Music editor Stephen Seigel went to Austin and all he brought back for me was this lousy T-shirt. Wait, he didn't even bring me that. But, seeing as he's either on his way by back, or recovering, from the massive annual music-business love-in known as South by Southwest, I'm filling in for him here. Mr. Seigel will return to the bridge of the starship Soundbites next week.
WILD IN THE STREETS
The biggest concert this week undoubtedly is the fourth annual Festival en el Barrio on Sunday March 24. An all-day, outdoor, downtown street party and a benefit for community radio station KXCI (91.3 FM), the festival already has become a local tradition and something of a Tucson cultural touchstone.
And for the second year in a row, the Festival en el Barrio will take place in El Presidio Historic District, along North Meyer Avenue and adjacent to the Tucson Museum of Art – literally in the Old Pueblo. Vendors of food, drink and crafts will spread out over several blocks, while music is planned practically non-stop all afternoon, thanks to alternating performances on El Presidio Stage and the Tellez Street Stage around the corner.
The music starts about 1 p.m. with a performance by singer-songwriter Wolf Larsen, who recently has relocated to Tucson from San Francisco. Her meditative, melancholic 2011 indie folk album, Quiet at the Kitchen Door has given some listeners cause to call her the female Leonard Cohen.
Following Larsen, in order of appearance, will be Sweet Ghosts, a project focusing on the sweet, intricate folk-rock songs written and performed by Katherine Byrnes and Ryan Alfred; The Cordials, an irresistible pop-rock "supergroup" featuring members of influential local bands such as Silver Thread Trio, The Modeens, Seashell Radio and Saint Maybe, among others; Sun Bones, an engaging art-rock ensemble formerly known as Boreas; the exciting Latin jazz ensemble Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta; San Diego's B-Side Players, who meld funk, reggae, salsa and Brazilian music; Cincinnati-based Heartless Bastards, whose gritty, bluesy rock features explosive singer-songwriter-guitarist Erika Wennerstrom; New Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band, 30 years extant and still playing an inimitable concoction of New Orleans funk, second-line, R&B and jazz.
As usual, the event will close with a set by Tucson's mighty Calexico, a band that probably needs no introduction in these parts and is always up for playing a community event when not off performing around the world. Throughout the day, the esteemed Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School will play on the nearby Museum Stage.
As a KXCI volunteer, I have attended each iteration of the Festival en el Barrio in years past, and have enjoyed all thoroughly. The performances have been uniformly excellent, the events always well managed, and both weather and fellowship warm. It's definitely a highlight of Tucson's spring music season.
You can enter the festival starting at 12:30 p.m. next to the front patio of the Tucson Museum of Art, 166 W. Alameda St. No blankets, pets, chairs, weapons or outside food and drink will be allowed. However, you may bring an empty water bottle to fill up at the free water station.
General admission is $24 in advance at KXCI, the Rialto Theatre or rialtotheatre.com. On the day of the show, tickets will cost $27. KXCI members, by the way, get $4 off. And children under 10 get in free with a paid adult. You can also buy a VIP pass for $42, which will allow you to get comfortable in bleacher seating close to the stage, as well as access to private bathrooms and a private bartender. Call 740-1000 for more info.
The festival will close about 7 p.m., at which time you can head over to La Cocina, next door in the Old Town Artisans complex, 201 S. Court Ave., for the official Festival en el Barrio after-party with DJ Carl Hanni and special guest DJs, the identities of whom remained undisclosed at press time.
Playing a critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated combination of bluegrass, folk and country, Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are longtime favorites with local audiences. The duo will visit Tucson's far east side for a concert Saturday, March 23, at the Vail Theatre of the Arts, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.
Lewis is well known for her skills on fiddle and guitar, as well as for her gifts as a singer-songwriter in traditional American roots music. Rozum is a former Tucsonan (he played with the popular local act Summerdog in the 1970s) and multi-instrumentalist with rock and swing experience who partners with Lewis on mandolin.
The concert also will feature a performance by Nathan McEuen and Mark Robertson-Tessi. McEuen is a singer-songwriter and guitarist with six Americana-oriented albums to his credit and experience playing with everyone from Steve Martin to his father, John McEuen of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame. He'll be joined onstage by Robertson-Tessi, a former Tucsonan who has played with local bands such as The String Figures and Round the House.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $17 to $22 in advance at www.vtota.org/publicevents until 2 p.m. on day of show. You also can buy them by calling 879-3925. After 2 p.m. that day, they'll cost $20 to $25 at the door.
MORE MUSICAL MOMENTUM
Practicing a fresh new take on Southern rock is the Mississippi band The Weeks, who combine elements of soul, funk and swamp boogie with the chiming guitars of alt-rock and the heavy crunch of hard rock. Singer Cyle Barnes comes off like a fallen preacher, blues belter and soulful crooner. You can hear examples of this sound on the band's 2012 EP Gutter Gaunt Gangster (released on Serpents and Snakes Records, founded by Kings of Leon), but they also have a new full-length album, Dear Bo Jackson, due out in stores April 30.
If you dig such like-minded acts as Alabama Shakes, the Allman Brothers Band and Kings of Leon, you'll probably like The Weeks. They will play Saturday, March 23, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., with opening acts Jonny Fritz (formerly known as Jonny Corndawg), from Nashville, and Tucson's Lunar Light Collectors. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Call 798-198 for more information.
The Norwegian-American singer, dancer and yoga practitioner known as Solvei will play jazz, Latin, funk, world beat and rock music at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile. Solvei will perform with ZumaSOL, an all-star Tucson band feature percussionist Will Clipman, multi-instrumentalist Amo Chip Dabney, keyboards player Larry Redhouse and guitarist Fernando Romero.
Tickets for Solvei's concert cost $20, or $25 for special VIP seating and a meet-and-greet with the band. Call 207-2429 or visit www.montereycourtaz.com for more details, or to make reservations, which are suggested,
The Canadian guitar virtuoso Jesse Cook, who plays a combination of rumba, flamenco and salsa – with touch of new age spirituality – has been working steadily for more than 20 years and produced nine albums, the most recent of which is the melancholic and bluesy The Blue Guitar Sessions, released last year.
Cook will return to Tucson for a gig at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 27, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets cost from $25 to $45, with additional service charges. You can get them from the Fox box office or at foxtucsontheatre.com. Call 547-3040 for more info.
Finally, 28 years since its founding, the near-legendary Tucson punk band Bloodspasm will present its annual SpasmFest concert at 10 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave. It's a celebration of all things extreme in music, and itself has become a Tucson tradition – sort of the opposite extreme of Festival en el Barrio.
Bloodspasm still features four of members from its classic 1980s line-up, including singer Bob Spasm. This self-described "live fast die young hardcore punk band" will headline the fest, which also will showcase the vibrant, now sounds of Flying Donkey Punch, Great American Tragedy and Vanish Twin. It will only cost you $5 to get into the show, but you must be least 21. Call 882-0009 if you have further questions.