), is a slice of Zappa-esque, absurdist storytelling about a visionary restaurateur--an actual one, judging by the crowd reaction and attention to detail (the line "The salsa's outtasight" gets emotionally repeated three times)--who pulls an insurance scam, and ends with Fresno reciting the menu verbatim, pausing only to interject insider commentary. It's one of those rare inside jokes that translates outside the inner circle.
And if Tenacious D has written the best existing song about Ronnie James Dio, Fresno has beaten it to the punch on the best one about "Yngvie Fucking Malmsteen" ("Stravinsky, just step your ass aside!"). Should make for a pretty serious giggle-fest.
Brian Kenney Fresno opens for the Larry Redhouse Trio at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, October 3 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. For further details call 798-1298.
MODERN FAIRIES: Not a person but a quartet of Brits, Morgan Le Fay includes Tucson on the schedule of its first full tour of the U.S. (a mini tour a year ago had it open for Tarras at Tucson's English Faire). Hailing from Newcastle and hailed as youthful torchbearers of the English folk tradition, the group uses guitar, bass, violin, accordion and vocals for a slick, modern approach that has as much in common with the over-earnest American folkies of the 1970s as it does Fairport Convention.
Morgan Le Fay performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 29 at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 602 N. Wilmot Road. Advance tickets are available for $10 at Antigone Books, Hear's Music, Enchanted Earthworks and the church. They'll be $12 at the door. For more information or to charge tickets by phone call 297-9133.
LAST NOTES: One of the preeminent bands of the burgeoning funk-jazz jam band movement, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe makes a return appearance to town at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 28 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Leisure Ride provides support, and advance tickets are available for $13 at all Zia locations. Questions? Call 798-3333.
Musicologist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger brings his Music from True Vine and a couple hundred years of history to town for a special performance this week. True Vine blends British music traditions and those of ancient Africa into a rural music wholly unique to the American South, an oft-neglected music that provided the cultural springboard for what became country and bluegrass.
Seeger performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 29 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4831 E. 22nd St. For more information call KXCI at 623-1000.
Easily one of the worst fucking bands to ever grace the planet, Godsmack headlines a four-band nu rock lineup from hell this week. (Seriously, when are the kids gonna get sick of this crap? What will it take for them to realize that they're being force-fed pre-packaged rebellion as empty as a theater showing Pootie Tang?) Anyway, the bill also includes Saliva, Rage Against the -- er, Reveille and Sevendust, and it all goes down at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 27 at the Tucson Convention Center Arena, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 321-1000.