Last month's closure of Tempe's Balboa Café was yet another damaging blow to a local music scene suffering from a dearth of venues with progressive booking policies. Over the past year, the club had hosted an array of eclectic shows, ranging from weirdo New Wave legend Jonathan Richman and California neo-surf band the Mother Hips to singer/songwriters like Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Buckner.
But the saddest result of Balboa's demise is that it also brings an end to the weekly acoustic performances from neo-country tunesmith Jim Beach. A former member of the Hucklebones and current leader of the Dialectrics, Beach is one of the Valley's most overlooked and underappreciated talents. Beach is a singular vocalist with a gift for writing penetrating tales of soured romance and despair. He is probably most recognized for his participation in a recent series of high-profile tribute concerts staged at the Balboa.
The moody weekday atmosphere of the club proved a perfect match for Beach's introspective country callings. Performing regularly as a solo act, the latter stages of Beach's residency brought with it the arrival of local musician/sound guru Jamal Ruhe on drums and vocals. The two, playing mostly unrehearsed, filled sets by drawing on a mix of classics and beautifully scarred originals such as the cutting "Juniper."
The cast was further expanded in April with the participation of gospel pianist Matt Mahr and jazzman Will Lovell on bass. The sparse accompaniment and ragged spontaneity brought out a nuance and depth in Beach's work that the bar band heroics of the Dialectrics never fully revealed.
Aside from a promo-only Dialectrics EP released in 1998, little of the singer's work has reached the public's ears. With that in mind, Beach, at Ruhe's urging, recently gathered the makeshift combo to lay down tracks for a solo album.
The songs were recorded on a portable eight-track at Beach's home -- an approach ideally suited to the unadorned confessional nature of the material -- over a two-day period. Ruhe, who also produced the sessions, says the collection, done mostly live, includes nine Beach originals, a cover of Willie Nelson's "Angel" and the traditional "Green Pastures."
In addition to the core ensemble, steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse (a former Grievous Angel and touring mate of Sally Timms, the Waco Brothers, and Neko Case, among others) also guests on the record.
Word is that any number of Rauhouse's alt-country connections would be willing to snap up the disc and release it, likely by the end of the year.
It still remains for Ruhe to mix the tracks, something he plans to do within the next couple of weeks at an as-yet-undetermined location. He may complete the project at Tempe's Mayberry Studios, where he's also set to work on mixes for Reuben's Accomplice's full-length debut, I Blame the Scenery.
For those who have yet to glimpse Beach and company in action, the group will be opening Los Guys' weekly Long Wong's sets during the first two Sundays in July. Before that, the band will appear as part of an excellent Modified triple bill with Juarez and headlined by Chicago's Handsome Family (see the story on page 100) on Wednesday, June 28.
An important side note: As of this writing, the Beach-led troupe has not yet decided on a name for the outfit, but is apparently leaning toward using the moniker Medium or the Charles II-tinged The Restoration. In the meantime, Beach plans to revive the quasi-dormant Dialectrics, which includes bassist Steve Flores and drummer Andy Mendoza, for a handful of shows. Flores and Mendoza have been occupying their time as part of guitarist Greg Simmons' Royal Normans.
Singles Going Steady: Expect a new release from local indie rock faves Jimmy Eat World in early August. The forthcoming disc is not the much-anticipated follow-up to the group's 1998 Capitol Records offering Clarity, but rather a singles collection, titled, appropriately enough, Singles. The disc, set to appear on the Boston-based Big Wheel Recreation label, includes a dozen hard-to-find and out-of-print Jimmy Eat World seven-inch cuts and compilation rarities. The band will follow that with a split EP featuring Aussie popsters Jebediah on August 22.
Meanwhile, JEW is still in the process of writing and preproduction for its next long player. As we reported in a January piece focusing on group front man Jimmy Adkins' orchestral-pop side project, Go Big Casino (which opened last week's Juliana Hatfield show), the group has not, as yet, aligned itself with a label, and may in fact release the disc itself.
On the performing front, JEW is tentatively set to headline a late July bill at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, and word is the band may make an unbilled weeknight appearance at the venue in the coming weeks as well.
Naughty, Naughty: With Tucson's venerable Club Congress no longer hosting live music (a concept that seems inconceivable to Old Pueblo natives like myself), it will, with any luck, mean more frequent Valley appearances for some of Tucson's finer talents. One artist who's been coming to town with increasing regularity is rockabilly shouter Al Foul (see "Rod Fellows," page 19). Foul and his backing band the Shakes make a stop at the Rhythm Room on Tuesday, June 27. A peerless front man with a shaman-like charisma, Foul works a catalogue of songs with some of the raciest lyrics this side of Andre Williams. Equally naughty retro-cats the Last Call Brawlers (of "Let's Get Drunk and Fuck" fame) open the show. All the ribald fun carries a mere $3 cover charge.
