When I was a small boy, I was relatively certain "The Safety Dance" was about a dance, possibly the one they were doing in the video. When I was a slightly larger boy, someone said, "No, it's about nuclear war, possibly the one at the end of the video," which was a little distressing. When I was as large a boy as I was going to get, someone told me, "No, it's about [giggles] sex," which was very distressing, and a little gross. (Probably because of the giggling.)
As it turns out, Wikipedia tells me it's just about a dance, or maybe dancing. But you'll be able to ask the lead Man Without Hat at Joe's Grotto this week. (View our complete concert calendar here.)
Human Behavior - Trunk Space - Monday, August 26
Tucson's Human Behavior is in the business of making you feel more uncomfortable while a banjo is playing than you're typically accustomed to feeling. All the elements are there for a more typical banjo experience -- close harmonies, light drumming, restrained, quiet peaks.
You could assemble a folk-pop crossover band with these parts -- it's just that the end result wouldn't sound right at all, even if you were sure everything was in the right place. In songs like "I'm Sorry You're Saul" everything's a little off-kilter -- the voice is just a little too close to your ears, and the harmonies are somehow discomfiting and euphonious all at once, and the things he's singing about have little to do with, well, banjo topics. (Their new album, called Golgotha, has songs called "Yeshua at 12" and "I'm Sorry, Hosanna," if you'd like a taste of what they talk about instead.)
Everyone's voice is just about to crack, but it's not with sadness so much as resignation. They're joined at the Trunk Space by Phoenix's Empire of the Bear, who on Big Size deploy a less unusual combination of loud, distorted guitars and a similar, if slightly less creepy resignation.
Men Without Hats - Joe's Grotto - Tuesday, August 27
Say what you will about Men Without Hats, but they're under no illusions as to why you're even a little intrigued about their 2013 tour: Their official website is headquartered atsafetydance.com
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. On a large scale being so relentlessly "in on the joke" -- their Wikipedia page has a current photo with members "ironically wearing hats" -- can be grating, but I'm going to allow it for Men Without Hats, who haven't attempted to, say, release a viral hat-wearing video, or a novelty song called "Twerk Goes the World."
And they're right. "Pop Goes the World" is going to be in my head for the rest of the week as a direct result of this write-up, and Rhythm of Youth is a fun album. But if you pay the $15 to see them (with Jake Ryan, an '80s tribute band named after the jerk who wooed Molly Ringwald instead of me in Sixteen Candles, and locals While She Waits, who could not be any different from Men Without Hats) you're probably waiting to hear "Safety Dance" and do the safety dance. There are worse reasons to go out on a Tuesday.
The Polyphonic Spree - Crescent Ballroom - Tuesday, August 27
Wildly psychedelic, stylishly dressed, always uplifting in spirit (so much that some considered them just another wayward Texas cult), The Polyphonic Spree has kept a relatively low profile lately. The band has been holed up in leader Tim DeLaughter's home studio jamming the night away -- but the pop-psych veterans also simply have been trying to figure out how to viably survive.
Since The Fragile Army was released six years ago, DeLaughter formed another band, Preteen Zenith, had another child, released a Christmas album with the Spree, and begged for money to keep going -- that is, turned to Kickstarter to finance the recently released Yes, It's True.
"There were just different things happening, and it just prolonged us from releasing a record," DeLaughter says by phone from Salt Lake City. -- Glenn BurnSilver
The Prowling Kind Record Release Show - Crescent Ballroom - Thursday, August 29
You'll never guess who said that. No, not Norman Vincent Peale -- Pamela Anderson said that! See how this low-expectations thing works?
On a night where loathing everything came easy and liking anything new seemed doubtful, I caught The Prowling Kind -- which turned out to be a pretty great discovery. This despite sporting a cutesy band name and two instruments that have a lot to answer for these days: The banjo, for obvious reasons that don't even address minstrel shows and Deliverance, and the glockenspiel, which has supplied more forced sensitivity onto emo records than anyone even needed.
Yet The Prowling Kind overcame all that within seconds of seeing Mickey Louise Pangburn hammering the strings of her Les Paul goldtop with her fingertips like she was Steve Howe or Bert Jansch.
Then she previewed "Babycakes" thusly: "This song is about running from state-to-state for 15 years hiding out from my ex-convict dad." Not even Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison had an intro so, well, fulsome. -- --Serene Dominic Read the full feature in this week's Phoenix New Times.
The Palisades - Trunk Space - Thursday, August 29
Some bands -- not necessarily hard rock or metal bands -- take an obvious, infectious delight in playing their instruments very loudly. The Palisades, out of Washington state, are one of those bands. They're two guitars that people would call intricate if they weren't turned all the way up, a rhythm section that plays like it's aware of how loud the guitars are, and a lead singer who alternates between yelling over the proceedings and singing under them.
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It's important (if not necessarily vital) to be playing good songs loudly. The Palisades, operating at the desperate pitch of, say, Cursive, are more than melodic enough to make you enjoy the loudness as much as they do. Which is pretty important.