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Local bands that make the grade

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Summer Wildcat
Camp Courageous lead singer Danny Moreno jams with bandmates during a late-night rehearsal session downtown.
By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
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If you're a music fan in Arizona, chances are you know that music is not really the state's thing. Sure, we have Alice Cooper, Jimmy Eat World and hometown greats Calexico, but Arizona is still leaps and bounds away from being a music hotspot on the level of New York. Despite this, Tucson is still home to some of the best local acts anywhere. While this list is nowhere near exhaustive, we can recommend the following acts in good conscience.

Al Foul

This mutton-chopped, slick-haired madman of rockabilly is one of Tucson's greatest live treasures. Al is a Boston transplant fully capable of captivating crowds with his brash brand of usually loud and occasionally offensive tunes that range in sound from psycho-billy (i.e. demented rockabilly) to venomous country shaker.

Al (like most local acts) favors requests and covers - like a fantastic take on Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" - which affords die-hards a chance to hear their favorites. One of the pleasing things about Al Foul is there is little disparity between what you hear on record and what you see live. In both instances the music is sloppy, unrehearsed and wonderful.

With two albums - the recent The One, The Only and the older Spank That Ass - Al has built up a fairly religious following of hipsters, who flock to his shows to dance, sing along and roll cigarettes up their sleeves. Live, Al is usually backed by a stand-up bassist and bare-bones drummer (armed with a snare and crash cymbal) making for a completely immediate and surprisingly bombastic aural experience. Plus - to put it in the dialect of his native Boston - he usually looks wicked awesome with a cigarette tucked into his guitar strings. To find out more about Al Foul check out

Campo Bravo

Campo Bravo is Tucson's answer to Bright Eyes (without the whiny emo-angst). In other words, Campo Bravo is less a full band and more the brainchild of one man, Mark Matos. A traveling musician and talented songster, Matos has settled in Tucson to record and perform some of the country's finest Americana. His songs run the gamut of tones and sounds, but are generally folkish with occasional sonic flourishes. Despite being mainly acoustic, Campo Bravo's music is surprisingly layered and complex. On the wonderful record Songs for Messy Lovers, the sound is equal parts Wilco and Radiohead.

Seen live, Campo Bravo always fascinates, whether it is Matos playing a solo set or a full band setup that can include up to seven members (including the talented Amy Rude).

Matos is an exceptional musician and extremely gifted wordsmith, which provides each of his songs with different qualities to appreciate, from the rambling word poetry of Bob Dylan to the swirling, acoustic folk of Iron & Wine. To find out more about Campo Bravo check out

Camp Courageous

Camp Courageous is a band that acts and performs, with good reason, like a brotherhood. Made up of high school friends that have since moved on to the UA, Camp Courageous is as tight musically and personally as any of the local acts you are likely to see.

The sound of Camp Courageous is not easily categorized, which is refreshing in a culture dominated by genres like garage-rock, nu-metal and hip-hop. Lead singer Danny Moreno's voice is often compared to those of female singers, as well as that of the late great Jeff Buckley.

The band's varied influences combine to make a musical stew that sounds something like jazz, but also something like rock and occasionally something like pop. Though it only has a handful of EPs to date, the band will be releasing a CD and performing at Club Congress Sept. 16. The show will be a great opportunity to check out firsthand the band that Wildcat reporter Kylee Dawson claims it "takes balls to be in." To find our more about Camp Courageous check out:

The Deludes

The Deludes have the unfortunate ability to evoke tired descriptions like "garage-rock," "fantastic" and "thrilling" from music journalists. All of these descriptions sell short Tucson's finest rock band (I'll restrain from any excessive qualifiers).

Surely, one of the best things about The Deludes is the fact that the band's live energy and enthusiasm translate perfectly to its record, Jim Waters Presents ... The Deludes. Though the title hints at the band's lighter side, make no mistake about it: These guys bring the heat. Their songs are almost always loud and exciting, and the band is always a treat to watch live thanks largely to the tremendous guitar work of Larry Warwro and the jubilantly spastic drumming of Ryan Nixon.

Even watching The Deludes as openers to some of the national acts that stroll through town is a "thrilling" experience. The group always holds its own and certainly has earned its place as Tucson's premiere local rock act by consistently bringing big, meaty hooks and jerky time-shifts into what is essentially greasy, fun rock music. For more information on The Deludes check out:

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