FAMILIAR FACES: A San Francisco-based trio will perform in town this week, but locals will likely recognize the band's members from their associations with Tucson bands past and present.
Roma 79--the name is taken from a rather obscure reference from the DVD version of This Is Spinal Tap--comprises drummer Aaron Bonsall, singer/bassist Jeremy Patfield and guitarist Andrew Skikne, all former Tucsonans. The trio began as a side project while the members were busy with other musical projects: Skikne was guitarist for the Red Switch and drummer for the Quadratics and the Strawmen; Bonsall was bassist for the Quadratics, drummer for the Matt Mitchell Trio and Todd Hammes, and had a namesake jazz trio; and Patfield played sax for the Matt Mitchell Trio and Todd Hammes (pure testament to the incestuous nature of the Tucson music scene).
Anyhoo, a couple years back Bonsall and Patfield recorded drums, bass, and vocals for the then-unnamed project, before relocating to the Bay Area, and Skikne added his guitar parts later, resulting in a four-song EP. Realizing there was something there worth exploring, the project was nonetheless put on the back burner in favor of the Red Swiitch, Skikne's main outlet at the time. Eventually, Skikne and Josh Levine, the Red Swtch's singer/guitarist, decided to move the band to San Francisco, adopting Bonsall and Patfield as their rhythm section, but after an exploratory visit to the area, Levine decided to keep the Red Switch in Tucson. But Skikne's heart was still set on the move and, thus, he ventured to the Bay Area alone, knowing he had an alternate plan to resurrect the trio that had recorded the EP.
Since Skikne relocated last year, Roma 79 has recorded the score for the Comedy Central original movie, Porn 'n' Chicken (which has aired incessantly on the network and is due out on DVD this summer), toured the Midwest, and, this week, arrives in town to perform as part of its first West Coast tour.
If you dig indie rock that explodes in bursts between sections of tastefully meandering, nearly ambient, atmospheric sections, you'd do well to check them out.
Roma 79 performs with openers Chango Malo, Traindodge and Riddle of Steel on Friday, May 30, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The show begins at 9 p.m., and there's a $5 cover. For more information call 622-8848.
LET THE NAKED GAMES BEGIN! And speaking of the Bay Area -- in a day and age when it's somehow considered "cool" for bands to turn their backs to the crowd while playing, and to barely show any sort of emotion at all, Oakland's Fleshies are a throwback to a time when punk rock was loud, abrasive, snotty, and most importantly of all, dangerous.
The band, which sounds a bit like two trains--one blaring Turbonegro, the other At-the-Drive-In--careening toward each other on the same track, with a handcart dishing out the Butthole Surfers' art-weirdness sandwiched between them, claims to be four ordinary guys. But, do ordinary guys strip naked onstage, attempt to stop spinning bicycle tires with their genitalia, then smash beer bottles and roll around in them, while still naked? When Fleshies' "normal" frontman John Pseudonym (aka John No Moniker, John Geek, John Mink and, my personal favorite, John Shenanigans) does, it's just another day at the office: punch in, punch someone in the face, punch out.
The band has just released its latest album, The Sicilian, on Alternative Tentacles, whose label head, the infamous former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, describes the Fleshies as "definitely the sort of kick-ass live band drenched in sickness that belongs on Alternative Tentacles. I saw them and I was amazed -- (John) was spazzing out all over the stage, all over the floor. He wound up nude by the end of the set, and I thought, 'Aha, this is what punk rock was supposed to be.'" Word up, Jello.
Fleshies perform with openers Sexy and Tommy Lasorda (both from the Bay Area), and locals Shark Pants and Cocaine Piñata, at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Cover is a mere five bucks. For further details call 622-3535 or log onto www.fleshies.net.
KARMA CHAMELEONS: Hailed as the greatest thing to happen to rock and roll since the last band they called "the greatest thing to happen to rock and roll," the Datsuns are probably already hated by the ever-fickle British music press. But since the New Zealand band's self-titled debut album was just released here in the states in February, and they're making their first Tucson appearance this week, let me take a second to tell you what to expect.
While the current trend in music may be "garage rock" (whatever the hell that means anymore) that echoes '60s-era proto-punk, the Datsuns look to '70s-era rock bands like Thin Lizzy, Bad Company and Deep Purple for inspiration, or more accurately, who to rip off next. So faithful is their emulation, so over-the-top, that it either exposes those bands for their ridiculous power-of-rock-ness, or pays homage with a wink and a nod, depending on your point of view.
The Datsuns perform at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway, on Tuesday, June 3. The Star Spangles and a band to be announced open the show at 7 p.m. For more info call 358-4287 or log onto www.skrappys.com.
ALL ABOARD THE MARRAKESH EXPRESS: With 100 degree-plus days finally here, the Anselmo Valencia Amphitheatre's summer concert series is the perfect place to kick it in the not-quite-so-hot summer nights. This week brings harmony-laden '60s holdovers and family favorites--just try to hate your parents when "Teach Your Children" blasts out of the speakers--Crosby, Stills and Nash (but, alas, no Young) to the outdoor amphitheater. Gold section tickets are a whopping $60 (not including those appalling Ticketmaster fees), with pavilion seats not far behind at $50. Since we wouldn't want you to blow your entire summer concert budget in one fell swoop, we recommend picking up a $20 lawn ticket and bringing a blanket.
CSN performs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, at AVA, located next to Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road. For more info, log onto www.casinodelsol.com. For tickets, call 321-1000 or log onto www.ticketmaster.com.