THE BLOGS RECOMMENDIt's tough to trust music journalists these days. What once was, and occasionally still is, a legitimate and informative art form is now too often a suspect exercise in PR for the subjects the writer is covering. Those readers who care enough may find a writer out there that they trust, someone who seems to hit the mark of one's particular tastes and is therefore reliable. But you certainly can't trust just anyone. Does anyone remember when Rolling Stone awarded Mick Jagger's 2001 solo detour Goddess in the Doorway--if memory serves me--a whopping five stars? Anyone who heard it understood that it deserved about four stars less, and the review became just one more lesson in why other people's opinions--"pros," anyway--often don't matter.
But that's selling short those good writers out there that do their job well--the ones that can encapsulate why they love a band and why you probably will, too. Increasingly, writers in the traditional sources of information and opinion about music have lost credibility to bloggers, self-appointed online tastemakers who often have an advantage over the pros: Many of them do what they do--i.e., share their opinions--for little or no money, simply because they care enough about the music to want to spread the gospel of a hot-shit band they just caught at a local dive. (It helps that most of the high-profile bloggers seem to live in large cities that offer up innumerable musical experiences each day of the week, as well as better-than-average local scenes.)
But in the past nine months or so, the bloggers seem to have acquired an undeniable sense of power that stems from their ability to spot a (usually) good thing before anyone else has noticed. While sometimes these sites--including stereogum.com, largeheartedboy.com and fluxblog.org (not to mention online music mag Pitchfork, at pitchforkmedia.com, which has usurped pretty much every publication in the music nerd-influence department)--turn people on to bands that may be destined to at least reap a few promotional dollars from their label (Merge's the Arcade Fire being the most obvious example), often bloggers are credited with hyping bands that put out their own CDs and have no budget at all, bands that almost certainly would have fallen through the cracks otherwise.
Over the last few weeks, esteemed bloggers have locked on to two bands almost unanimously: New York's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (who would likely be floundering in obscurity were it not for the blogosphere) and Anaheim's the Willowz, the latter of which at least has the advantage of releasing albums on the wee-but-mighty Sympathy for the Record Industry label, and will perform at Plush this week.
Reportedly, the band turned down a number of offers from the majors to go with Sympathy, which requires no contracts. The label first re-released the Willowz' debut album with bonus tracks, then two months later issued a new, 20-track album, Talk in Circles. Michel Gondry, one of the most inventive video directors out there (and the director of the visually stunning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, whose soundtrack boasted two Willowz songs) liked the band enough to direct a music video for them--for free. And all this happened before singer/guitarist Richie James Follin, the oldest member of the group, turned 22.
As for the album itself, well, it's damn good. Imagine a slightly less riff-heavy version of the Tucson band The Red Switch, with vocals by a less-annoying incarnation of Daniel Smith (singer for Christian indie weirdos Danielson Famile), and that's a pretty good approximation of what to expect. Or, to be less arcane, they're a garage band that performs somewhat sloppy songs that feel like they could fall apart at any minute, and are influenced by the White Stripes, the Dickies and the Pixies. (They claim they were united by a love for the Zombies, the MC5 and old soul music.) For now, it's still safe to trust the bloggers, it seems.
Catch the Willowz on their way up the rock ladder when they take the middle slot of a show that begins at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, with an opening set from electroshockbox and finishing up with headliners The Sweat Band. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is a paltry $3. For more information, head to plushtucson.com or call 798-1298.
WEEKEND OPTIONSThere's not much happening in the way of music on the Fourth of July proper (see below for a lone worthwhile option), so let us suggest a couple weekend options for those looking to get their flag-waving on.
The annual KIIM-FM Freedom Fest sets up at the Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road, on Saturday, July 2. Gates for the country shindig open at 3 p.m., and this year's line-up features Sara Evans, Merle Haggard and his son Noel Haggard, Neal McCoy, Troy Olsen and Jaime O'Neal. Advance tickets are available at all Chuy's locations for $15 through July 1, and $25 thereafter. For further details, call 887-1000 or go to kiimfm.com.
If country ain't your thang, you may want to consider celebrating our nation's birth a bit early, on Friday, July 1 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The George Squier Orchestra--substituting after the Zsa Zsas had to cancel their annual Fourth of July Rocktoberfest--will headline, sharing the stage with the Fashionistas, Al Foul and Friends and electroshockbox. For cover, a starting time and any further information about this late-breaking event, call 622-8848 or peruse hotelcongress.com. FREAKOUT ON THE FOURTH
What better way to celebrate the Fourth than a dirty psychedelic rock 'n' roll freakout? According to the folks at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., there isn't one. That's why they've booked a trio of bands that lend themselves well to exactly that, starting at 9:30 p.m. with Amsterdam drums/keyboards/vocals duo zZz, currently on their first American tour, in support of their recent album Sound of zZz (Howler). Merging punk chutzpah, hypnotic synth and organ grooves, and propulsive beats, they're rather enjoyable--as long as singer/drummer Bjorn Ottenheim's Jim Morrison-meets-Ian Curtis voice doesn't get in your way.
Ouija Radio occupies the middle slot, while Comets on Fire headline. The latter's Sub Pop debut Blue Cathedral (their third release) from last year was a slab of mindfuckery that sounded a bit like a post-punk Blue Cheer playing at top volume in an echo chamber. At the very least, it'll be interesting to see how they duplicate it live.
Cover for the Monday, July 4 show is $8. Call 798-1298 for further details.