TIME FOR YOUR YEARLY DOSE OF WOOD
In the same tradition as the Great Cover-Up, Club Crawl®, HoCo Fest, etc., this week brings another musical event that Tucsonans look forward to every year.
The Wooden Ball was started in the late 1980s, when then-River Roses frontman Chris Holiman wanted to try to unite a fractious local music scene. He decided to pile as many acts as possible onto the same bill, with one rule: Musicians had to perform using only (or, mostly, anyway) acoustic instruments.
Though the night was reportedly a success, Holiman didn't organize another Wooden Ball until 1994. By that point, the River Roses were relegated to history, but Holiman had a new band, 35 Summers, and the music scene had gotten a lot friendlier since that first Wooden Ball. So Holiman decided the focus of the event should be to demonstrate that most local bands were good enough on their own—and wrote strong enough songs—to get away with performing in an acoustic setting, sans pedal racks and massive amps. That second Wooden Ball was held at Club Congress, and it's been an annual event ever since.
Since the second Wooden Ball, the event has expanded to two nights, and this year, it's split between two different venues: Club Congress will play host to the first night, on Friday, Jan. 14, while the second night, on Saturday, Jan. 15, will be held at Plush. Here are the lineups for both:
Friday, Jan. 14, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. (in descending order of appearance): The Jons, Brad Brooks (formerly of Pollo Elastico), Silverbell, Blind Divine, Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS, Early Black, Haley Jane, The Jits and Hank Topless.
Saturday, Jan. 15, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. (in descending order of appearance): Seashell Radio, Silver Thread Trio, Leila Lopez, Redlands, the Taraf de Tucson, the Sand Rubies, Chris Holiman, Courtney Robbins, Lunar Light Collectors and Ferrodyne.
Music begins at 7:30 p.m. each night, and the setup is much like the Great Cover-Up: Each act will perform a 20-minute set. Admission is a measly $5 each night. If you have questions about the Friday portion, head to hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848; if you need more info about the Saturday segment, go to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
SPANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
After nearly 17 years of performing together, and countless Tucson appearances that began in the late '90s (with the most recent one last February), the Asylum Street Spankers are returning to town one last time.
One last time, you ask? Yep, the Austin ensemble, known for its nonamplified (mostly) original tunes that sound as if they were written in the 1920s through the '40s—until you listen to the often-subversive lyrics—is calling it quits.
Although demand for the group is still high, the challenges of keeping a seven-piece band on the road have apparently caught up with the Spankers. Worth noting: Founding member and co-leader Wammo, he of boundless charisma, has already departed due to family commitments, which leaves fellow co-founder, singer and musical director Christina Marrs the last original Spanker standing.
While this week's show—part of a massive six-month Farewell Tour—just won't be the same without Wammo, I can tell you that I've probably seen the Spankers 10 times over the years, and they've never disappointed. We've been telling you since the '90s that if you haven't seen this band perform live yet, do yourself a favor, and do so. Well, this is your last chance. Spanks for the memories!
The Asylum Street Spankers Farewell Tour hits Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The band will perform two full sets, with the first one starting at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. Call 798-1298 for more information.
In case you haven't been to Plush recently, you should be warned that the club—one of the few in town that features live music every night of the week—is currently undergoing a pretty serious renovation. So serious, in fact, that following the Asylum Street Spankers show, the club will be closed from Thursday, Jan. 20, through Thursday, Feb. 3. (The Wovenhand show scheduled for Plush on Friday, Jan. 28 has been moved to The Sail Inn in Tempe.) Expect things to be quite different when Plush reopens on Friday, Feb. 4.
AMERICANA FROM THE NORTHWEST
I was first introduced to The Moondoggies last year by a friend who's a DJ at the tastemaker radio station KEXP in Seattle. She's got impeccable taste in music, so I always take her recommendations seriously—and once again, she didn't steer me wrong.
The group was formed in 2005 by four Seattle residents who had played together in a high-school band in Everett, Wash. They began playing regularly at Seattle's Blue Moon Tavern, where they honed their sound, and before long, Hardly Art—the arm of Sub Pop that has released albums by the Dutchess and the Duke, Hunx and His Punx, and Carissa's Weird—came a-calling. The band's debut album, Don't Be a Stranger, was released on Hardly Art in 2008, and the label issued a follow-up, Tidelands, last October.
Where the debut was enjoyable for its looseness and ramshackle quality, Tidelands is something else entirely, while still managing to retain the fine quality of songwriting established by the band. The group falls squarely in the Americana camp, with its rootsy guitars, steel guitar and keys, as well as its gorgeous three-part harmonies. There's a certain grandeur to Tidelands that wasn't present on Don't Be a Stranger; it feels a lot more coherent as an album, not merely a collection of songs. From the gorgeous ballad "Empress of the North" to the wide-open, CSN&Y-influenced album opener "It's a Shame, It's a Pity," Tidelands is about as good as modern Americana gets.
The Moondoggies perform an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., next Thursday, Jan. 20. Opening at 9 p.m. is the acclaimed young Portland, Ore., band Quiet Life. Admission is $7. For more details, head to solarculture.org, or call 884-0874.
A RENAISSANCE MAN
Guy Davis—whose brand of acoustic blues is absolutely infectious, updating blues traditions for modern times in the best possible way—heads to town this week to perform, and more.
The guy's CV is remarkable: He's the son of actors/activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, who raised him in New York. He splits his time between performing in theater productions à la his parents, and performing the down-home blues—he's an incredible harmonica player—he learned from artists as diverse as Taj Mahal, Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Guy. In his songwriting, he claims to be influenced by both Zora Neale Hurston and Garrison Keillor. (He has appeared on the latter's A Prairie Home Companion radio show.) He's an award-winning playwright. He's recorded a tribute album to Bob Dylan.
I could go on and on, but suffice to say, the guy's quite the Renaissance man.
He'll perform at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 14, at the Javarita Coffeehouse in the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, 17750 S. La Cañada Drive, in Sahuarita. In addition, according to an e-mail from promoter Randy Mayer, "Guy will be coming to learn about the immigration issues and will be doing some work with the Samaritans in the desert saving migrant lives. One of the goals of our concert series is to bring artists in and have them get to know the immigration situation so they can lend their voice in creating change."
Tickets are $10, and Mayer recommends arriving early. If you have questions, call 625-1375.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Escape the Fate, Alesana and others at the Rialto Theatre next Thursday, Jan. 20; Le Chat Lunatique at Sky Bar on Tuesday, Jan. 18; Traveler at The Hut on Friday, Jan. 14; Megafauna, Suite Unraveling, The Runaway Five and The Monitors at Sky Bar on Friday, Jan. 14; Rooftop Vigilantes, Logan Greene and the Bricks and others at Dry River Collective on Sunday, Jan. 16; Cobra Skulls and Dr. Dinosaur at Skrappy's on Monday, Jan. 17; Last Call Brawlers, Piñata Protest and The Assailants at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Jan. 14; Naysayer, Take Offense and others at Noise Venue on Friday, Jan. 14; Will Elliott and Friends, Otherly Love and Shark Pants at the Red Room at Grill on Sunday, Jan. 16; Garboski, HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS and Automaton at Plush on Friday, Jan 14; Winelord listening party and vinyl swap at the Red Room at Grill on Friday, Jan. 14; Jimi Hendrix cover band Are You Experienced? at Club Congress on Saturday, Jan. 15.
The Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines show scheduled for Jan. 15 at Plaza Palomino has been rescheduled for March 12 due to health issues.