SO LONG AND THANKS, DONThe Tucson music scene will soon lose one of its guiding lights. Don Jennings may not play an instrument--then again, maybe he does; I've never asked--but he's as instrumental in drawing attention to local music as anyone in town.
For a full decade, Jennings has hosted Locals Only, a weekly Monday-night show on community radio station KXCI FM 91.3 that features nothing but local acts. The program--whose first hour largely consists of tracks from new or newish local CDs, and whose second hour features a combination of a (pre-recorded) live set by, and interview with, a local act--has been a one-stop source to check the pulse of local music for the last 10 years. And, yes, the show will go on with a new host or hosts--the station has not yet announced who will replace Jennings--but it will do so without its founder.
Jennings is moving on to a new chapter in his life. He recently got engaged to be married; at the end of June, he and his fiancée, Jenni, will move to San Francisco for four months, after which, well, who the hell knows? It all depends where Jenni's job takes the pair; in a recent e-mail exchange, Jennings wrote, "Phoenix seems the most likely, but Tucson is an outside chance as well, so I'll be keeping the house here."
It should be noted that, like most other KXCI DJs--or, in the station's parlance, "programmers"--Jennings has never made a dime off the hours he's put in for the sake of promoting local music; a rough calculation of those hours will give you the number 1,000 or more. He did it because he loved doing it, and especially because he loved drawing attention to the local music he loved.
The next couple weeks will be busy ones for Jennings and Locals Only. On the Monday, June 2, show--which, by the way, airs from 8 to 10 p.m.--the live segment will feature an archival performance by one of Tucson's longest-running bands, Greyhound Soul. On his MySpace page, Jennings writes, "June 2nd, I've decided to get all nostalgic. ... I'll be broadcasting a live performance of Greyhound Soul, recorded at the release party for their very first CD, Freaks, back in 1996. It's an opportunity to hear Greyhound Soul playing some of the tunes they haven't played in a decade."
Next Friday, June 6, the fifth volume in the series of Locals Only CDs will be released and feted at Plush. The series, which Jennings oversees, compiles some of the best live performances from the radio show. We'll have more on that next week, so stay tuned.
On the Monday, June 9, edition of Locals Only, the live segment will feature a rare acoustic set by one of Jennings' faves, Chango Malo--rare as in, I'm pretty sure they've never done it before; it's the band's personal way of saying thanks to Jennings, who, when asked what he would like for his final show, answered, "A Chango Malo acoustic set." That live set will also be unique in that you can actually attend the performance at which it will be taped. Just head down to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Sunday, June 1. Things get rolling around 7 p.m., and admission is free. Call 622-8848 for more information.
Stick around afterward to catch another free live performance, this one from The Metal Shakespeare, whose name pretty much describes what they do: set Shakespeare's iambic pentameter to pentagram-inspired--or, at least Iron Maiden-inspired--heavy metal. And they do it in full costume, or, as band member Jason Simms wrote us in a recent e-mail: "Lots of tights and velvet." They'll go on shortly after Chango Malo finishes, and will help segue into the karaoke scheduled later that night by acting as the karaoke backing band for a few tunes.
Getting back to the matter at hand, though, I'd like to take a moment to publicly thank Don Jennings. Anytime I had a local music-related question, I contacted Don; he was always quick to invite me on his show to promote my charitable endeavors (i.e., The Great Cover-Up, which he also helped emcee several times); and he helped me out immensely with the Tucson Area Music Awards (TAMMIES) critics' choice voting process. But more important, he is, as Al Perry once said, "the best friend a music scene can have," and he's been absolutely charming and selfless in being so.
Of course, I'll still listen to Locals Only, but regardless of who ends up hosting, no one will be able to fill Don's shoes. Best of luck, Don and Jenni, wherever the road takes you. My fingers are certainly crossed that it's Tucson.
HELP PAPA BEAR WITH HIS HEARINGA trio of local rockabilly and punk bands will perform this weekend at a benefit show for Last Call Brawlers drummer Joel "Papa Bear" Dunst, who--due to a lifetime of playing with the Brawlers, working with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and giving drum lessons--has gone almost completely deaf. Proceeds from the show will go toward the purchase of hearing aids for Dunst. The Brawlers will headline the show, which will also feature sets from Blue Collar Criminals and Dead End Dragstrip.
Things should get started around 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is $5. Call 882-0009 for further details.
NAMOLI'S NEW LABELSinger-songwriter Namoli Brennet will celebrate the launch of her new label, Flaming Dame Records, with a performance at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., this Saturday, May 31. Sabra Faulk will open the early show at 7:30 p.m., then join Brennet to play bass during her set, along with Winston Watson on drums and Mitzi Cowell on guitar. Additionally, there will be free giveaways all night, including T-shirts, stickers, buttons and postcards. Admission is a fiver. Call 622-8848 for additional info.
HUT + BLUES + SUMMER = FESTIVEThe Hut will launch a new monthly summer blues series this weekend. Markiss, Tom Walbank and Jack of Roses will perform at the inaugural installment of "Downtown Gets the Blues," which will take place at the venue on the last Saturday of each month this summer. Admission is five ducats. The Hut is located at 305 N. Fourth Ave., and you can ring 'em up to find out what time things get underway and any other valuable tidbits of information you may be lacking at 623-3200.
A NEWBIE SHOWCASE!Three of Tucson's finest (relatively) new kids on the block will showcase their wares at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, May 30. New-wavey power-poppers The Runaway Five will headline the gig, with guitar-pop combo RCougar opening at 9:30 p.m., and moody indie-rockers Stillsuit occupying the middle slot. Five bucks gets you into the back room. Call 798-1298 for more information.