I don't care to eat alfalfa sprouts these days. One winter I shared a cold damp house in Olympia, Washington with three other impoverished vegan college hippies. We lived off whole wheat toast, unroasted organic Valencia peanut butter and alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts are cheap because you can grow them at home in a jar. Olympia gets twice the annual rainfall of Seattle and collectively we decided to keep the heat down below 65 degrees all winter so we could save money on utilities. Yikes. Looking back, it wasn't so bad being poor, cold and a little hungry. Eating simple food is not so bad when you are surrounded by artistic ideas and good friends. And when you are poor and in love, life can be very rich indeed. Nevertheless, I am still not eating alfalfa sprouts again. Ever.
When you're poor, young and inspired, you can get creative with food, and "Bean Dip For Two," a song by Justin Valdez proves this satisfying point. It's a tender ballad in which Valdez demonstrates that romantic love on a budget need not be miserable or cold. And the added visceral sensation of eating Fritos in bed, while relaxing with a loved one upon nice clean sheets only serves to build the poetic intrigue.
Valdez counts among his musical influences the very clever late Tucson original, Lalo Guerrero, author of "There's No Tortillas, There's Only Bread" which is sung to Elvis Presley's "It's Now Or Never." Valdez once noted that this particular Lalo Guerrero song did influence his own composition "Bean Dip For Two," and I find the similarities between the two songs are poetically striking.
To those who would say that there is no interesting music left these days, I say, "Feh!" Just look around the local Tucson scene. Lovers of independent acoustic flamenco punk need only check out Justin Valdez live on stage with his latest band, Los Tortilla Makers. Or for your home or car listening pleasure, you may wish to sample his CD "Deuce-Seven Off Suit." This is going at such a reasonable price that you will have money left over to buy food.
Besides "Bean Dip For Two," this disc has other cool songs like the enigmatic "She," the pathos invoking "Little By Little" and most importantly, "La Llorona." This last piece is Valdez's signature obra which underpins his intriguing telenovela style music video of the same title. Another Valdez music video classic, "In The Van," also gets included in this action packed CD. "In The Van," the music video gets reviewed right here on TRP. But don't take Lydia's word for it, check these clips out for yourself.
It's true I don't understand everything Justin Valdez says. But I know what "Yaqui Sieras" and "Ya-ta-hey!" mean, and you will too. Just get a Yaqui friend and a Navajo friend to explain it to you. Even if you don't yet personally know any Yaquis or Navajos, you may still be able to "get" vast quantities of Valdez's message if you have ever been in love, if you have had divorced parents, or know someone who does, if you ever had your car break down in a remote place, if you have ever been dissed by a member of the opposite sex, or if you have ever been glad to have someone special to wrap up close with after a romantic meal.
Justin Valdez y Los Tortilla Makers played Club Congress on Friday night, the first week of January, and they cast a flamenco spell upon their audience. The show opened with Tucson's prodigal son Rich Hopkins in reunion with the Luminarios. Then, following Justin Valdez y Los Tortilla Makers, local ska sensation, The Vexmen, brought plenty of horns and an island sound so infectious that middle aged social workers found themselves compelled to flail about aimlessly on the dance floor. Have I mentioned lately that I love this town?
Justin Valdez is known to some in Tucson from previous band incarnations such as The Last Call Brawlers. Members of his current syndicate have played together previously, so they know how to roll, and it shows. Eric Eulberg plays a precise rhythm guitar, and Joel Dunst is a highly respectable percussion section on his orange plastic bucket, a couple of rattles and one actual drum. There is a homemade yet ingeniously funny element to everything Justin Valdez does musically, and his show last night with Los Tortilla Makers was no exception. Check them out or find this cool music at Toxic Ranch or the 17th Street Market, or right here on TR&P.
- Lydia G.
The songs of Kevin Daly performed by friends, fans & fiends!
Arizona guitar hero Kevin Daly
has been playing kick ass music for a very long time. This compilation pays homage to the “great one” with several bands from all over America who have been inspired by, played music with, or have been lucky enough to hang out with Kevin over the years. Personally, I have always been a fan of his and was even fortunate enough to play a few of these songs with him in the past, so I was very excited when I was asked to take a listen and write something about it.
