I went down to Tucson several evenings last week in preparation for the upcoming Festival. I rehearsed with Rick and Michael and it went so well, we have all relaxed a bit (probably a bad idea). But we’ll do it again soon, because we want to be ready. We perform Sunday May 1 at 5:30PM on the Plaza Stage. The Tucson Folk festival is a free event and I encourage all my area friends to check it out.
Saturday night I drove down to Tucson to the Hotel Congress (where they nabbed John Dillinger) to EmCee a benefit fund-raiser concert for our Tucson Folk Festival. They called it “FOLK-A-PALOOZA” and it was supposed to be outdoors. HOWEVER, it rained all day and was cold as a well-digger’s butt out there, so we moved it inside to “Club Congress” which is a small dance hall in the Hotel. But the weather had thinned the crowd so we all fit. But that also meant we didn’t raise much loot. I think the Hotel made more on the bar than we got in contributions. Anyway, there were four acts on stage that night and all of them were good. The first two were “seasoned performers” (older folks like me) my friends’ bands – “The Last Call Girls” and “Carnivaleros” – both quite good, and the second two, comprised of some very talented “20-somethings”.
“The Last Call Girls” are perhaps Tucson’s best good-time party band. With a sound that blends honky-tonk, zideco and folk, these musicians can really rock the house. My friend Kevin Schramm plays accordion with the band and he really dances with it. This time I got to listen closely to the fiddle player Tom Rhodes. He’s a virtuoso. Excellent work.
“Carnivaleros” manages to produce a “big band” sound with only 5 members. But once you see who those members are and hear their stuff, it’s quite understandable. I have long admired Mitzi Cowell’s guitar work. She’s a real blues player. But this time I was able to follow closely the saxophone work of Carla Brownlee. Be it alto, tenor or baritone sax, she made ’em sing. Outstanding. You may not know this, but I played saxophone in school – 5 years on bari-sax.
A trio of young women called “Free Range Folk” performed together for the first time. Namoli Brennet, Leila Lopez & Courtney Robbins blended well with guitars, bass and vocals, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them together more in the coming months.
The last act, Brian Lopez, was unique. To me, Brian resembles Bob Dylan in his early years. His band was interesting: Drums, Upright Bass, Cello, Violin, and himself on guitar (both classical and electric). They played a couple old traditional Latin tunes that really rocked. With the right material, this group could make a living. I was intrigued at how during the other bands performances, folks danced, but for this one, they stood still and watched.
It was a long night but a good one.