Friday the 13th is No Longer Unlucky

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(Above: Jason Devore of Authority Zero)

Friday the 13th roared into The Rock with an alternative monsoon soundtrack. I didn’t see a black cat or break a mirror yet the storms still steered clear of the Old Pueblo that night. The humidity was up, the heat had sunk deep into the bone, and the clouds taunted us. Then the boys from Mesa, Authority Zero, whipped through town like a cool breeze on their Rhythm and Booze Tour. They headlined a thoroughly Arizonan line-up featuring Contraband, Despondency Denied, Orange Kids, and the Three White Lies. We might not have gotten a downpour but we got a lot of rhythm and booze.
For such an infamous date, the theme of the night seemed to be hope for renewal and transformation. The tone was struck by a single act of kindness from Jeremy Wood, the bassist of Authority Zero. Jeremy Wood has always been a big supporter of local music and he showed it on the 13th. When the bassist for Despondency Denied couldn’t play the show, the band was, excuse the pun, despondent. Then Jeremy Wood strapped on his bass and jammed with them for their set. Image

(Above: Jeremy of Authority Zero joins Despondency Denied in the first set of the evening)

I talked to the guys of Despondency Denied to ask about how it felt to play alongside Jeremy Wood. They were over the moon about it. Boston, the guitarist and vocalist, said that Wood was a “phenomenal bass player” who “filled the void” in their lineup. Brett, the drummer, thought “we’d have a train wreck” without their bassist Kat. Instead of a train wreck, the cavalry arrived in the form of a bassist from Mesa. Boston confided that there were moments when he wanted to stop playing just so he could listen to Jeremy Wood’s bass. That night, they didn’t “want that last song.”

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After three years jamming together, on both sad and fun songs, their original message of denying despondency has remained intact. According to Boston, Despondency Denied produces music that tells its listeners “don’t give up on anything.” It’s a philosophy that the Despondency guys take seriously. Despite the Tucson PD shutting down their garage practice sessions, Despondency Denied will keep playing on. As Brett said, “the mirror of life will balance the pain.” Check them out at the Hut on the 28th and online where you can find free downloads at their Facebook and Reverbnation pages.

The pursuit of hope seemed to weave its way into the other acts. As I grooved behind the Rock’s bar fence, cold Pabst in hand, the tight and melodic songs of the OrangeKids sent a refreshing, anthemic current through the crowd. OrangeKids are a new band to me, but I appreciated their vibe. I didn’t get an interview with them but they passed the sobriety test- aka I can listen to them sober and still enjoy their tunes. Their album Suporma, under the Flying Blanket Recordings label, is dropping this summer. You can also listen to them at soundcloud.com. They hope “to unify people through love and music by delivering messages of peace and oneness.” Who could argue with that?

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(Above: writer Sami Gardner interviews Maury Morales and Jaime Gryszkin of Contraband)

I know that Contraband wouldn’t. When I sat down with the rowdy boys of Contraband on the humid back patio, I couldn’t have predicted where our conversation would go. Vulgar rock, teaching English in Russia, and male nipples were just a few of the noteworthy topics that Contraband had an opinion on. I can’t lay all the blame at their feet; I did ask guitarist Jaime Gryszkin about his new nipple piercings. (In case you were wondering, they are doing just fine.) I did manage to ask them serious, hard hitting journalistic questions… Okay, fine, I only asked them one serious question. What were they trying to say with their music? They wanted to remind people not to lose hope and vulgar rock and roll is still alive in Tucson.

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(Above: Michael and Tim from Contraband)

Contraband is a band in the grips of transformation. They weathered the usual band member rotation with ease. They even still get songs from past members such as Prison Bound, which was written by their former drummer who is a current prisoner of the state of Arizona. Seemingly like your typical rock band, they tell you to fight the power and that their music is “down to fuck.” Behind the scenes, the band has been working at evolving their style. They have been refining their music and moving closer to punk and hardcore. What does this mean for you, the gentle reader and music lover? If you loved Contraband’s hardcore side, then you should check out For or Against, which features some Contraband alumni including Maury Morales and Jaime Gryszkin. Before local music fans take to the streets in distress, Maury assured me that Contraband is like a phoenix. It always comes back in one way or another. To tide you over, see For or Against at the Hut on August 31st or look for Contraband on Oliver Saul’s Metal Compilation Vol. 2 in December.

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(Above: Contraband)

Going from the heat of the patio into the sauna-like conditions in the bar, I listened to Contraband playing their farewell set. Contraband might have been morphing and changing but, on Friday the 13th, they were captured and frozen in time by our photographers.

Between sets, I was lucky enough to catch Authority Zero’s Jeremy Wood mingling on the patio and he was nice enough to answer a few questions. I asked him about filling in for the bassist for Despondency Denied. His first response was just as humble and gracious as the rest of his answers. Jeremy told me that he always has a moment to help out another band. He also had a good time jamming with the Despondency guys. We discussed the Rhythm and Booze Tour, which is acoustic, and Jeremy described the tour as turning “punk into jazz.” Tucson was their second stop on the tour. They were heading to El Paso next and since they were driving through New Mexico, we ended up talking about the fantastic food that you can find on the road. Jeremy says that he enjoys checking out the local fare on tour especially if it involves green chiles. With his set coming up, I knew that I had to wrap up our
interview, but I asked him what he’d like to share tonight with his music. His answer echoed the hopeful message of this so-called unlucky day. “Make it work somehow.”

With my interviews finished, my notes tidied up, and the Three White Lies beginning their set, I was free to jam out. Three White Lies, a trio composed of Kenny, Andrew, and Randy, has been around the scene for a few years. They play music to get people excited, armed with their loud vocals and energy-packed riffs. After playing with guys like Bowling for Soup and Krum Bums, they know how to work a hot, sweaty, and increasingly smelly rock crowd.

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(Above: Authority Zero’s guitars, prepped for Rhythm and Booze)

The sky teased the crowd as they waited for Authority Zero to play. The couple of drops that managed to escape evaporation above our desert pueblo brought no relief to those wanting to escape the heat. Once Authority Zero began their sound checks, even the most determined smoker put out their butts and headed inside to the packed venue. Jason DeVore’s voice dominated the acoustic performance. DeVore’s high-energy vocals blended well with the laid back instrumentals to keep the beat up and the rhythm cool. The technical precision of the band makes their mix of rock, ska, punk and reggae seem effortless. The set might have been unplugged but there was something electric about that night at the Rock. And no, I’m not talking about the monsoon heat lightning. “Tucson is a hard scene,” Brett of Despondency Denied told me, “there are so many talented musicians.” That was proven on Friday the 13th.

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(Above: Authority Zero)

A solid lineup of some great Arizona rock kept the summer heat off our minds even as we sweated out our beer and waited for the storm. In the hush before a monsoon, when the mesquite leaves curl up and the river toads stir underground, the whole desert takes a deep breath and makes a collective wish for rain. That hope, so fragile in the dry summer sun, is being nurtured. That hope is in the music escaping through the cracks of a door. It’s in a simple act of kindness from a stranger. It’s in the embrace of a new friend. That hope is still alive and well if you know what to listen for. On Saturday the 14th, as I began to write this article, the sky opened up and the rain poured down . The city exhaled as hope was reaffirmed. And, in the distance, a man from Mesa is playing his bass as the desert sky cries.

–Article written by Sami Gardner, photos by Kirstin Sholty

More photos here.