The CD kicks off with the song “Party with Me” by Chatterbox. The first thing that I thought of when I heard this was “this reminds me of the Devil Dogs.” It’s just a bad ass Rock N’ Rollin tune with great sing-along lyrics. Track three “Clear My Head” by Gerald Collier is an old Hellfire song that will get you running to the liquor cabinet in no time. “Here Kitty Kitty” has always been one of my favorite songs and Garage Shock sure does give it a nice new twist. “Hypnotized” by AL PENZONE aka EL FARO will do just that to you, and War Honey slowed down another personal favorite “Gone” into a pretty sweet blues version with some bad ass solos.
This CD spans over three decades of music and anyone who is into good old roots rock n’ roll, country, rockabilly or psychobilly should check it out. In fact, I think that this CD should create a whole new pack a rabid Kevin Daly fans for the future. GOD HELP US ALL!!!! Hats off to AL PENZONE for putting this together. Also guys, stay tuned for volumes two and three coming soon!
- Eric Eulogy
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Cheech and Chong threw a party and invited The Muppets? If Vicente Fernandez did a corrido with Bart Simpson? What if Nacho Libre had a pachanga with Monty Python's Flying Circus? Wonder no more. Behold the mind-product of Justin Valdez.
Three thumbs up for his newest music video "In the Van." We find ourselves, at the start of this short film, just tuning in to Channel 13 Nogales Public Access TV, at the top of the 2 a.m. spot, when Tio Juan's Barrio Fiesta Espectacular comes on in vivid color. Along with videographer Joe Kreidel, a handful of amigos and members of his own family, Valdez features a single from his album Deuce Seven Off Suit. Some may see this short film as just a crazy puppet show, yet others will probe this creative work for deeper socio-political meaning. Maybe it's there, maybe it's not. You decide.
Outrageously corny and deliciously absurd, Valdez uses home-made props, costumes, and his imagination to have fun with old stereotypes and Mexicanismos. These range from the sarape wearing campesino taking a nap on the ground, to an improvisational Jalisco-style hat dance, to a flock of rubber duckies sailing across a table cloth... Wait a minute... Why would rubber duckies moving in a stop-action animation flotilla be anything more than just cute? Only because each little yellow duck is dressed up as... you guessed it!! They are all little Mariachis with a tiny black sombrero and a mariachi outfit! Speaking as a claymation fan who believes that both Gumby and Mr. Bill deserve Academy Awards in the documentary genre, I find Mr. Valdez's short film to be worthwhile both from an artistic and a political standpoint.
In this, his latest Youtube video, Justin Valdez has captured the spirit of fun and adventure. Even his final visual image of a piñata set on fire is an evocative artistic statement; perhaps not intentionally symbolic, or perhaps an unexpected reference point with deeper existential meaning. Or maybe not. Maybe Justin and his buddies just like setting things on fire. If you were already planning to beat the crap (or should I say the candy) out of a paper mâché animal for entertainment, then there's nothing wrong with setting it on fire I suppose. Artistic statement or juvenile pyromania? You decide.
Valdez can be at once deceptively, even absurdly simplistic, and yet at the same time, artistically sophisticated. I don't think I am reading too much into this when I say that Valdez has given us pause to consider just who it is that he pokes fun at. Is it Mexicans? Mexican stereotypes? Gringos? Stereotypes Gringos have of Mexicans? Stereotypes of Gringos having stereotypes of Mexicans? Or all of the above?
On this point, Valdez says he is "not really making fun of one thing or one person specifically, just having a fun time. Besides, isn't that what music is supposed to be?" He adds, “‘In the Van’ is my personal favorite... I wrote it when I was trying to sell my old van." Valdez endorses borrowing from musical influences like “Wooly Bully,” “Land of 1,000 Dances” and “Low Rider.” To that, I say, whatever horchata he is drinking, pass it over, I'll have some too.
Gringos and Mexicans alike can agree that it's fun to watch this video, whether or not it has any deeper meaning. While Valdez claims that it just is what it is, I postulate that a highly humanistic and subliminally framed political and sociological message exists here, albeit perhaps an unintended one. Maybe Valdez is right, and it's nothing more than what meets the eye. Maybe the film is more than he says it is, and less than I say it is. Maybe we are both right. Watch this music video and then decide for yourself.
