CHEEKY CHICANO: So you've just finished reading Cristián Sierra's article about mariachi music, and you're feeling a little more willing to investigate your cultural options. Well, it's a fine week to celebrate Tucson's Latino music roots, as there are three worthwhile shows to help you do just that.
You didn't think Lalo Guerrero, the recipient of this year's Hall of Fame TAMMIE Award, would make the trek from his current home of Palm Springs to Tucson without being coaxed into giving us a proper show, did you? Of course you didn't--you're smarter than that.
Guerrero, who was profiled recently in The Weekly ("Cheeky Chicano," May 16), is widely regarded as the father of Chicano music, and he's got a National Medal of the Arts and a closet full of zoot suits to prove it. He wrote some of the most enduring Pachuco hits of the 1940s, and it's those tunes on which he'll focus for his performance this week. (To get a glimpse of what Guerrero looked like back in the day, look no further than the best-dressed guy on the mosaic tile photo reproductions on the Broadway-Congress underpass.) He'll also be selling and signing copies of his recent autobiography, Lalo: My Life and Music.
Lalo Guerrero performs in the middle slot at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Thursday, August 1. Kings of Pleasure open at 8 p.m., and King Creole headlines. Cover is five bones. For more details call 622-3535.
Due to their collaborations with Calexico, who have taken them on tour worldwide, Mariachi Luz de Luna have likely opened more virgin ears to the sound of mariachi music than, er, other mariachi groups who have toured with a world-famous band on an indie-rock label. Last time we checked in with head honcho Ruben Moreno, he was excited to be relocating to Las Vegas to spearhead a mariachi program for the public schools of Clark County, which he's done previously here in Tucson. Unfortunately, he recently received word that he didn't get the position, which is bad news for Moreno and Las Vegas, but good news for Tucsonans, as he and his compadres will bring their full-fledged mariachi show to Club Congress this weekend for a show originally intended to be a proper send-off for him.
Mariachi Luz de Luna perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, August 2. Local Latin jazz combo Libre de Grasa opens the show at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door. Call 622-8848 for more details.
And on the very same night, you can sample a dose of a band that's likely been influenced by the Calexico/Luz de Luna union. Texas' Ghoultown add outlaw-style country and goth-punk to the mix, describing themselves as "spaghetti western mariachi ghouls," and they'll headline a show at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Friday, August 2. A set of rockabilly tunes, courtesy of Tucson's Last Call Brawlers, kicks things off at around 9 p.m. That number again is 622-3535.
POLAR BEARS: I've never met anyone from Iceland, but it seems a fair bet that on the whole they're smart people. First of all, there's that whole we've-got-a-country-so-beautiful-that-we-have-to-give-it-a-foreboding-name-to-keep-everyone-away thing. And second, while there aren't a ton of bands to spring from there, the few that have made it to our shores are smarter than the average polar bear (think Bjork and Sigur Ros).
The latest batch of Icelanders to reap attention from the American cognoscenti is Mum (pronounced "moom"), a couple guys and a set of twin sisters who perform gorgeously ambient electronic soundscapes that are built for listening, not dancing (call it IDM for the dance-impaired). The machine-driven sounds are unusually warm in context, as they're enhanced by actual instruments like accordion, glockenspiel, and melodica, as well as guitar and bass, and supported by the sensuous, ethereal near-whispers of the sisters, who aren't old enough yet to drink a beer in the States. Their second and latest album, Finally We Are No One (Fatcat), released earlier this year, brings the group to town this week on their first American tour.
Mum performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Tuesday, August 5. Tucson's Hobnail Boot opens at 9 p.m. Admission is $8. For more info call 884-0874.
SMOOTH JAZZ: San Diego's Yavaz return to town this week as part of promoter Jonathan Holden's Courtyard Concert Series. The show will likely sell out, as their two previous stops have, giving new meaning to the adage that there's no accounting for taste. (The duo of pianist/songwriter Mark Riddle and percussionist Nelson Ortiz will be joined by timbalero Willie Negron for the performance.) The group purports to be equally influenced by Pancho Sanchez, Tito Puente, and Pat Metheny, but as evidenced by their 1997 breakthrough album Sea of Cortez (White Latin Productions), they'd sound more at home on a smooth jazz radio station than they would on a legit jazz one.
Yavaz performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, at Plaza Palomino, at the corner of Fort Lowell and Swan. Advance tickets are available for $17 at Antigone Books, Brew and Vine, CD City, City Grill, and Enchanted Earthworks, online at www.frontrowticketcenter.com, or by phone at 1-866-GOT-TIXX. For additional information call 297-9133.
ENTER THE CHAMBER: For a band that's usually used to playing in clubs, where their oh-so-quiet music risks being drowned out by bar chatter and clinking beer bottles, Town and Country should find a place like Solar Culture, where they'll perform this week, much more to their liking.
The band's home is Chicago, which is the nation's center for avant garde experimentalism--Tortoise, Isotope 217, Rachel's, Chicago Underground Duo, the list goes on and on. But unlike many of their hometown contemporaries, T&C keep it real by using only acoustic instrumentation--no laptop pop here--like fingerpicked acoustic guitars, string bass, harmonium, cornet, and bass clarinet, to arrive at a variation of chamber music. The quartet often gets compared to Philip Glass, and after listening to their third LP, C'mon (Thrill Jockey, 2002), it's easy to see why: both use repetition to lull you into a semi-hypnotic state, with subtle variations along the way to keep things interesting. Not recommended for the sleepy.
Town and Country performs on Monday, August 5, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The Nick Luca Trio opens at 9 p.m. Admission is $5. For more information call 884-0874.
BANDWAGON: Once known for quirky, catchy pop songs with cheeky lyrics, former Refreshments frontman Roger Clyne and his new band, the Peacemakers investigate decidedly more rootsy territory on their second studio album, Sonoran Hope and Madness (EmmaJava), released in February. Clyne's always been fond of straight narratives (remember the Refreshments' mega-hit "Banditos"?), but this time around there's a distinct sense that he's trying harder to affect the listener, spinning more serious, ghost-riddled tales of the ups and downs of a life in the desert, instead of merely eliciting chuckles and tapping feet ("Bury My Heart in a Trailer Park," which retains his wit, is a rare exception).
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Admission is $15, and includes a CD copy of Sonoran Hope and Madness. For further details call 798-3333.
Just in case you've had your head buried in the sand, you should be informed that there's a bevy of excellent upstart bands playing around town these days that deserve your attention, and Club Congress' ongoing New Band Showcases have brought three or four of these bands together at a time, so you can check them out for yourselves, in a cheap-ass fashion. This week's showcase will feature performances from the DeLudes, the Yellow Cabs, Lloyd Dobbler, and The Gaylords. The show was originally set to take place on the same night as the Morrissey show at the Rialto (that show has been postponed until August 7), and as a tribute to the downtrodden one, each band has learned a Smiths song to toss into their sets of originals.
The New Band Showcase commences at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, August 7, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is three Washingtons. Questions? Call 622-8848.