Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Normal Bean Band/Top Dead Center/David Gans - Rialto Theater - Feb. 13

The Rialto Theater is an old movie house from the 1920's in downtown Tucson that has been converted into a performance space. Looking at the posters on the wall in the lobby, I learned that many of my favorite bands have performed there over the past few years. Last night's lineup was David Gans (journalist, host of Sirius/XM's "Tales from the Golden Road", and musician), Top Dead Center (a Tucson based Grateful Dead cover band), and the Normal Bean Band (a truly weird and fun band from California I guess).

Mr. Gans started things off with his solo performance, playing electric guitar (with loops) and singing. He did some original songs, some Dead tunes, and "Down to Eugene" a song I really like that I first heard John Kadlicek play last fall. As more folks arrived in the Theater Mr. Gans was joined by the Top Dead Center Band and they began a set of Dead songs. This band is quite good, they say that they're not a tribute band or a cover band they just try to recreate the feeling of a Dead show. They have two drummers, two guitar players, and bassist and keyboardist. On this particular night they were joined by a woman playing electric violin who was also quite good (I couldn't catch her name). Mr. Gans played with them for three or four songs and he came out for their finale ("We Bid You Goodnight").  Top Dead Center's set included "Alabama Getaway", "Bertha" and a very nice version of "Mississippi Half Step".

Then the Normal Bean Band took the stage, led by Mr. Normal Bean who sings and plays guitar. This band also has an electric violinist, along with bass, drums and a guy that plays the washtub. They also have a woman who sings some background vocals but mainly dances in front of the band. They started with  a rocking version of "All Along the Watchtower", with Mr. Bean playing some tasty guitar leads. Soon into their set they brought out most of the members of Top Dead Center to join them and they performed a wide range of songs including "Fire on the Mountain", "Run Through the Jungle", and "Another Brick in the Wall". Mr. Bean led the way with his guitar playing, but encouraged all of the other  7 or 8 musicians on the stage to take solos throughout the set.

Although the crowd was small the overall vibe was good feelings and great music, a nice way to spend Valentine's Day Eve with the one you love.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Todd Snider - Club Congress - February 1, 2012

Last night we went to the Club Congress in downtown Tucson to see Todd Snider. We checked out this great music venue the last time we were in Tucson a couple of years ago. It's an interesting place that fills the first floor of an historic old hotel, there's a small barroom, an outside cafe, and the music room, which also has a bar. There's even a coffee bar for folks more interested in caffeine and desserts. Todd Snider has attracted an increased amount of my attention over the last few years, this was my first opportunity to see him perform, save for a brief appearance on the small stage at All Good about three or four years ago. He calls his music "stoner folkie" but I say that he's more like a modern day John Prine. There's also an element to his style that is reminiscent of the "talking blues" made popular by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Most of his songs are stories, some quite funny, some very touching, many are both. He does mostly all originals but there were a few covers last night. I particularly like "Alcohol and Pills", "Beer Run -> Age like Wine", and one called "Kids" from his new album to be released in a couple of weeks. His roadie opened the encore with a killer Elvis impersonation ("Don't Be Cruel"). This was our first live music adventure since establishing our winter base camp in Tucson and Todd Snider was a great way to kick things off. For my friends back on the east coast, Todd will be playing at the Rams Head in Annapolis and the Jefferson Theater next week, I strongly recommend that you check him out.