Okay, here is my analysis... I postulate that on some deeper level Valdez's sociological commentary is rooted in a similar creative impulse to that of Chris Rock, or standup comedian and political satirist Lenny Bruce. Recall that in the early 1960's, Bruce spoke up to the political vacuum that followed the US Supreme Court's Desegregation Act which in 1954, made segregation on the basis of race illegal in the United States. Bruce challenged persisting racist cultural hegemony when he stood up in a smoky and crowded nightclub filled with many African American patrons and asked, "Are there any N____rs here tonight?" Lenny Bruce used humor to not only poke fun at cultural stereotypes, but also to tear these stereotypes down. About half a century ago, Bruce predicted that the "N-word" would lose its harmful emotional impact if it could be co-opted and diffused through trivialization and overuse. Half a century later it seems his prediction has come true. I am not saying by any means that Valdez is taking shots at anyone, or that he would disregard the sentiments of any group in particular. On the contrary; he is making us laugh. And by laughter, we can all loosen up, come together, and move forward into the twenty-first Century more free of mental baggage than we might have been without his artistic assistance.
Such is the powerful effect of political satire to predict and define emerging cultural precepts. In a gentler and less excoriating fashion than what Lenny Bruce proposed, Valdez helps us to laugh at ourselves and our own presuppositions; a laughter that can only help us move forward into a post "White Majority" society. I see this as a good thing. The sooner we all get on the reality bus, the faster we can move forward as a society.
I doubt very much that Valdez is intentionally pursuing any sort of agenda other than to help us all laugh, and if we laugh at ourselves, so much the better. Intended or not, this video short adds to an emerging culture of inclusion, of celebration of difference and a relishing of tradition. Whether he is opening up our minds on purpose or not, it's all therapeutic. And it's fun. After all, no one can subvert the dominant paradigm more effectively than a sock- puppet.
- Lydia G.
When a woman in the audience throws a pair of panties at a male performer on stage I wonder if she planned ahead and brought along an extra pair. Or is this a spontaneous act of self sacrifice, and will she be free-styling her way home that night? It is true we can't know for sure whether panty-throwers plan ahead for coverage. Nor can we know whether the throwers are just kidding around or if they seriously offer undying love through this obscene but heartfelt gesture. The mystery confuses young and old alike. What we do know however, is that admirers of The Outlaw Rebels know good hip swinging action and good music when they see (uh - I mean hear) it.
The Outlaw Rebels are: Big Jim Becker (guitar, vocals), Rad Randy Bowler (lead guitar, vocals), Jammin Jim Wilson (lead vocals and hip action), Dago Red Fed- Federico Pennacchini (slap bass), and Mad Marco Pennacchini (yes, Fed's daddy-on wild monster drums).
The Outlaw Rebels have shared the stage with bands such as The El Camino Royales, Igor and the Red Elvises, The Reverend Horton Heat, Texas Trash and the Hangovers, The Fisters and PsyGoat. In May of 2011, while performing at The Hut with Jason Devore and Alien Jane, The Outlaw Rebels played under their alternate identity band name, The Jim Jams. Members of the Outlaw Rebels overlap with other Tucson bands. For example, Randy Bowler also performs along with Hank Norush, Bob Colvin and Jake Jakerson in Tucson's root rock surfer band The Furies. See The Furies review below.
All of the hip swinging ferocity and outrageous performance antics tend to bely the mild mannered pleasantness and basic human decency of the band members themselves. What panty throwers may not have guessed is that the Outlaw Rebels are polite and introverted gentlemen. The juxtaposition of unbridled sensuality combined with the self control
of technically precise musicianship is one reason these guys have so much style. I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Wilson has both yogic and operatic training. Besides swinging his hips in about 8 or 9 more directions than the average human does, Wilson can really carry a tune. The power, endurance and tenor of his lungs give his organs a fine representation for a hungry and appreciative audience.
And one might say that The Outlaw Rebels sense of humility is laced with just a pinch of bravado. Calling themselves "The Greatest Goddamn Rockabilly Band in the Universe" sets the performance bar pretty high. But the Outlaw Rebels are winning friends and influencing people wherever they go. Self described collectors of "influences from the rockabilly world," The Outlaw Rebels' musical sound is shaped by classic western swing, surf, jazz, punk and country, plus vintage rock and roll. The Outlaw Rebels strive to emulate the tenants of "kickass rockabilly," and have noted on their
Facebook page that their main interests are "drivin hard and fast." They also like leaning over the hood of an old pickup truck and showing us the back pockets of their jeans. To call them exhibitionists would be too far a stretch. These are mild mannered gentlemen of the human decency persuasion, who just happen to cut loose from time to time on stage. They probably all vote, pay taxes and occasionally go to church. So keep those panties under your slacks
ladies. Show a little respect.
