Hunky Dory

Despite the chaos, a revamped Sugar High and a renamed 40 Watt Las Vegas debut; meanwhile, James Hall spreads the gospel.

Music, like everything else, came to an uneasy standstill this week in light of the East Coast terrorist attacks. Among the major changes to the local concert calendar were the postponement of Blink 182's September 13 Mesa Amphitheater show (the concert has been rescheduled for the 20th), while tickets sales for Tool's upcoming Valley appearance were also pushed back a week. Of course none of those occurrences was as off-putting as the freaky coincidence of having Washington, D.C., indie rockers Burning Airlines play in Tempe the night of the tragedy, or a long-planned gig by Austin's Explosions in the Sky at Modified just a couple days later.

But local music, like life, goes on, and we lead this week's Bash & Pop with news of the return of Sugar High. The Valley power-poppers, who played their last show during the New Timesmusic showcase in April, have rebounded from the loss of guitarist Jason Garcia and are set to release their long-awaited and much delayed full-length debut.

The album, Saccharin & Trust (the title is lifted from a David Bowie song on Hunky Dory) was produced by ex-Pollen mates Bob Hoag and Kevin Scanlon and has been sitting in the can for much of the year -- its release delayed, in part, by Garcia's decision to leave the group this past spring.

Now comes word that the band has regrouped and added a new axman in Amir Neubach, formerly of Brickyard. They've also tweaked several tracks on the disc, adding Neubach's guitar and vocals to two cuts ("Genevelyn" and "Used to Be") and are readying the album's final mastering, sequence and artwork.

Sugar High debuts its revamped lineup this weekend, with a show that was originally supposed to double as a CD release party. As it turns out, the band won't have the discs ready in time for the upcoming gig, but look for an official release to happen sometime in November.

Sugar High performs this Saturday, September 22, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with Haggis, Vic Masters and Velveteen Dream. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, ex-Sugar High six stringer Jason Garcia has been busy with his own project. Garcia's current group, Red Letter, was recently forced to change its name (apparently a female hippie troupe in Maryland already owned the moniker) to 40 Watt Las Vegas. In addition to Garcia, 40 Watt includes drummer Bobby Lerma, a veteran of local punkers The Voice.

The newly renamed combo has completed a three-song EP titled Ode to Coco Lopez, which the band will be giving away during its September 28 gig at Hollywood Alley. The show will also feature performances from the Loud Americans and Neighbor's Dog, an Orange County, California, outfit featuring former members of punk/hardcore notables White Caps, Guttermouth and U.S. Bombs. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Pleasure Forever: There have always been those performers whose reputations are built largely on word-of-mouth. And Southern noir-soulman James Hall is surely one of them. Along with his backing band the Pleasure Club, Hall has made a series of unforgettable pilgrimages to the Valley, where he's wowed audiences with a fervent brand of onstage charisma and sartorial style.

This week he steps back onto the local stage for a special show celebrating the release of his latest album The Trick -- a haunting 12-track exorcism of twisting funk, rock and blues.

An Atlanta native who began his career fronting alt-goth group Mary My Hope, Hall went solo in the early '90s, and his career since then has pretty much followed the standard arc of the criminally unsung artist.

He made one album, 1993's My Love, Sex and Spirit, for Indigo Girl Amy Ray's Daemon label, before signing with Geffen Records and recording the masterful Pleasure Club in 1996. Staking out on his own after parting ways with Geffen, Hall earned a reputation as a mesmerizing performer capable of holding his own opening for showstoppers like Rage Against the Machine.

On record, Hall comes off like a funkier Nick Cave or a less contrived David Bowie -- his music a tangled mess of dark sinew and soul. Hall proves himself worthy of such references with Tricktracks, like "High Steppin'" -- and its faint echo of the Who's "Eminent Front" -- and the disc's highlight, the anthemic tent revival tale "Here Comes the Trick." Elsewhere, the singer's jittery, edgy vocal style works especially well on creeping groove workouts like "Marble Coast" and the gospel-tinged call and response of "Shout!"

James Hall and Pleasure Club are scheduled to perform on Friday, September 21, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, along with horn merchants The Glory Revival and trash rockers the Sonic Thrills.

Also of note, the Thrills are back down to a quartet after guitarist Neil Impossible -- who joined the band at the beginning of the year -- bowed out of the group a few weeks back to start his own project.

Showtime for the Hall-Revival-Thrills three-way is 9 p.m.

 
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