Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Soundbites

By Lisa Weeks

JULY 28, 1997:  ON THE ROAD: Last Friday, The Duarte Six departed for San Diego in their newly registered van, to join Crash Worship for a six-week tour of the nation. San Diego and Crash Worship was the destination of Chris Wassel, who until recently was the drummer for our own Chick Cashman and His Countrypolitans. It's a sweet plum of a tour for the experimental local noisemakers, especially considering it's their first one--they anticipate playing to venues with capacities averaging around 1,000. Needless to say, Duarte Six are pretty jazzed about the opportunity to share their unique vision with such a wide audience...not to mention getting out of town, and out of the heat, for a while.

In a recent conversation with Manelito (he requested I refer to him by this name), it was revealed that the opening gigs for Crash Worship came around rather unexpectedly, much to their surprise and excitement. "We're all really looking forward to it--there's just so much to do to get ready," he said at an interview last week at local pirate radio outlet Radio Limbo. The band, which has been pointedly absent from local stages of late, has been rushing around making preparations, getting posters printed, and gathering saleable merchandise, including their recent release, Command Performances. In general, they've been busy gearing up for this next, well-deserved step in their musical careers. How long will it be before we're hearing their music in a Nike ad? Perhaps not long....

The Duarte Six released Command Performances on Tucson label Bloat Records last March. True to form, the disc is a "post wave" farrago of instrumental intonations reminiscent of '60s surf, '80s noise and new wave, with hints of nearly everything in between--all which blends together into something resembling a soundtrack to a film about avant garde lifestyle in these disenfranchised late '90s.

Command Performances gets the prize for some of the most creative and obscure song titles around: "count chonchula," "practions," "spuros condos" and "municipal plunge" all hint that their music is as much about the art of performance as the art of noise. In their absence, if you're impatient for Duarte Six indulgence, pick up a copy of Command Performances at Toxic Ranch or most other record stores around town.

IN REVIEW: Last week I gave the thumbs up to the Son Volt/Varnaline bill in Tempe on Saturday, July 19, at the Electric Ballroom. I hate to say it, but Son Volt gave a lackluster performance to what appeared to be close to a sellout crowd, dragging their way through ballad after ballad, only to come up short by the time they moved on to slightly more energetic material. They failed to build any tension, create any wonder or exude any stage presence--which would have been fine had they been playing in the corner of a neighborhood bar somewhere, but on a stage still fresh with the imprint of a stunning Wilco performance, they just didn't cut the mustard. Son Volt never seemed to find their stride, and I had the distinct impression they weren't really looking for it. Forget "No Depression," this was just plain depressing. And disappointing, especially after the raves of last year's Rialto show that I didn't get to see.

Varnaline turned out an opening set of slightly broader and more lively dimensions, but ultimately failed to recapture the ragged brilliance of their May performance at the Airport Lounge, owing in part to their less inspired set list--which was perhaps engineered to better blend with the low-voltage headliner's reigned-in sound. If necessary, it seemed nonetheless a mistake--the marked contrast of which they've proven themselves capable would have taken the room from slow buzz to slaphappy intoxication. As would've turning UP the guitar, which was frequently muffled by the astounding but overpowering rhythm section.

The Ballroom has a mighty big stage to fill, and whoever was in charge of lighting for both bands either didn't show up for work or spent most of the night getting drunk at the pool tables. It was also Varnaline's first night opening for Son Volt, after touring extensively throughout the spring with little opportunity to rest. Even so, neither band managed to distract the audience enough to quiet the din of conversation that played like white noise in the background all night. Had Varnaline come out full-on, trading some of their (many) ballads for stronger options like "Velocity," there's no doubt in my mind that they would have stolen the show. As it was, their performance was definitely stronger, more versatile, and more engaging than Son Volt's tepid offerings...except, perhaps, to the ears of the most loyal Uncle Tupelo hold-outs. (Who brought that guy who kept yelling Whiskey Bottle!, anyway?)

NO FIBBERS, NO LIE: For those who may have heard a rumor that the Geraldine Fibbers were headed to Tucson for an August 1 show at the Club Congress, 'tis not to be. Apparently their management was none too pleased with the slated opening band Kara's Flowers, who initially were scheduled to headline at the Club on a different night. Show business being the dice roll it often is, Kara's Flowers had to be rescheduled to open for the Fibbers. This didn't set well with the Fibber's booking agent, who, unwilling to compromise, created a fuss--L.A. style--with Club management, who in turn, quite understandably, told said agent to book his band where the sun don't shine quite as much as it does here in Tucson.

A new event has been planned for August 1, co-sponsored by KFMA, featuring Reprise recording artist Kara's Flowers, and opening bands yet to be announced. Other highlights of the evening to come will be 92-cent drink specials. Look for details in next week's Soundbites. In the meantime, plan to head out to the Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., for the return of the Paladins with--and really, who could possibly be more appropriate--the fun-loving, hard-living and even harder rocking Al Foul and the Shakes. Watch your drinks, ladies and gentlemen, because these tipsy table dancers have been known to knock a few back and then knock a few over in the truest spirit of rowdy rock-and-roll. The Paladins are practically regulars here in the Old Pueblo, making their round of Tucson stages on an almost quarterly basis. The show is Sunday, July 27, and though tickets are a trifle steep at $7 in advance, $9 on the day of the show, this should be a good one. Call 622-8848 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs with special guest Tim "Steelbone" Cook make the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave., the last stop on their six-week tour, performing at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 26. Steelbone, who has previously performed with the Beatfarmers, Camper Van Beethoven and The Pleasure Barons, is no newcomer to Tucson--back in the '70s country heyday, he was something of a regular around town. Call 628-8844 for more information.

Monsoon Madness, which has been growing in size and intensity with each consecutive Thursday, continues July 24 with Project Slim and the Instant Martians performing from 7 to 10:30 p.m. on Fourth Avenue's Winsett Park stage, between Seventh and Eighth streets. As always, it's free and open to all ages.

If you've come to accept the static radio programming as status quo, you might want to take that dial for a spin around 8 p.m. Should you be fortunate enough to live within range, 103.3 FM is the magic number.

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