All of The Outlaw Rebels persistence, networking and versatility has really grown this local Tucson band up over the past several years. For a small taste of the Outlaw Rebels live performance at Plush Lounge where they competed in this year's Raw awards, check out this clip.
The Outlaw Rebels got my vote, and incidentally, at the show you just saw, they did win the Raw Award, Tucson artist of the year 2012 for music. The Outlaw Rebels will perform in the near future in Los Angeles where they will be competing for the Raw Awards national title. We wish them luck in the big city.
Until then, check them out on Saturday, November 24 from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm at Nimbus Brewing Co. on on 44th.
- Lydia G.
Throughout the years, Mitch Bateman has gone where the music has called him: from tours across the U.S. and Europe, to the dive bars in Tucson and L.A., or wherever he calls home. And during this time, he has made a lot of friends through talent and personality. Now, Mitch is bringing it all together for his very first radio show.
Sponsored by Fat Wreck Chords, and featuring live interviews with Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, Bobby Steele of the original Misfits, live musical guest Devil's Hoax, and your phone calls, the show will be one-of-a-kind and is already generating a lot buzz in the punk rock community.
Be sure to tune in on Friday, November 23rd at 4-5 p.m. PST. The show will be streaming live from Mitch's FaceBook
page, it can be seen on Adrenaline radio's website http://www.adrenalineradio.com/
, and heard on Adrenaline radio station AM 1680 in Los Angeles.
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Who: Mitch Bateman
What: Radio show with guests
When: Friday, Nov. 23rd at 4 p.m. PST
Where: Streaming live from my Facebook page, Adrenalineradio.com or on the radio at AM 1680
TR&P: Mitch, how did the idea for the show come about, and how did it all come together with such great sponsors, guests and interviews?
MB: I had the idea for a radio show that just played punk, or any other kind of local music with heart. I thought it would be cool to talk with the older generation of guys, like Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, who I will be talking to on the show Friday. Luckily, I had met him in the past and had actually planned to have Chuck play bass in SEPO (my band), but unfortunately, he had too much going on with Sextet, his current band. As far as support, Fat Wreck Chords became interested after they heard what my show was about. Thanks to them, I am able to give away some cool stuff to fans who call in. Also, I will have (local band) Devil's Hoax playing the show on Friday, November 23rd at 4-5 p.m. PST. The guitarist for Devil's Hoax is also the drummer of SEPO and owns Ill Music Studios, where I record. Plus, it is not confirmed yet, but it looks like Charles Manson may call in with a live San Quentin weather report.
TR&P: What else do you have in the works?
MB: I have two new SEPO albums recorded, one released, and a New York tour set-up for late December, early January. I will be playing L.A. a lot within the next couple of months. I also have a side project, "Anti Human Movement," which is me singing and Alex, the singer of DOYLE, Doyle of the Misfits's new band, playing guitar. All of those songs can be found on You Tube by typing Anti Human Movement in the search engine.
Hey surfer kids, are you ready for wild fun in the sand, big curly waves, and some hot sweaty dancing? The Furies are in town, so grab your surfboard and let's go to the beach!
Don't worry; I'm not talking about an insipid, sicky sweet Beach Boys type beach (nothing personal Beach Boys, but when I hear your sound I just feel too relaxed to dance). I'm talking about a new, but classic, rock and roll sound that is groovy, gritty, hard driving and psycho-surf style. It’s like Dick Dale having a musical conversation with The Clash, and then they get into a sand wrestling match with The Reverend Horton Heat. It's a pure surfer sound with extra spiciness like it's been simmered on low in crazy hot surfer sauce. There’s nothing stoic about them. These guys don't so much play music so much as they rip it from their instruments like a bear stripping bark off a tree.
Surf music is an American art form exemplified, and The Furies made it happen right here in Tucson before a crowd of energized surfaholics. The legend making show took place Friday, October 19th, 2012, when they shared the Plush stage with the trancy and nuanced Little Red Lung from Los Angeles, and the Old Pueblo's own abnormally sophisticated Mission Creeps. The Furies are proving themselves to finicky music connoisseurs to be an interesting, talented, cohesive, fun, and dance-able new band.
The Furies lineup features the Outlaw Rebels overlap Randy Bowler on mean-ass guitar, the handsome Jake Jakerson on guitar and vocals, the fierce Hank Norush on bass guitar and on surfadelic psycho drums, the wild-eyed madman Bob Colvin.
