SOUTHERN ACCENTS: This week, in Austin, Texas, thousands upon thousands of those with a stake in the music industry--performers, label employees, managers, talent bookers, journalists, etc.--are gathering for South By Southwest, the most comprehensive music industry event of the year. Wanna get jealous? Just log onto www.sxsw.com and check out all the fun you're missing out on.
Or, are you? Being in the southwest, as it is, Tucson plays host to many of the bands performing at SXSW, as they make their way to and from the festival. Thus, this week, and next, are especially fruitful times for touring bands hitting town. Read on...
MEET JOHN DOE: John Doe is hardly your average Joe.
Doe made his name as the bassist and singer for legendary '80s L.A. punks X (and their side project, the Knitters), who still play the occasional live show together, but since that time, he's become a regular renaissance man, releasing a trio of solo albums and acting up a storm, on the TV show Roswell, as well as in a couple dozen films, most recently last year's The Good Girl (not to mention one of our all-time favorites, the Patrick Swayze tour de force Road House).
Doe says that every time he released an album, his fans would ask him if it was acoustic, so in an effort to give the people what they wanted, he recently released an all-acoustic affair, Dim Stars, Bright Sky (iMusic, 2002). From the opening "7 Holes" (which begins with the lines "I never did drink like you/But I held back your hair like a girlfriend would do"), the album fires on all cylinders, featuring some of the finest songwriting of Doe's career. Oddly, many of the tracks could pass as Beck songs: "Still You" sounds eerily like a minor-key outtake from Sea Change, while "Magic" would have sounded at home on Mutations, save for a very X-like change on the chorus. Tellingly, Dim Stars features backing from a couple vets from Beck's band, guitarist Smokey Hormel and drummer Joey Waronker, as well as guest shots from the likes of Jakob Dylan, Juliana Hatfield and Aimee Mann. Backing him up on his current, intimate tour is stand-up bassist David Carpenter, who plays on the album, and Tucsonan Nick Luca--nice gig, Nick--on keys.
John Doe performs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Opening the show is ex-Dieselhed frontman Virgil Shaw. Admission is $10. For more information call 622-8848.
INCOMING MISSILE: Fronted by poet and porkpie hat-wearer John S. Hall, New York's King Missile has made a career out of simultaneously making people laugh and making them uncomfortable. Alternating between a guileless, naive persona ("Jesus Was Way Cool" and "Cheesecake Truck," whose protagonist takes a job driving the titular vehicle, just so he can eat hundreds of cheesecakes) and a foul-mouthed, cunning one ("Take Stuff From Work," "Gary and Melissa"), Hall's impassioned, absurdist rants are the meat of the Missile's missives, with his band providing the musical bread on which they sit. Now known as King Missile III, the band recently released The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Instinct, 2003), which goes with the credo "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
As such, we're treated to songs like "My Father," which recounts the tale of the first white baseball player to be allowed to play in the Negro League (he also invented Hare Krishna), "The Miracle of Childbirth," which is a scatological surmising of what happened the night you were conceived that is so utterly filthy it made an adopted friend of mine squirm, and "Eating People" ("I think it's OK to eat people, as long as they're properly canned"). Horribly distasteful and downright hilarious, Psychopathology would surely set the record for the most frequent use of the word "fuck" on any album ever released, if such a record were on the books.
King Missile III performs on Monday, March 17, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more info call 622-3535.
BARE NECESSITY: Bare Jr., the band, is known for its "Southern Rock meets Nirvana" vibe, but that band's leader, Bobby Bare Jr., has just released his first solo album, and it's an altogether different beast. Young Criminals' Starvation League is far more stripped-down and singer/songwriterly than anything his namesake band has released thus far, though it retains his endearingly caustic wit--you just don't have to try so hard to figure out what the hell he's saying over the din of the guitars this time around. And just try to name another artist who's covered both Shel Silverstein ("Painting Her Fingernails") and the Smiths ("What Difference Does It Make?") on the same album.
