D.I.WHAAAA? The bulk of working bands and songwriters once had too much pride and integrity in their craft to want one of their songs to be used to shift any product beyond their own records. Once stigmatized (and to some it remains so), it's now become commonplace for recording artists to have their music used to shill corporate products on TV commercials. In an increasingly large number of circles, it seems, the concept of DIY pride is a faded memory, with target-marketed teenagers never being around for anything different, assuming that their favorite songs have always existed as mere sales pitches, anyway.
You can chalk it up to a lot of factors: struggling bands supplementing their income; estate heirs looking for a quick buck; licensing deals that don't state where the song might end up being used (e.g., film soundtrack or television commercial, which was one of the contributing factors why our own Giant Sand ended up on a Diet Coke ad) prior to signing on the dotted line; artists that can't break the lack-of-risk-taking stranglehold in corporate-owned radio stations and MTV, looking for exposure any way they can get it (you know you're in trouble when the music on TV commercials is far more interesting than what's being played on the radio); dinosaur bands looking for a quick buck; and the list goes on and on.
But it's the rare band whose career can be somewhat measured by their participation in corporate sponsorship. When G. Love and Special Sauce dropped their self-titled debut album (Okeh/Epic) in 1994, it was one of the freshest records in an era full of them. Back before it was all the rage to aurally cross-pollinate genres, G. Love merged the soul of his native Philly with sloppy acoustic blues guitar riffs, and lazy white boy hip-hop, and created a sound that simply hadn't been heard before. Shortly after that album's release, he successfully re-created the sound to an ebulliently ass-shaking packed house at the late Downtown Performance Center. G. Love's appeal was widespread, not unlike Coors Light, which later used his killer song, "Cold Beverage," to hawk its wares.
By the time G. Love made it to town a couple years back, at the Rialto, his live performance had degenerated into a rudderless, jam band reinterpretation of its former self. This time around, his infectious laziness had become simply lazy and drawn-out; he was courting the hippies instead of the hipsters, going so far as to cover a Grateful Dead song or two. All of which would be fine, if he was able to pull it off; but he seemed to have lost in the translation what had made him so likeable in the first place. And it's not just the music that's changed, apparently.
These days Love has aligned himself with Samuel Adams, playing private corporate parties to launch the brewery's new line of light beer, with beer commercial loops running throughout his entire performance, and the G-man himself name-dropping Sam Adams Light in one of his songs. Looks like he doesn't care what kind of beer he drinks, as long as it's of the "light" variety. But we all know hippies favor the microbrews.
G. Love and Special Sauce perform on Thursday, April 25, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m., with Slightly Stoopid opening. Advance tickets are available for $17 at Zip's University and all Zia locations. All tickets for the September 11 show will be honored at the door. For more information call 798-3333.
COUNTRY GREATS: L.A.'s Geraldine Fibbers started out as a sort of lo-fi alt-country band, playing covers of chestnuts like Dolly Parton's "Jolene" along with their own fabulous tunes, before really blossoming into a slightly country-tinged big rock act, complete with cello, violin, and loud-ass guitars. They had the drama thing down, with quiet passages building to swelling, wall-of-sound power, always anchored by singer/guitarist Carla Bozulich's dynamically throaty and always-convincing voice.
Somewhere along the line, the band's guitarist left, and was replaced by one Nels Cline. To those in the know, Cline is widely hailed as one of the most awe-inspiring and inventive guitarists on the planet, technically beyond proficient and gadget-addled, but soulful, as well. Even before Cline joined the Fibbers, they were one of the most powerful live bands this scribe's ever seen; the post-Cline Fibbers were off the chart. Following a few largely inactive years from Bozulich (save her one-off collaboration with Cline as Scarnella), the duo reappears this week in an unlikely setting.
First up is The Nels Cline Singers, Cline's new freakout trio, who are playing in support of their recently released album, Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone). Despite the band's name, and in correlation with the album's title, the trio is vocal-less.
Then, the Singers--Scott Amendola on drums and Devin Hoff on upright bass, in addition to Cline on guitar--will back Bozulich for a start-to-finish performance of one of country music's greatest moments, Willie Nelson's 1975 masterpiece, Red Headed Stranger, which they apparently drastically re-work, as the press materials state that no two shows will be alike. Anyone who's ever heard either Cline or Bozulich will be there, and believe you me, you should be, too.
The Nels Cline Trio and Carla Bozulich open for Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is a paltry $6. For more info call 622-8848.
RADIO WAVES: The folks that head up Tucson literary journal Spork have come up with a nifty idea: bringing back the radio play (of sorts). Spork's re-interpretation of this lost art is to come up with a pair of episodic plays, and perform them old-time radio-style, in front of a live audience at a nightclub. The two episodes being performed this week are "The Case of the Blusher" and "The French Disconnection," in which Al Perry will be making a cameo.
And to further enhance the event and give it a looser, more rock 'n' roll vibe than your average literary event, they've coaxed a set out of bounce-poppers extraordinaire Shoebomb.
It all goes down at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 26, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Five bucks will get you in the door, and you can call 622-8848 for further details.
EARDRUM TEAR: Loud, sludgy, complex, heavy, hypnotic, weird. All words that aptly describe the music of San Francisco's Totimoshi, who will headline a rawk solid bill this week that also features locals Solid Donkey and Phoenix's Hillbilly Devilspeak. If you can't wait for the Melvins to shred your eardrums when they pass through town next month, this one should tide you over quite well.
All three bands appear starting at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. For more information call 622-3535.
NON-TRADITIONAL TUNE: Comprised of a Berklee School of Music dropout--who uses alternate tunings, natch--for a guitarist, a pop-leaning bassist, and a drummer whose resume boasts stints with Poi Dog Pondering and Penelope Houston, San Francisco's Maxwell Horse boasts smartly written, soft/loud indie-pop songs with notch-above lyrics.
The band plays at 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Cover is $5. For further details call 670-9202.