WHO'S THIS TAMMIE I KEEP HEARING ABOUT?: Nine years ago, the collective braintrust of the Tucson Weekly and the Rialto Theatre's Jeb Schoonover decided that there simply weren't enough awards shows in the world, that dammit, the musicians of Tucson needed their own. And so, the Tucson Area Music Awards (TAMMIES) were born.
Sarcasm aside, it was a rather bold step, as awards ceremonies of that nature are usually relegated to bigger cities with far more bands than our humble burg. Nine years and hundreds of bands later, the decision seems almost prescient.
The process itself is rather simple and virtually fool-proof: Give the people who spend their hard-earned money on these musicians the chance to pick their favorites. In return, the artists themselves get a little deserved recognition for toiling away over the past year, often to near-empty clubs. As they say in corporate boardrooms, it's a win-win. Then, go ahead and toss the ceremony itself into the equation--a bunch of killer live performances, along with the awards presentation, all free for anyone who cares to show up--and my friend, you've got an unprecedented win-win-win situation on your hands.
Performers at this year's TAMMIES are Sunday Afternoon, Tickle, Ricky P. and the Blues Monsoon, Sun Seven, Teddy Morgan, Troy Olsen and The Kevin Hamilton Next Level. Awards will be presented in 35 categories intermittently throughout the evening. Just in case you can't make it--but you damn well better try--the winners will be published the following day, in the August 1 edition of the Tucson Weekly.
The Ninth Annual TAMMIES kick off at 8 p.m. sharp on Wednesday, July 31, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Admission is free, and all are welcome. For more information call 798-3333.
TAKE A DRAG: While we're on the subject of prescience, let's discuss Superdrag for a minute. On its 1996 debut album, Regretfully Yours (Elektra) the Knoxville quartet scored a massive hit single with "Sucked Out," an angsty ode to putting one's faith in the sketchy-at-best rock 'n' roll dream, in which lead singer/guitarist John Davis sang: "Look at me, I can write a melody/But I can't expect a soul to care/Kissing the bride, forty-five minutes a side/This was my dream--played out rocking routine/Who sucked out the feeling?"
When the band was asked to perform the song live on MTV, Davis showed major cojones by changing the words to "Who sucked out the feeling?/Music Television!" but the answer, of course, turned out to be the music industry itself. Following the band's excellent label-neglected follow-up, Headtrip in Every Key (1998), Elektra tossed in the towel on Superdrag. It was the dawning of a nu-rock age, after all, and pop melodies played on guitars that didn't growl with the times were mere scrap-heap fodder. Korn and Creed and others of their ilk were riding the charts then, not Jimmy Eat World and The Vines. So along with dozens of other melody-friendly bands signed to major labels during the "alternative rock" feeding frenzy, Superdrag, which only two years previous was pulling some serious bank for its label, suddenly didn't have one anymore.
A lot of bands would have simply packed it in, given up the dream--hell, a lot of them did. (When was the last time we heard from Seven Mary Three, Harvey Danger, Primitive Radio Gods, or Geggy Tah?) Instead, Superdrag got back up, brushed off the dirt, and found the Arena Rock Recording Company, the indie label that has released albums by Mink Lungs, Elf Power, Luna and Home, as well as the aptly titled two-disc compilation This is Next Year, which showcased the then-nascent, now-thriving Brooklyn scene. And here's the best part of all: the band's latest album for that label, Last Call for Vitriol, released earlier this year, has spawned a hit single on the "new rock" radio format--"The Staggering Genius" can now be heard on stations like 92.1 KFMA-FM. In addition, the new record has earned the band the highest critical marks of its career.
Last Call's opening track, "Baby Goes to Eleven" wins bonus points for its Spinal Tap reference and street cred points for its background vocal contribution from Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard, but it's the sugar-spun GBV-influenced melody that sates the sweet tooth and keeps you tuned in. Then, just when you think you know what you're in for, on comes "I Can't Wait," which sounds like nothing so much as Nirvana, if they had been around in the '70s and grew up in the South. Elsewhere, "So Insincere" wouldn't have sounded out of place on a later Redd Kross platter, "Extra-Sensory" sounds like a cross between Big Star and the Hoodoo Gurus, and "Way Down Here Without You" is Badfinger by way of The La's. Taken as a whole, Last Call for Vitriol sounds a bit like the Foo Fighters album Dave Grohl has always wanted to make, but just didn't have in him.
Meanwhile, tourmates The Deathray Davies give you a big hint as to their influences in their band name. Don't get it? The name of their new album is The Day of the Ray (Idol). Still don't get it? Damn, you're not as smart as I thought you were. OK, never mind the name, but think fuzzed-out guitars and short, sharp, punchy pop songs that use but don't over-use '60s-era organ. Recommended if you like Superdrag.
Also on the bill are the young local upstarts of Shotstar, who meld glammy guitars with infectious pop melodies to fine effect. Recommended if you like The Deathray Davies.
Superdrag, The Deathray Davies and Shotstar perform at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30, at the temporary outdoor location of Skrappy's, 831 E. 17th St. Admission is $7, and all ages are welcome. For more information log onto www.skrappys.com.
A LITTLE OF THE OLD IN-OUT: Currently in town recording its next album at Wave Lab Studios, Denver-via-Chicago oddballs DeVotchKa take a break from the studio to take it to the stage this week.
The band's Tucson connections run deep: In addition to their choice of Wave Lab, they've previously played Plush a couple times, one of their (now part-time) members studies audiology at the UA, and they opened a string of dates earlier this year for Calexico.
They were voted Best Inexplicable Band in their hometown weekly and on their first visit to town I described them thusly: "The [then] six-piece outfit uses violin, accordion, theramin, trumpet, sousaphone, banjo, upright bass, Afro-Cuban percussion, clarinet, and yes, even guitar, along with Nick Urata's impassioned, angsty wail, to produce a virtual car wreck of sounds: Gypsy music careens into classical chamber music, Slavic melodies give way to juke-joint jumpin' rockabilly, and Latin flavor morphs into border ska before your very ears, but it's all covered by an umbrella of good old American pop-rock. Imagine, say, the Flaming Lips playing world music, or even better, Camper Van Beethoven circa 2001 with more authentic ethnic elements ... " Since I wrote that, I've had the pleasure of seeing the band perform live and trust me, if you don't go see them this week you'll be forced to endure all of your friends telling you about how "you missed the best freakin' band last week, dude."
DeVotchKa performs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is--get this!--one dollar. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-8848.
THE MESS-AGE: Even if you have no interest in the left-field politics being spouted by the likes of Jim Hightower, Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich and Mark Zepezauer (and hopefully you do), this weekend's Tucson stop of the Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour is a musical bargain as well. (For more on the political angle, see Jim Nintzel's article in this issue.) Where else can you see performances from Fishbone, DJ Greyboy, La Paz, Lisa Otey, Sara Lovell, Los Changitos Feos, and Strictly Native, amongst others, for a mere five bucks? Interested? Just make sure you pick up a ticket in advance, at 91.3 KXCI-FM, by phone at 624-4690, or at any Ticketmaster location, because they'll be twice as much at the door.
The Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour rolls into town from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave. Children under 11 will be admitted free. For additional info. log onto www.rollingthundertour.org.