GIN IN THE BEDROOMRelatively new to Tucson via Seattle, Michael John Serpe owns and operates Home Recorded Culture, which he describes as "not so much a label as it is a musician and artist toolbox, fully equipped with a bare-bones recording studio and a screen-print shop. We help artists document their moment in time at a pace and to the degree that is natural to them. I like to think that art is about creating beauty and inspiring ideas, and for me, HRC has been a good vehicle for doing just that."
Serpe, who founded HRC following internships at Sub Pop and C/Z, has released a split single with Built to Spill's Doug Martch, as well as a compilation CD that included members of Black Heart Procession, Dead Kennedys, Love as Laughter and Lungfish. His packaging on those releases led to the opportunity to design and package a limited-edition Sub Pop 7" for Sunny Day Real Estate. But he's quick to point out that "though these projects have been the most noteworthy, it's not what defines HRC. What does define it is the stream of 'small' projects by 'small' people, doing beautiful things, who follow through on refining and articulating individual experience for the sake of giving back and adding to the inspiration that has inspired them."
Judging from the CD A Night in Gins Hollow (Home Recorded Culture, 2005), which is attributed to Serpe, and was recorded with his "friend, mentor and producer" Greg Williamson (Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk), Serpe draws his inspiration from the bedroom-recording movement of the early- to mid-'90s, a period before computers enabled everyone to make professional-sounding home recordings, when the lucky ones had a 4-track recorder. As such, A Night in Gins Hollow sounds like a relic from a seemingly distant, though not so long ago, past. It's ramshackle, sometimes downright sloppy, other times affecting and generally charming. It's rare, in this computer-driven age, to come across a recording that wears its limitations--flaunts them, even--on its sleeve as this one does, and it makes old-school indie dorks like me nostalgic for the age when I'd buy anything with Lou Barlow's name on it.
But where someone like Barlow was content to release half-baked sketches of songs banged out on an old acoustic, each song on Gins Hollow has obviously been pondered over, and the arrangements are orchestrated in comparison. Where Barlow's home recordings were basically his voice and a guitar, Serpe's incorporate the occasional turn on viola or sax (courtesy of several guest musicians), as well as some programming. In fact, some of these songs are so busy, they're downright disorienting (perhaps the weed-smoking referenced in the bio lends a clue to the MO here). Listen to it a few times, though, and it begins to make sense.
As should be expected from a guy who made his reputation from design, the CD packaging is splendid: The cover folds out into a mock Bombay Sapphire-like bottle, with the disc itself housed in a tie-dyed felt envelope that, purposefully or not, reeks of turpentine.
Serpe performs at a CD release party for A Night in Gins Hollow at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Admission is free. Call 798-1298 for more information.
SWINGIN' CELEBRATIONIt might be hard to fathom now, but eight or so years ago, local dance-instruction studios were crammed with 20- and 30-somethings clamoring to learn the lindy hop. Every bar in town seemed to have a swing night, and the list of bands--local and touring--that played music to accommodate them was long.
But just as with any subgenre that blows up, only to become a fad (let's not forget that ska preceded swing, and salsa followed it), there were those who were present in the beginning: those who helped jump-start (no pun intended) the movement.
Consider the members of Kings of Pleasure, rulers of the Tucson swing scene. Even more remarkable than the fact that they started performing a full 10 years ago is that they are still at it; Kings of Pleasure are one of the few swing bands to precede the resurgence of swing, as well as outlive it. Congrats on 10 years together, gentlemen.
Dig up that zoot suit before the moths get to it, and help the Kings of Pleasure celebrate their 10th anniversary at 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is only $5. For more information, call 623-3200.
OFF TO PORTLANDThis next item is a bittersweet one. Just before Christmas, I took up Beau Bowen's invitation to check out his newish band, Maintenance, at Club Congress. I had been a fan of Bowen's former band, Lloyd Dobbler, which gradually disintegrated a couple years ago, and trusted that whatever he was up to was worth my time. "We're moving to Portland (Ore.) in February, so you better come see us soon," he said, and I dutifully returned to Congress the following night, where they were scheduled to play second on a local triple bill.
One of the three bands bailed on the show, so Maintenance played last, which was fitting; I couldn't imagine anyone following them that night.
In addition to singer/guitarist Bowen, the band comprises singer/guitarist Brent Owen, bassist and Korg synth player Garth Bryson and drummer Nathan Wright, all of whom are in their early- to mid-20s. Here's what they do: keep you on your toes with lots of time and tempo changes; overstimulate you by playing something resembling free jazz in math-rock clothing; mesh with the seemingly innate precision of players who have been together far longer than they actually have. But here's the best part of all: The songs, complicated and congested as they are, somehow manage to employ the pop hooks that bring you back for more. It's quite a feat, being a catchy math-rock band, and Maintenance just might be the best I've ever seen at successfully accomplishing it. Sad to see 'em leave us, but I wish them only the best.
Maintenance's final Tucson show as a local band begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Also on the bill: Chango Malo, Manifold, The Provocative Whites, The Knuckledraggers, DJ Kwirk, a fashion show and a man on stilts--all for the low, low price of $4. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-8848.
ON THE BANDWAGONIn case you haven't heard by now, the highly sought-after, mondo-combo package tour of Death Cab for Cutie and Franz Ferdinand is coming to UA's Centennial Hall on Monday, March 27. Assuming they're still available by the time you read this (advance tickets went on sale on Valentine's Day morning), you can pick up tickets for the show at Centennial's box office, uapresents.org or by calling 621-3341. They're priced at $15 to $35 for students, $20 to $37 for the general public.
The delayed, long-awaited Prince tribute show--dubbed Purple Plush: A Tribute to Prince--at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., finally arrives next Thursday, Feb. 23. A mere five bucks grants you the opportunity to hear Mankind, the George Squier Orchestra, Bombs for the Bored, Cathy Rivers with Love Mound, Found Dead on the Phone and Nowhere Man serve up their own versions of classics by Minneapolis' No. 1 funkateer. (Hey, it's a couple thousand miles to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. This is a couple miles from your couch, at most.) The sweat begins flowing at 8:30 p.m., and the number to call for further details is 798-1298.
Speaking of Bombs for the Bored, that band's front man, Noah Gabbard, finally turns 21 this week, and his band will celebrate the occasion by performing at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Shark Pants and Troy's Bucket will light the candles on the cake starting at 9 p.m. Cover is $3. That number again is 622-8848.
There was a time, about 20 years ago, when Naked Prey, who fused country and blues leanings with primal rock 'n' roll, was the biggest band in Tucson. This week, that band's primary member, Van Christian, unveils songs he's been recording recently for his first album of new material since Naked Prey's 1995 And Then I Shot Everyone (Epiphany). He'll perform for free at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St. For more details, call 623-7621.
Guitarist Kevin Eubanks takes a breather from enduring lame pot-smoking jokes from Jay Leno this week, when he brings his jazz quartet to the Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets range from $10 to $52 and are available in advance at Centennial Hall, the UA Student Bookstore, the UA Visitor's Center, uapresents.org or by calling 621-3341 or 626-3980.