Most surf type bands have a great drummer and some fun guitars. So why are The Furies so special? To command this American art form, a band has to have a visceral, kishka--grabbing beat. The beat must be primitive enough to be relevant to the human limbic system and yet tantric enough to reach into the frontal cortex and engage the human imagination. The Furies' guitar sound is full, sweet and tangy, with hard sustained lusciousness that had me begging for more. They are burning up with passionate spiritual heat and a quintessential grooviness of sound that made me come - along for the ride.
The band plays well together too. There wasn't one extra person on the stage that was superfluous, and if they had added anyone else that would have been too much. So it was that their sound had the perfect fullness and complexity while still maintaining the sparseness and essential primitivity that is true to the surf genre. I won't get bored with The Furies any time soon, and I'm keeping my purple swim suit and my sunscreen ready for the next time they hit the beach, ah, I mean the stage, with their rip roaring psychotropic fun.
The Furies played at Plush on Friday night, October 19th, 2012. While checking out the show, Lydia Goldman caught up with local slap bass genius madman Federico Pennacchini, of The Outlaw Rebels, to probe his thoughts on art, music, Tucson, and the economics of making a go of the music biz here in the Old Pueblo.
LG: Fed, I know you as a member of The Outlaw Rebels and speaking as an artist, how would you characterize your sound?
Fed: Well, The Outlaw Rebels are into surf music and punk, but also influenced by rockabilly, Americana, some hillbilly country perhaps, and even a little blues and possibly even a tiny bit of a jazz influence.
LG: Okay. As a member of the Outlaw Rebels and as your own person, what are you looking to achieve creatively in your role as an artist, and personally for yourself?
Fed: Well I think basically what I want for myself is just to help develop and perform good new music, add to the art form if I can, keep it vibrant and alive. And also I guess as a musician, as musicians, we are all just trying to achieve the same things as everybody else wants out of life for the most part. Just like anybody else. You've got to make enough money to cover your expenses, your daily bread, and then still have enough left over to support some kind of a personal life, you know, a romantic interest of some kind.
LG: Right, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.
Fed: No, not really. Like all of us aspire to somehow be able to escape from our day jobs, and be able to spring out of the middle class grind so to speak..... (To be a musician) you've got to take it seriously. There are bands playing here in Tucson, local bands, which are as good if not better than any of the big names that are out there touring right now. But they are practically unheard of still. Yeah. It’s a tough business to be in. I mean it's fun, but it's not all fun and games. You've got to take it seriously, just like any other professional job. Music is no more difficult than any other career, but you've got to take it seriously, that's all.
LG: I see. So then in terms of the economy for music here in Tucson, I understand it’s not easy to make it here, even for really good musicians, right?
Fed: In Tucson, the maximum capacity for most of these places is like 200 people at most. To get a venue with a bigger capacity, like to really make anything worthwhile off your gig, you really need to get a place that holds like twice that, four hundred or five hundred, and there really just isn't any place like that around here, not for the kind of music we're playing anyway. I mean, to have it make sense economically, you've got to treat it like a job. The only people here in Tucson who are really having any kind of economic success are the ones who are taking it out of town.
LG: You mean like to Phoenix or LA? I understand that some of the bands who aren't necessarily making it big here in Tucson are actually selling their recordings, and having a little more success in terms of their live shows over in Europe. Is that true?
Fed: Yeah, that's true actually. Like Al Foul and Randy (Bowler) are actually selling pretty well right now over there......yeah there's more of a market over there in Germany, in England, Japan, Australia... then there is here.
LG: So let me get this straight. You're saying there's a bigger market for independent American music like surf, Americana and rockabilly OUTSIDE the United States than inside the States right now?
Fed: Yeah, that's right. It's been that way now for a long time, years in fact.
LG: I see. So what would you say then to the aspiring young Tucson musician who is just starting out? Would you tell them to just forget about it, stay home, or stay the hell out?
Fed: No, of course not. I'm not saying that at all. What I mean is, just think of it as a job, like any job. Think of it like you would think of say, engineering, or law, or anything else. You've got to take it seriously. It's a forty hour a week commitment at least. You've got to try to line up your gigs as close together as possible, so you put your shows as much back to back as possible. Like instead of doing one show over here and another one over there, you've got to maximize your billable hours. Like if you're going to do a cross country tour, you're not going to be paying for hotel rooms every night, what you've got to do is get yourself a little trailer or a little rig and minimize your expenses that way so you can make it make sense. You've got to treat it just like a job, like any other job.
LG: So what about you, what's your day job and where do you stand in all this business?