Al Foul and the Shakes are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, June 27, at the Rhythm Room, with the Last Call Brawlers. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Throwing Fitz: Local-music aficionados will no doubt recognize the name Ridgley Fitzsimmons. Ridgley, as he's known to all who love and fear his acerbic tongue, is a veteran barman and scenester (and lead vocalist for the mythical Bastard Camp). Despite a well-deserved reputation for serving searing barbs in equal proportion to Budweiser, Fitzsimmons is a genuine fan and friend to local musicians of all stripes. In celebration of his birthday, Nita's Hideaway is opening its doors for a free concert featuring some of the Valley's best and brightest including Truckers on Speed, Gloritone, Grave Danger, and the Piersons, among others.
The Ridgley Fitzsimmons Birthday Extravaganza featuring performances by Grave Danger, Piersons, Gloritone, and Truckers on Speed is scheduled for Friday, June 23, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is free.
Back Sliders: Those foolish enough to miss the recent Valley appearance of Hollywood Records artists Tsar (including yours truly) can stop cursing themselves, as the infectious glam-pop combo makes a quick return to town this week with a pair of performances. First off is a Wednesday, June 28, bill at the Green Room in Tempe, with Mammoth Records artists Frankie Machine. Local wonders Sugar High and Big Blue Couch will open the all-ages show, set to start at 9 p.m. Tsar will follow the Tempe appearance with a show the next night, Thursday, June 29, at the Mason Jar. Tsar's self-titled debut, originally set for release last week, has been pushed back and won't see store shelves until July 25.
Those Crazy Canucks: "Challenging" is a description often used to describe NoMeansNo, the long-running Victoria, British Columbia, outfit led by the Wright brothers -- bassist/vocalist Rob and drummer/vocalist John. But the truth is the "challenging" tag is just a rock writer's euphemism for "weird." Certainly that's the most accurate characterization of the group's disconcerting hybrid of punk, jazz, metal and funk, or the surreal lyrical quality of songs like "Rags and Bones" and "Two Lips, Two Lungs and One Tongue" -- both of which appear on the group's monumental 1989 jazz-core masterpiece Wrong.
NoMeansNo will release its umpteenth album for Jello Biafra's San Fran-based Alternative Tentacles label this fall. The eight-song disc (and double LP vinyl), No One, will be available in early September. Before heading for a tour of Europe, the group will make a rare Valley appearance this Friday at the Hollywood Alley in Mesa. The members of NoMeansNo would be well-advised to ditch the priest/court jester/R. Crumb imitator look from their publicity pics (above), as we're fairly certain that such an appearance is a violation of several Mesa statutes.
NoMeansNo is scheduled to perform on Friday, June 23, at the Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with Removal, and Death Takes a Holiday. Showtime is 8 p.m.
LSMFT, LSMFT: Bash & Pop cannot lie. The job of "music critic" comes with a number of really good perks. Essentially, I'm paid to listen to records, watch bands, get drinks comped and say cruel things about people like Gene Simmons. So it's no wonder that every once in a while pangs of guilt will surface over the relative enjoyment I derive from my "work." In an effort to quiet a nagging conscience, I've decided to close this week's column with a public service announcement for a Valley antismoking effort.
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However, it would be hypocritical if I didn't at least acknowledge my ideological opposition to the cause -- as I, like many others, feel smoking to be synonymous and integral to both the art and ambiance of rock 'n' roll. And, hey, who among us doesn't enjoy the benefits of a postcoital Camel or like to light up a butt after ingesting a huge vial of crack? Sorta takes the edge off, y'know?
Still and all, "Teen TV," a multimedia club of Mesa youth, is putting out a call to local bands to contribute songs for a compilation called Clear the Air. As the press release states, "The purpose of this project is to motivate youth not to smoke and to educate the public on the effects of secondhand smoke." Grand idea, and who better than a bunch of musicians -- historically a real health-conscious group of folks -- to expound upon those particular dangers?
While the songs aren't required to have a direct antismoking message, entries must be free of profanity or "improper" subject matter. So any aspiring rappers wishing to enter a song along the lines of "Smoke That Ass" are pretty much screwed on both counts.
All entries must be submitted on either DAT or CD on or before August 22 and sent to:
The Mesa Partnership for Tobacco-Free Youth & Community
c/o Teen TV
145 North Centennial Way, Suite 110A
Mesa, AZ 85201