TUCSON'S TOP 50 VENUE
Congratulations are in order for the Rialto Theatre.
Although, by press time, a deal still hadn't been reached with the downtown developers who own the space the theater uses for offices, storage and a green room, the theater saw its status as a world-renowned venue grow earlier this week. Pollstar, the concert industry trade publication that tracks such things, released its midyear list of the Top 100 Worldwide Club Venues, based on ticket sales. The Rialto, which last year turned up on the list in the rather impressive no. 58 spot, jumped into the top 50 this time, landing in the no. 42 spot on the list. This is no small feat—other, more famous venues, many in far larger cities, placed behind the Rialto—so kudos are in order.
Way to go, guys. Keep the music coming.
It's a rather slow week for touring bands, but it seems as though local musicians have conspired to make it a pretty exciting week anyway, as three local acts are releasing new albums this week.
Formed in 2007 by bassist Gino Silva and guitarist Ray Wheeler—vocalist Jason Bowers and drummer Vik Andrade round out the lineup—LeVel XIII self-release their debut album, Demons, this week.
I'll be honest: Although the album cover art, by local artist Ryan Brown, looks pretty damn cool, especially as far as the metal milieu goes, the photos inside the CD package had me worried. They're a little, um, cheesy: lots of guns, lots of blood, some face paint, one straightjacket and one toilet. And these are not professionally shot photos; these are snapshots.
But after listening to Demons, I am reminded not to judge a book by its cover. Over the course of its dozen songs, the album touches on many facets of metal, and does pretty damn well with most of them. The band is tight as a fist, all crunchy guitars, booming bass and thudding drums, and LeVel XIII pretty seamlessly moves from the speed metal of seven-minute opening track "6 O'Clock News (A Father's Rage)"—complete with a partially acoustic, almost proggy interlude—to the grunge-inspired "Respect," to the Sabbath-y opening chords of "Eye of the Storm." Lyrically, the songs tread in fairly typical metal territory: "Voices" opens with, "Traumatized! By all the voices in my head / Dangerous! Mental violence I am fed / Hear me scream! From the torture that's within / See me bleed! To commit a mortal sin."
But perhaps the oddest song on the album—especially given those aforementioned pseudo-gory photos—is the thrashfest that is "King Amongst Kings," an ode to Jesus Christ in which Bowers applies his Grover-croak to incongruous lines like, "He carried all their anger, dawned (sic) their crown of hate / Endured the whips of disbelief, for you to just believe / Nailed upon the cross, suffers for us all / Father hear the call, make their temple fall."
LeVel XIII celebrates the release of Demons with a CD-release show at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Saturday, July 18. The all-ages show starts at 6 p.m. with sets from Scorned Embrace, Devils Left Shoulder, Ruins of Contention and Silent Bliss. Tickets are $9 in advance, or $10 on the day of show. For more information, call 629-9211.
A rhetorical question: When did Sublime become one of the most influential bands of the last 15 years? It would seem that an awful lot of bands these days are wading into the laid-back, reggae-fied grooves of the long-defunct SoCal band—locals like the Hounds and Vine St. included.
With the release of their debut album this week (produced by Duncan Hudson and released on his Tortuga label), add Skitn to that list—though they mix it up with a bit of Jack Johnson-esque beach pop. (Unfortunately, we were unable to attain a copy of the CD before press time. The songs mentioned here are available on the band's MySpace page.) Heck, the band's breezy, infectious "Late Night Drive"—an ode to hearing the perfect song on the radio while on a road trip, and wishing to be able to write such a great song—even name-checks Johnson (as well as "sinsemilla" and "my hookah," of course). Meanwhile, "Frustration" pairs faux Jamaican-accent reggae with a jam-band aesthetic, and "Hope" adds some jazzy flourishes to the beach reggae vibe.
Skitn performs at a CD-release party at 9:30 p.m., tonight, Thursday, July 16, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is a five-spot. Call 623-3200 for further details.
The prolific Vicki Brown, the go-to violinist/violist for many a local act, this week releases her second solo full-length, Seas and Trees. The majority of sounds heard on it (based, again, on the samples on her MySpace page; I haven't heard the whole album)—violin, viola, guitar, keyboards, looping pedals, voice—were recorded at home by herself, or in the studio with the help of Giant Sand's Thøger Lund and Nantes, France's French Tourist. The album, which was selected as an "editor's pick" on CD Baby, is composed mostly of moody, hypnotic, ambient soundcapes in which sounds drift in and out of the mix: A rumbling underneath a droning violin here gives way to subtle, country-inspired, not-quite-there fiddle, while "Take Flight" is a lovely little keys-and-violin number whose title is appropriate, even if it never truly soars.
Vicki Brown fetes the release of Seas and Trees with a performance at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., at 10 p.m., tonight, Thursday, July 16. Admission is, as always, free. Call 623-7621 for more info.
SWERVING FROM THE PAST
The British band Swervedriver was a '90s combo that combined the dense, swirling guitars of shoegaze with a distinct pop sensibility that set them apart from acts that were mostly concerned with how many layers they could pile on top of each other in any given song. In other words, they liked their melodies. Though the band saw members of its rhythm section come and go during its existence, the two constants were singers/guitarists Jimmy Hartridge and Adam Franklin.
In the early aughts, Franklin released a pair of albums of cinematic pop with electronic flourishes under the name Toshack Highway, as well as some recordings with Interpol's Sam Fogarino as Magnetic Morning. In 2007, he put out Bolts of Melody (Hi-Speed Soul), his first solo album under his own name; earlier this year, he released Spent Bullets, its follow-up, on Second Motion.
Compared to its predecessor, Spent Bullets is a tamer affair. The album opens with "Surge," one of the best tunes here, which sounds a bit like Sebadoh on a '60s Cali-pop bender. From there, though, things are toned down significantly. The next tune, the languid-but-not-lazy "Teardrops Keep Fallin' Out My Head," could be a collaboration between Gordon Lightfoot and the late Jay Bennett (and it doesn't hurt that Franklin's rich voice sounds like a cross between the two). Elsewhere, "Winter Girls" sounds a bit like Soundgarden playing a mellow Pink Floyd cover, while "Big Sur" is a dreamy, echo-y slice of Beach Boys-style harmonies on 'ludes. All in all, Spent Bullets may not be what Swervedriver fans expect from Franklin, but it should satisfy fans of Mark Lanegan's smoky, late-night solo work.
Adam Franklin performs a solo, all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., at 9 p.m., Friday, July 17. Admission is $10. Call 884-0874 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Starlight Mints, JP Inc. (formerly Pleaseeasaur) and Umbrella at Club Congress on Tuesday, July 21; L.A. Guns and Bang Tango at O'Malley's on Saturday, July 18; the Stellar Corpses and the Dead Tones at Vaudeville next Thursday, July 23; LMFAO at DV8 on Tuesday, July 21; Kristy Kruger at Plush on Tuesday, July 21; The Wiley One at The Hut on Friday, July 17; David Garza on the Hotel Congress patio on Tuesday, July 21.