THE FINAL CURTAIN?At last week's performance by The Shins at downtown's Rialto Theatre, the band's bassist and keyboardist Marty Crandall asked the crowd, "So I hear this is the last show at this place--is that true?" Many in the crowd shouted back in the affirmative, while a larger number looked confused and turned to the person standing next to him or her to find out what the hell he was talking about. "I don't understand why," Crandall said.
Crandall (and the crowd) wasn't exactly right. The truth is that the theater has been sold and will close down for several months for some much-needed renovation--reportedly $2 million worth--but will eventually reopen. While the new owners' intentions for the place once the renovation is complete don't seem entirely clear at the moment, logic would seem to dictate that not a whole lot will change: Due to its size, the Rialto fills a gap for popular music in this town that no other venue can. It's the only room in town that can host acts too big for clubs and too small for larger venues like the Tucson Convention Center and AVA. (While the comparably sized Centennial Hall hosts the occasional musical performance, that theater is largely booked with more culturally "important" events than pop music ones. The parking lot at Hotel Congress can hold almost as many bodies as the Rialto, but the city restricts the Hotel to only 12 outdoor events each year.)
The Rialto, which has benefited from its policy of hosting events promoted by both outside agencies and its in-house staff, frequently draws capacity or near-capacity crowds. Without a venue of its size, Tucson will suffer a great loss in being able to attract mid-level acts; we will simply no longer be able to see those acts without embarking on a road trip.
So, here's hoping that the new owners realize that. The financial aspects of the situation--if nothing else--would seem to dictate that they will.
Which brings us to the other fallacy in Marty Crandall's comment. The Shins' performance wasn't the last event at the Rialto before its doors are temporarily closed. That distinction belongs to the Tucson Weekly-sponsored Tucson Area Music Awards, aka the TAMMIES. This week, we celebrate our 11th year of handing out plaques to those local musicians who rated with you, our beloved readers. We'll also be handing out a handful of critics' choice awards for the first time. It's no grand competition, to be sure--just our way of acknowledging the rocky road that is being a local musician, and a means of giving our readers a voice in the matter.
As in recent years, the awards ceremony will forego acceptance speeches (i.e. you won't be subjected to, say, Tucson's best guitarist blathering on about how he/she couldn't have done it without the help and support of God, his/her parents, his/her eighth-grade music teacher, etc.) in favor of a killer lineup of local musicians doing what they do best: performing live. This year's ceremony will feature sets from Brian Bromberg, Neon Prophet, Greyhound Soul, The Knockout Pills, the Nick Luca Trio, Greg Morton, Mestizo and Jelly. Best of all, the event is free to everyone.
The 11th Annual TAMMIES ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. For more information, call 798-3333.
SO, DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?Is there anything that says "American summer" more than catching a free outdoor show, then gambling away the money you would have spent on your ticket anyway--and then some? We say hell no, and the folks at Desert Diamond Casino obviously agree, as this week kicks off their free summer concert series.
Southern rock pioneers The Marshall Tucker Band inaugurate the series, albeit without guitarist Toy Caldwell and his bassist brother, Tommy, both of whom died years ago. Still, the band has a wealth of material from which to draw, including their hits "Take the Highway," "Heard It in a Love Song," "Can't You See," and "Fire on the Mountain," as well as lesser-knowns like the gorgeous "AB's Song," which was recently covered by Iron and Wine. (Take that, naysaying hipsters!)
Upcoming shows in the free series include Jay & the Techniques ("Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie") on June 27, The Box Tops ("The Letter," "Cry Like a Baby," "Soul Deep"), featuring the legendary Alex Chilton, on July 11, and the Average White Band ("Pick Up the Pieces") on Aug. 1.
The Marshall Tucker Band performs at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 13, at the Desert Diamond Casino plaza, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road. You are encouraged to bring blankets, as there will be no seating available, and lawn chars are prohibited. For further details, call 866-DDC-WINS or log onto www.desertdiamondcasino.com.
TWILIGHT ZONELocal trio BASSCK begins a Tuesday evening residence this week at Club Congress for a good cause. While admission to each week's Tuesday Twilight Cabaret will be free, donations will be accepted to benefit the Pima YOUTH Partnership, a not-for-profit organization that endeavors to keep youth in school while reducing pregnancies, STDs and births to teens, and create healthy and safe environments for children and families in rural communities and Native American reservations in southwestern Arizona.
As for BASSCK, the groove/R&B/experimental pop trio comprises drummer Larry Cobb, guitarist Tom Kusian and legendary bassist Harvey Brooks, a veteran of The Electric Flag who's best known for performing as a session bassist on classic recordings by Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited), The Doors (The Soft Parade) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), to name but a few.
The Tuesday Twilight Cabaret with BASSCK kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. For more info, call 622-8848.
HOW PLEASANT!On The Art of Leaving (2004, Badman), their third album on as many labels, Dallas quartet Pleasant Grove largely forgoes the dripping-molasses pace, extended song lengths and pervasive twang of their self-titled debut in favor of something akin to dreamy chamberesque pop, with only a slight drawl. Adding atmospheric synths and the occasional violin, cello, or pedal steel to their previous, more stripped-down arrangements, The Art of Leaving shares much in common with the albums of Varnaline, Idaho and fellow Texans Centro-Matic. It's pretty in all the right places, even if you won't likely be humming anything from it once it's over.
Pleasant Grove performs in the middle slot of a bill that also includes openers The Fashionistas and headliners Loveland on Saturday, June 12, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. The show begins at 9:45 p.m., and admission is free before 10 p.m., $3 after. Questions? Call 798-1298.
BOOK DEALInfluenced by Rev. Gary Davis and Pink Anderson and compared to J.J. Cale and early Dire Straits, country-blues guitarist and singer Roy Book Binder has been called "one of the finest blues fingerpickers active today" by Blues Revue magazine. Lauded almost as much for his dry wit and the storytelling his shows are peppered with as he is for his music, Binder is widely regarded as best experienced live.
Roy Book Binder performs as part of the 7th Annual Courtyard Concert Series on Friday, June 11, at Plaza Palomino, located at the corner of Swan and Fort Lowell roads. Stefan George opens at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $14 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City and Enchanted Earthworks, or online at www.rhythmandroots.musictoday.com. For further details, call 297-9133.