PORT O' CRAWL: TUCSON

Do you know who Ward Dotson is? Well, I can tell you his girlfriend writes the letters column in Hustler, which probably doesn't help much. But before we get into Ward--and you should get into Ward--be aware that this is a special Thanksgiving column, dedicated to what yours truly did over the least crass and disgusting of all American holidays. Yes, I spent my time being crass and disgusting, hanging out with a couple of bands (Mother May I from Washington, D.C., and XC-NN from London), engaged in a valiant attempt to smoke every Merit and Camel Light cigarette and drink every pint of Guinness and bottle of Miller in Tucson. At least, all they had at the Hotel Congress.

Both bands played last Friday at the hotel's Club Congress, the same place where Dillinger once performed a wicked set of Robert Johnson tunes before Hoover's G-men busted in and nixed the original public enemy's action midshow. The stuff of legend.

But back to the weekend. After both bands did memorable in-studio bits on KUKQ-AM with the Hardest Working Man in Radio, Jonathan L., we made it down to Tucson. Headed for Chicago Music, an ancient store filled with incredibly cheesy--and occasionally decent--instruments worth about one-third of the marked prices. After test-riding a $450 cymbal with M.M.I.'s drummer Rob ("If I'm payin' $450 for a cymbal, it better be a gong"), I walked back onto the steet and ran smack into, yes, Ward Dotson. The same one whose girlfriend writes the letters column in Hustler.

The dope on Ward: One of the finest songwriters going (dig the review of the latest from his band, the Liquor Giants, in next week's Recordings), he was the main force in the stupendous Pontiac Brothers, did time in the Young Fresh Fellows and Gun Club, too. The last time I saw this guy was about five years ago in New York, when he and roughly three other people came to see a band I was in at CBGB. I remember during our set the owner's dog pooped in the middle of the floor, and the place was so empty, no one stepped in it all night. But that's another story.

Fast forward to last Friday night in Tucson. I was standing in the club with Ward, girlfriend-of-letters, various XC-NN Brits and Ned Beatty and the Inbreds' own Russ and Dan (catch the 'breds sets at Old Town Tempe Festival of the Arts this Saturday and Sunday). Mother was onstage, did a monster of a set. You should see the band when it hits Phoenix in January to support its debut, Splitsville, a monster of an album. I'll be honest and admit I'm biased; I was actually in this band a long time ago. Though this wasn't the CBGB dog-poop band.

XC-NN was up next, and if you think everything currently out of England is lightweight, artsy-disco crap, you haven't heard this group. Listen to KUKQ for a dose. The band's front man, Dave--at the bar a diminutive, quiet, articulate lad--was a snarling, writhing bastard onstage. Damn close to mesmerizing without borrowing many licks from others of his ilk. And Nick the bass player wore a home-lettered softball shirt that proclaimed "Debbie." What more could you want? Those of you who caught the show (with pretentious headliner Sponge) last Saturday night at Mesa's Nile Theater know of what I write.

Of course, the real fun began postshow, when about 30 people crowded into one of the character-ridden (read: beautifully dilapidated) upstairs hotel rooms for an absolute mess of a sing-along. Three acoustic guitars. One snare drum. Much beer. The Beatles catalogue never sounded quite like this. But I've got to hand it to the Congress' management: Despite repeated threats from the beleaguered front-desk guy, no one ever called the cops. Sometime during the wee-est of hours, things really began to fall apart, objects made out of glass started to break, someone was sealed in a bathroom after zany pranksters wedged a bed in front of the door, many people found speaking--let alone singing--difficult. I made it to my room and turned on the radio; the lack of TV is a nice Congress touch. Pulled out pen and paper and tried to write down some insightful things about the evening so this column wouldn't read like a run-down on some adolescent beer party. Then the Judds came on and I fell asleep instead. Sorry. On the 'zine Front: Those of you who've been around here for a few years may remember a New Times music writer by the name of Eric Searleman. His byline appeared in this section from '83 to '88, at which point he admits that "five years of Megadeth, Corrosion of Conformity and Voivod can twist a guy's brain--especially when he wants to listen to Louis Prima and Sammy Davis Jr." Searleman finally bailed on the rock-crit biz to pursue a career in writing and drawing comics. His first solo effort has just been released. Jazzbo!, "Comics That Swing," from Slave Labor Graphics, is something you need to read. As a draftsman, Searleman is simple, straightforward and effective. His stories are all first-person, slice-of-life tales (life as a newsroom flunky, the pain of kidney stones, how he became a music critic), somewhere between the antihipster paranoia of Dan Clowes, the frustrated introspection of Harvey Pekar and the general nihilism of R. Crumb. Those are the big three when it comes to the monotony-of-average-life-as-comic-art game, good company to be in. Look for Jazzbo! at local comic stores, or write Searleman at 102 West Mariposa, Phoenix, AZ 85103.

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