Fed: Well, I consider myself really lucky actually because I didn't start out in the rock and roll business. I got my start in optical engineering see. (Fed relates the story of how he supported himself through graduate school by working in research and tech companies, and how he still does some engineering consulting on the side, in addition to his musical responsibilities with The Outlaw Rebels, etc.)
LG: So what you’re saying is that it helps to have some life skills, some technical or occupational or professional skills outside the field of music before you start in order to be successful within the field of music?
Fed: Yeah, for me personally, I am kind of glad that music wasn't my first and only career, like you've got to know how to balance a checkbook and that kind of thing. I feel sorry for some of the guys who have never known anything else before trying to break into the music business, because without previous life experiences, a lot of them are......going to have it rough all the way.
LG: Well thank you so much, Federico, I'm sure we'll be seeing more of the Outlaw Rebels in the near future. Tell me about what's coming up next from the Outlaw Rebels in Tucson?
Fed: Sure, any time. As a matter of fact, we're going to be playing right here at Plush on November 15th, but you can find a bunch more of our upcoming shows and stuff on our website...... www.theoutlawrebels.com.
- Lydia G.
Pre-feminist legend holds that there are some men smart girls grow up to marry, but then there are the men we just love from afar. Al Perry is one such man for me. As I wallow in grief over losing a friend to an evil brain tumor, I turn to Al Perry, the silent type, whose core values system is linked with my own through shared experience. A philosopher musician who has battled his own demons in this lifetime, Al's a knowing listener. Everything he's ever done, he's done the hard way.
Most of you who know Al Perry know him as a local Tucson icon of punk-acoustic musicianship, as a sardonic songwriting talent, a philosophical cowboy who has given new definition to the terms pathos and irony. Early Al Perry songs include the upbeat "Glue Sniffing Revival," the romantic “I Think So Too," and his rockabilly instrumental hit “El Con Malo” (an instrumental take off on the El Con Mall) featuring his band The Cattle. Then there is Al's divinely humorous bitter side, exemplified by songs like "Congratulations, (you may already be a loser).” And while Fish Karma wrote and sings “Die Like a Dog,” Al Perry did a pretty mean cover of this beast in his hootenanny days.
But Al Perry isn't all fun and games. He does documentary short video films too, like his postmodern “Occupy Tucson” and more recently, his reverential “Burnt Cane Road,” an exploration of music and scenery from the 99% folks of the Mississippi Delta. Al is running for president this year on the Republican ticket (really? Jim Nintzel said it, and Rachel Maddow quoted it so it must be true), he has a radio show on KXCI and he writes reviews for the Tucson Weekly.
To truly understand the real Al Perry, it helps to know a little something about Tucson back in the days before cell phones, text messaging and Facebook. In the late twentieth century, when Brits had Margaret Thatcher to complain about, and Americans had Nancy Reagan with her “Just Say No” agenda, the worst thing that could happen to you if a condom broke was an unplanned pregnancy. AIDS did not really exist for us yet and neither did the widespread use of meth, spice or bath salts, which are to the human brain like termites to an old wooden house. In that simpler, more innocent time, we thought LSD, cocaine and marijuana was all there was, and as the MTV empire was born, the Berlin Wall came down, but not of its own accord. The wall came down brick by brick because it was torn down by fearless German youth who gave enough of a crap to make it happen.
What started in Eastern Europe and Great Britain spread in a photon wave of artistic enthusiasm, across the Atlantic Ocean, dissipating much of its political integrity and artistic autonomy along the way, while picking up some weird new twists. What landed in New York and Los Angeles drifted on the wind and sprouted like a magic seed of rebellion right here in the Old Pueblo, where it cross pollinated with Mexican music and emerged into the even more magical sound we have today. The punk and new wave side of the bloodline of these musical seeds came from bands like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedy’s, Devo, the B-52’s, the Talking Heads, the Residents and the New York Dolls. These were the bands that mattered, and somebody had to lay the groundwork to weave the sound of then into the sound that is now. Al Perry just happened to be one of those somebodies.
My younger brother Michael and I knew Al Perry as a hero we could look up to. We came of age when the nascent but irresistible punk rock and new wave scene sprouted like mushrooms among the night clubs and weird little shops which dotted the Fourth Avenue and downtown Tucson landscape. In those days, Tucson’s city center was a decrepit wasteland, and Fourth Avenue was known mainly as a place where you could buy great used clothing, organic food, and where hippies congregated to buy and sell pot. Now, downtown Tucson is a decrepit wasteland of torn up streets. And Fourth Avenue has become a place where you can buy great used clothing, organic food, and where college kids go to purchase things that are much worse for your brain than pot.
