Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rockin' in the Barrio

Tucson hosted a great street party yesterday, just east of Simpson and Meyer. The second annual Fiesta en el Barrio Viejo was, as I overheard Peter Buck mentioning to his friends, a great deal - ten bands for about twenty bucks. Not to mention a chance to support one of the country's best public radio stations, KXCI.

I had to miss some of the best parts due to family obligations  - the opening set by the great Al Perry (sorry, Al) and most of the headlining set by Tucson's gift to the world, Calexico. But aside from the great food, I got a kick out of the whimsical tunes of the Baseball Project and the ad hoc supergroup that backed up Robyn Hitchcockat sunset.

The Baseball Project arose from a conversation between Steve Wynn (of the Dream Syndicate) and Scott McCaughey (of the Young Fresh Fellows) when R.E.M. were inducted into the RnR HoF. Given that Peter Buck was nearby, they invited him to play guitar in a collaboration that has so far grown to two full albums of songs about baseball. Yesterday afternoon they tossed off great yarns about Jackie Robinson, Roger Clemons, and others. My favorite, the rollicking "Panda and the Freak," celebrates Messrs. Sandoval and Lincecum of the current World Series champs.

Soon after the Baseball Project's set, the entire band - which includes the splendid drummer Linda Pitmon - backed up Hitchcock for a set of about a dozen originals and covers. My kids were thrilled to get to dance along with their favorite Robyn Hitchcock number, "Ole Tarantula." I was thrilled when Tucson's own Howe Gelb added guitar color to the sublime "Madonna of the Wasps." And everybody got a great laugh out of an acapella version of "Kung Fu Fighting," to which Hitchcock added improvised lyrics.

As the Fiesta has been such a great success, out-of-towners would be well advised to travel here next spring, and enjoy some world-class music in an intimate setting – along with the great weather we can boast of during this half of the year.

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