Opening for Bare is Philadelphia's The Bigger Lovers, whose second album, Honey in the Hive (Yep Roc, 2002), a winning slab of catchy pop songs and three-part harmonies that'll appeal to anyone who owns albums by Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and Badfinger, ended up on countless year-end best-of lists.
Bobby Bare Jr., The Bigger Lovers, and Court and Spark appear at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9 p.m. on Monday, March 17. For further details call 798-1298.
ON THE BANDWAGON: There are far more worthwhile shows this week than we're able to fit in this space, so be sure to check our club listings for complete coverage. In the meantime, here are some other shows to consider when planning the week ahead.
Fronted by former Nation of Ulysses and Make-Up vocalist Ian Svenonius, the Scene Creamers merge the politics of those bands and the funkiness of the latter to arrive at the most consistently listenable band Svenonius has ever been involved in. The band's debut album, I Suck on That Emotion (Drag City, 2003), constructs a wall of wah-wah guitar and melodic bass lines as a backdrop for Svenonius, the white man's Prince, to rail against The Man. Down with greedy, self-serving corporate execs! Up with shakin' that ass, shakin' that ass!
The Scene Creamers perform on Thursday, March 13, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. The Rattlesnakes open at 9 p.m. Cover for the all-ages show is $7. For extra info call 884-0874.
Chicago's The Reputation makes the sort of melodic-but-edgy guitar pop that seems to have gone missing in recent years, all but replaced by fungible pop-punk. Singer/guitarist/pianist Elizabeth Elmore, a veteran of the late, acclaimed band Sarge, posesses one of those voices that the guys can't help falling for, and the girls can't help but identify with. The fact that the songs on the band's self-titled debut (Initial, 2002) are mostly about the politics of male-female relationships, smartly written, and so catchy you'll walk around humming 'em for weeks should appeal to anyone with a heartbeat.
The Reputation performs on Tuesday, March 18, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The opening band is The Jons, the show begins at 9 p.m. and admission is $5. Questions? Ring up 622-8848.
The name Ralph Stanley is synonymous with old time mountain bluegrass, and with his son, Ralph Stanley II, the family's roots grow ever deeper. Junior's latest album, Stanley Blues (Rebel, 2002), was nominated for a Grammy award this year, and showcases his George Jones-inspired voice (as opposed to his daddy's high and lonesome), backed by Senior's legendary band, The Clinch Mountain Boys.
Ralph Stanley II and The Clinch Mountain Boys perform at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City, and Instrumental Music, or online at www.dotucson.com. They'll be $18 at the door. For more info call 297-9133.
Nifty costumes, choreographed dancing girls, and a charismatic frontman with seemingly boundless energy: none of it would mean dick if the music of New York's Gogol Bordello wasn't so damn fun. The band performs traditional Eastern European music, as filtered through ears that grew up on punk rock, and its local performance last year was one of the most entertaining shows we've witnessed in a coon's age.
Gogol Bordello, along with openers the Molehill Orkestrah, performs at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $8. For bonus info call 622-8848.
Austin trio Southern Gun Culture takes a slightly more soulful approach to sludgy stoner rock than most of its practitioners. The band's full-length debut, Room 65 (Mono Tremata, 2002), demonstrates a decidedly Southern Rock flair mixed into the heavy-osity. They'll headline a triple bill that also includes locals Solid Donkey and Love Mound at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Call 622-3535 for further details.
You might not have heard of The Magic Magicians, but chances are pretty good you've heard of the bands whose loins spawned them. Comprising John Atkins of 764-HERO and Joe Plummer of The Black Heart Procession, the duo's debut album, Girls, released as the very first full-length on Seattle's Suicide Squeeze label way back in 2001, aurally illustrates what happens when a couple of indie-rock scenesters attempt to emulate the Beatles, Big Star and T-Rex. (Hint: It sounds more like an American version of XTC's quirky pop, as played by indie-rock scenesters, than any of the aforementioned bands.)
The Magic Magicians perform, along with the Helio Sequence and Maserati, at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. The show is all-ages and admission is $6. For further details, call 884-0874.