Back then, the pedestrian underpass that linked Fourth Avenue with Downtown was much narrower than it is now, and more distinctly urine scented. Hotel Congress existed then, but wasn’t the hipster Mecca that it is now. And they didn't have great food then. The Rialto Theater was boarded up and haunted. Before that, the Rialto was alleged to have been a trashy porn palace. The Chicago Store and Wig-o-Rama were pretty much where they are now, because apparently wigs and guitars never go out of style. Most of the rest of downtown is completely different now. Apart from the new streetcar rail (which is going to be cool once it's done and once there are sufficient warning signs to protect bicyclists), downtown is now safer and cleaner than it once was, while managing to be equally interesting.
So lawless and desolate a place was downtown Tucson in those days, it was possible to skateboard the streets and sidewalks with impunity. Law enforcement was more of a suggestion than an actual fact, and a young person didn't need to be twenty-one to get into a bar. Eighteen was the legal drinking age, and if you were sixteen, reasonably polite, had a fake ID, and parents who were not paying close attention, you could get in to the bars. But it wasn't the booze we were there for. It was the music.
Pearls Hurricane Bar existed in those days, as did Tumbleweeds and the Night Train. Records were made of vinyl and places to buy them were The Record Room, Zips and Al Bum's 1. Amidst this romantic backdrop there were the bands: the River Roses, the Phantom Limbs, Green on Red, Giant Sand Worms (Howe Gelb's precursor band to Giant Sand -some of who later split off and formed Calexico). There were cool bands from LA like X and many others. All these were part of the Tucson scene.
Al's influence was subtle, and off stage he was not an outspoken personality, but he always held sway. In those days, Al looked, to me, like a sophisticated older man, working behind the desk at the Hotel Congress, while holding the keys of Tucson’s musical culture in his hand. He seemed to know everyone who was worth knowing, and a few who probably weren't. An underground hipster musician, a man of few words, Al Perry was desk clerk by day, rock star by night. Tall and lanky, handsome and quirky, his broad smile could fill a room with sunshine, and his coppery blond hair had just a little bit of natural curl.
Al befriended my brother, an aspiring punk rock musician at the time, and introduced him musically to Johnny Cash. Before Michael met Al Perry, there were no Johnny Cash records in our house. We had my dad’s Grateful Dead records, my mom’s Beatles and all kinds of folk music left over from my parents' hippy college days. Post Perry, the punk and new wave records and the Johnny Cash records hit our house via my brother right about the same time. Johnny Cash was a master. His sound was incomparable. He had craftsmanship; he had a message; he had it all. There is a way to weave that concentration and spirituality together so that your message, if you do have one, and you should, can reach people where they live, and bring them back home to their true inner selves.
Al Perry has taken the reaching out part seriously, but the bringing it back home to himself he has sort of overlooked, due to some peculiar personality trait I will call humility, possibly self effacement. There is a consistent underselling of self that is possibly the hallmark of Al Perry’s unique school of relentless artistic autonomy. He hasn’t just tried to steer clear of overproduction, slickness, and marketability, he has outright rejected the slightest possibility of selling himself anywhere to anyone under any circumstances. It’s as if he has something against being rich and famous. It's as if his commitment to obscurity and invisibility trumps any other core value, besides perhaps intelligence and authenticity. Al Perry has proven that if you really try, you can be an incredibly good musician and still remain practically unknown among the very youth whose musical culture you have painstakingly built from the ground upwards.
Even back then, as a young man, Al had a lot of mystery surrounding him. How he came up with his songs and the way that he played them. His unique brand of clever irony and iconoclastic self-deprecatory philosophical musings were unknown to ordinary people like me. My brother once told me, when we were both still teenagers, that Al Perry used to drink eight or nine pots of coffee a day while working at Hotel Congress. I imagined that this couldn't possibly be true, and from a cardiac perspective it just makes no sense that someone could drink that much coffee and still be alive. And yet here he is; living proof that the rules of normal human physiology can be broken and people can live to tell about it. What I didn't know about Al Perry back in those days, I still don't know now. He's not a big fan of revealing himself to others, even to those he counts among his closest acquaintances. He's not much of a talker, but he's a pretty good listener. He is irony, pathos, self effacement, self knowledge and self critic. Nothing he does is ever good enough for him.
