SOMETHING'S HAPPENING AGAINMarshall Crenshaw has had a rather interesting musical career so far. After performing in a failed band in his hometown of Detroit, he served a one-year stint assuming the role of John Lennon in the Beatles tribute Beatlemania. Soon after that, having immersed himself in the rock and R&B of the '50s and '60s, he began writing his own songs. He relocated to New York, where his passel of demos led to the release of the single "Something's Gonna Happen" on Shake Records, which attracted the attention of major labels.
In 1982, Crenshaw released his eponymous debut album on Warner Bros., which yielded his first--and only--hit single, "Someday, Someway." But don't let his lack of subsequent hits fool you. That debut album, like most of his output since, was loaded with straightforward pop songs that betray Crenshaw as the immaculate songcraftsman that he is.
Since then, in addition to releasing about 10 more albums of material, Crenshaw has become something of a rock renaissance man. He's appeared in such films as La Bamba and Peggy Sue Got Married; assembled compilation albums for record labels; and written a book, Hollywood Rock and Roll, about rock films. His songs have been covered by artists such as Kelly Willis and the Gin Blossoms, and he performed in Tucson last year as a guitarist for DKT/MC5, the reunion tour of fellow Detroiters the MC5. And this week, he returns to town to perform songs from his illustrious solo career.
Marshall Crenshaw performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., next Thursday, March 2. Doors open at 7 p.m., and advance tickets are available for $10 at the Rialto box office or online at hotelcongress.com (where there's a $1 service fee). They'll be $13 at the door. For further details, call 622-8848.
A SPANKIN' ANNIVERSARYAustin's fabulous Asylum Street Spankers return to Tucson this week as part of a tour celebrating the release of Re-Assembly (Spanks-A-Lot, 2005), a DVD that documents the band's 2004 10th anniversary shows, in which 21 Spankers members past and present reunited to perform a pair of shows at the Texas Union Theatre in their hometown. The three-hour DVD goes a long way in defining exactly what makes the Spankers so special: Performing with minimal amplification, the group, which currently features primary members Wammo, Christina Marrs and Guy Forsyth, deftly combines all manners of traditional Americana music--jazz, blues, country, ragtime, vaudeville and even hip-hop--and incorporates them into a seamless whole that embraces humor and a proud love of vices. No one else out there approaches what the Spankers do on a regular basis, and if you've never witnessed them live, you're truly missing out on something special.
Asylum Street Spankers perform two sets starting at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Tickets are $10, available in advance at virtuous.com. Call 798-1298 for more information.
LOW ON THE RISEA confession: About 10 years ago, when Minnesota trio Low, then known for being one of the foremost practitioners of slowcore, performed at the late Congress Street Theater, I nearly nodded off. With every song, each resembling the last, all played extremely quietly and at a pace that would make a tortoise resemble a rabbit, I had a harder time keeping my eyelids open. It's the closest I've ever come to actually napping during a concert by any band, and for years, that night informed my opinion of Low.
But in recent years, Low has somewhat transformed itself. Beginning with 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire (Kranky), the band finally acquired something that had been sorely lacking on previous releases: a sense of dynamics, with each song distinguishing itself as something lush and often gorgeous that could stand on its own. That reinvention, complete with a clockwise rotation of the volume knob and a quickening of pace, has endured through last year's acclaimed The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop).
Touring in support of that album was cut short last year due to Alan Sparhawk's battle with depression, but this week, Low makes up its cancelled local date with a show at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, March 1. Damien Jurado opens at 9 p.m. Advance tix are available for $10 at the Rialto Theatre box office or online at hotelcongress.com (with a $1 service fee). Call 622-8848 with questions.
FROM CARNEGIE TO 17TH STREETAlhaji Papa Susso (pronounced Sue-So) is a kora virtuoso, traditional musician and oral historian who descends from a long line of griots in Gambia, West Africa. Difficult to play, and even more difficult to master, the kora is a 21-stringed harp lute unique to Western Africa, and is the preferred instrument of the Mandinka Jalolu, itinerant musicians who were traditionally attached to royal courts where their duties included recounting the tribal history and genealogy, composing commemorative songs and performing at important tribal events.
Papa Susso's knowledge and talents have gotten him appointed Regents' Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara (in 1991), and he has performed at such prestigious venues as the Chicago Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Kazumi Watanabe Opera in Tokyo and Carnegie Hall (twice).
This week, he arrives in Tucson to perform at a far less traditional venue. At 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, Papa Susso will perform at the 17th Street Market, 840 E. 17th St. Admission is free. For further info, go to treasureshidden.com or call 624-8821 ext. 145.
MUSICAL COLONICFor those who haven't made their way to the annual Coachella Valley Music Festival, in Indio, Calif., or for those looking to relive those hazy memories of having attended, help arrives this week in the form of a film version of the fest that compiles some of the most memorable moments of the event's first six years. (The seventh is set to take place April 29-30.) In addition to musical performances from Björk, Radiohead, The White Stripes, Pixies, Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes, The Arcade Fire, Iggy and the Stooges, and loads more, Coachella also features lots of footage of the crowd, art installations and interviews with both performers and attendees. At almost two hours long, the film has something for everyone, and the performance footage is extremely well shot.
One of our favorite moments in the film comes courtesy of an interview with Perry Farrell, who was responsible for Lollapalooza, a touring prototype of Coachella that began over a decade prior. When asked why everyone flocked to a remote location to listen to a bunch of bands that radio largely forsakes, Farrell's answer is that everyone needs a vacation, because vacation "is as important as a colonic or the right diet."
Coachella will show at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., at 10 p.m. each night for a week starting on Friday, Feb. 24. The film is rated R. Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For more info, head to loftcinema.com or call 795-0844.
ON THE BANDWAGONIn addition to this weekend's influx of cowboys for rodeo weekend, Tucson will also be overrun with rollergirls competing in the 2006 Dust Devil roller derby tournament. Twenty leagues from across the country will compete for the national title this weekend, from Friday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 26. On the final day of the tournament, The Knockout Pills will provide musical entertainment starting at about 4:30 p.m. It all goes down at Bladeworld, 1065 W. Grant Road. For full details on the event, head to tucsonrollerderby.com.
Best known as the bassist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor Wooten has also released five solo albums, the latest of which is Soul Circus (Vanguard, 2005), on which he indulges his love of soul, funk, jazz and hip-hop. He'll perform an all-ages show at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $20 at the venue's box office or at rialtotheatre.com. They'll be a dollar more on the day of the show. Call 740-1000 for more info.