LOCAL ACCORDIONIST MAKES GOODWhile playing drums for Tucson's late, lamented Mollys, Gary Mackender spent his spare time learning to play the accordion, and it's paid off, big-time. Following the Mollys' split, Mackender formed The Carnivaleros, who this week will release their second album, Lost in the Graveyard (RootaVega).
Mackender's no dummy, so he's rounded out his band with some fine players, including Mitzi Cowell (guitar, banjo, vocals), drummer Marx Loeb, Carla Brownlee on sax and bassist Chris Giambelluca--plus a couple guests--for the album, recorded at Wavelab Studios. As usual, the songs--roughly half of which are instrumentals--are all over the place stylistically. Opener "Lost in the Graveyard" is a dirge that's spooky like latter-day Tom Waits, but nowhere near as dissonant; "Gina Lollobrigida" is a snaky instrumental--save a children's chorus at the beginning reciting the titular character's name--that opens up in all the right places; "Bazaar 54/Bus Stop" resembles nothing so much as an authentic second-wave ska tune, if, say, The Specials or Madness had an accordion player. The missteps here are few: "One More Name" is a subdued swing tune with too-cute lyrics (or maybe I just favor the darker stuff). But on a disc crammed with so much to like, that's a pretty small complaint.
The Carnivaleros celebrate the release of Lost in the Graveyard at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at Old Town Artisans, 501 N. Court Ave. For more info, head to carnivaleros.com.
HEAR MUSIC; FIGHT INJUSTICEAnyone with a heart and a modicum of common sense who has ever seen the HBO documentaries Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost II knows just how inhumane our justice system can be. If you haven't seen the films, here's the gist: Saturday, June 3 marks the 13th anniversary of the day that three teenagers--Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley--were arrested for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., that all evidence suggests they did not commit. Nevertheless, they were convicted: Misskelley got life plus 40 years; Baldwin was sentenced to life without parole; and Echols sits on death row to this day.
To renew awareness in the case, June 3 has been declared West Memphis Three Worldwide Awareness Day, and benefits are being held nationwide to raise funds for their legal defense. Tucsonans Patti Keating and Tommy Larkins met one of the young men in prison and were inspired to do their part. Thus, Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., will host a benefit for the WM3 on Saturday night. Confirmed performers at press time include Bob Log III, Tom Walbank, Victoria Williams, Greyhound Soul, Hellride and Van Christian, plus surprise guests.
Things get underway at 8 p.m., and all donations collected at the door will go directly to the WM3 defense fund. For more info on the show, call 622-8848. For more info on the West Memphis Three, head to wm3.org.
SQUIGGLE VS. SCREECHChicago art/drama-rock trio Oh My God have performed countless times in town in recent years, and have won new fans over each time. Why? Because they're most excellent.
A large part of what makes Oh My God's sound so distinctive is the freaky tones coaxed out of a souped-up organ by Iguana, who moved from New York City to Chicago to join Junior Wells' band (how's that for street cred?). Count Iguana among the ranks of Them vs. Them, a quartet that also includes Oh My God drummer Bish, guitarist Casey Kannenberg and singer JAQ. If anything, Them vs. Them is more immediately accessible than Oh My God, whose histrionics can be off-putting to some (at first, anyway). But the two bands share a distinctive quirkiness that keeps you guessing what the hell is coming next in any given song, while still remaining catchy as all get-out. There's a touch of reggae here, a blast of new wave there, and some not-annoying dance-funk interrupted by breaks that squiggle and screech simultaneously; name it, and it's here somewhere. Good stuff, this.
Them vs. Them headline a bill that also includes Chango Malo and The Provocative Whites at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is a fiver. Questions? Call 798-1298.
WESTERN TO COUNTRYAre any of you filthy cocksuckers out there fans of HBO's foulmouthed, critically acclaimed Western series Deadwood? If so, you might want to drag your fuckin' asses off your couches next Wednesday, June 7, and head to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., where Los Angeles' King Straggler will be rockin' out with their cocks out.
OK, not really, but they will be treating attendees to their winning brand of mid-tempo country tunes and twangy rockers. The band is fronted by John Hawkes, who portrays Sol Star on the series, and also includes a couple of other actors with less impressive resumes.
Much to their credit, they fare far better than most actors-turned-musicians (hellooo, Dogstar!), as shown by the songs on their eponymous debut album, released last year. The tunes are tuneful, the three-part harmonies are durn pretty, and one of the members is a damn fine whistler. They get a bit cutesy at times, e.g., spoken-word snippets that were probably pretty funny in-jokes at the time, but all is forgiven once a pretty little charmer like "Annalee" kicks in. I'll take King Straggler over the entire Billy Bob Thornton catalog anyday. (And with rumors swirling about the possible cancellation of Deadwood, Hawkes must be thanking his lucky stars that he's got a night job to fall back on.)
A trio of up-and-coming indie-folkies--Samantha Murphy, Martha Berner and Kate York--will headline the show, performing together under the name The Highway Girls. Things get rolling at 9:30 p.m., and admission is free. Call 798-1298 for more information.
ROOTS FOR FREEFinally, here's a nifty quadruple bill of roots-based acts worth checking out this weekend. Headlining is real-deal trad-country singer-songwriter Kenneth Brian, who relocated to Austin, Texas, from Nashville, Tenn., when he landed the lead part in the theatrical hit Hank Williams: Lost Highway. The bill is rounded out by a trio of Tucson acts: bluegrass quintet Cadillac Mountain; folk-pop teen phenom Andrew Collberg; and the beloved acoustic sounds of The Determined Luddites.
It all goes down at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 3 at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Best of all, there's no cover charge. Ring 'em up at 623-3200 for more details.