We don't get second or third chances to live life all over again. In my dreams, I am still a young girl of seventeen whose devious use of a fake ID has procured entrance into amazing dens of sound. In moments of silent reverie, I can still see Al Perry, the lanky strawberry blond cowboy with his humble mannerisms, his amazing grin and his pots of coffee, placidly working his way through the day behind the front desk of the Hotel Congress, or strumming his acoustic guitar under a sparkling spotlight. The grin is still there, the red hair and the sense of humor persist, and the lanky cowboy strums a guitar under a spotlight that remains the same.
Let a younger generation of artists, philosophers and musicians know you Al. Don’t deprive America’s youth of the message of cowboy simplicity and iconoclastic antiestablishmentarianism that you represent. We need you more than ever Al, perhaps not as the next President of the United States, but definitely as a Cowboy Punk Folk Hero Philosopher. We need you more than ever. 1 Howard Salmon (2005) print compilation SLIT FANZINE & TUCSON'S NEW MUSIC SCENE 1980 -1981, Howard Salmon Publisher, www.howardsalmon.com
Tucson Records' first show, Acoustic Assault, turned out to be a great night of live acoustic country and punk. Kevin Daly, Hank Topless, Al Perry, Loren Dircks, Logan Greene, Eric Eulogy, and Justin Valdez all performed incredibly, and the show overall had a cool kind of "Mumford & Sons meets Hank Williams" sort of feel. You definitely won't want to miss the next show: Last Call Brawlers and The Jons at Surly Wench on Saturday, October 20th. -SG
Enjoy these photos and feel free to share!
Photos by Micki Hernandez
Photo by Dominic Bonuccelli
What Tucson-based, retro-surf punk band captures the meaning of death in a way that brings life back to The Old Pueblo? Which band grasps the cultural importance of the weird, the bizarre, the demented and the fun? Who puts the nouveau back into new wave, making creepiness their mission statement? The Mission Creeps, that's who. Tucson's the place that brought you the original Pills and The Phantom Limbs. Of course Tucson would be the birthplace of the imaginative Mission Creeps.
The Creeps' artistic core is comprised of James Arrr, who is in charge of lead guitar and vocals, and the sultry, sporty and elegantly detached Miss Frankie Stein on bass guitar. The addition of Karen Meanie Mahina on keyboard and Scary Terry Kyte on percussion brings an extra touch of creepiness that really allows this band to assume dominion over the stage and the audience as well. The Mission Creeps played at Fourth Avenue's Surly Wench Pub this past Thursday, October 11, as a a fund raiser for the annual Dia de Los Muertos All Soul's Procession.
The Mission Creeps possess a David Byrne, Talking Heads-style quirkiness that I especially appreciate in an era of boring overproduced popular music. They bring a unique mixture of vintage film-noire hokiness layered upon a more "traditional" alt-indi surf-punk modus that Tucson is known for. Ambiance is their thing too. A black and white cameo film appearance of the corpulent super-vixen Divine (H Glenn Milstead), of John Water's 1972 transgressive black comedy exploitation film Pink Flamingos, appears momentarily overhead on the stage backdrop as the Mission Creeps play a song somehow related to to the topic of meat. Here the lovely Devine is caught in the act (almost) of committing perhaps the most lewd supermarket crime ever captured on film. Nice touch, I thought. In addition to those few famous "meat market moments" (not the really good part, just a few contemplative moments leading up to it) of performance art by Devine, the AV overhead cinematic parallel universe projector device also brought us some cool footage of the recent audio recording of paranormal activity at the Oliver House.
As if the event were not interesting enough, there was also face painting being offered and many of the staff and patrons sported really super nice deadly skeleton features as they went about their business being staff and patrons of Surly Wench Pub. Those of us who anticipate having a sweaty time whenever dance music is being offered took a pass on the face paint. In my case I'm glad I did, because the music moved me around in such a way that I was a slick mess of perspiration within minutes. The danceability quotient of the Mission Creeps is quite high, making them one of my favorite local bands from now on. Thank you Mission Creeps for being quirkadelic and creepy in a good way.
If you missed the Zombie Walk last Saturday, don't freak out, stay calm. The Mission Creeps are scheduled to play Plush this Friday, October 19th, then Surly Wench on the following Friday, October 26th, and some other places which are nice and obscure. Stay tuned to the Mission Creeps upcoming Creep Missions at missioncreeps.com