Tucson Is a Place for Music
For the music fan, Tucson will quickly feel like home.
When you think of American cities known for music, sure, names like Nashville, Memphis, Seattle and Austin will come to mind, and for good reason. However, for the music fan, Tucson might end up feeling like a new spiritual home.
Video Playlist: Tucson musicians showcasing the city in their videos
The first name that probably jumps to mind in connection with Tucson music is likely Linda Ronstadt, who grew up in Tucson, left for Los Angeles to hang with the Eagles, but did return frequently, using her Tucson upbringing as an inspiration for her three Spanish-language albums, including the Grammy-winning (and multi-platinum) Canciones de Mi Padre. The traditional mariachi sounds reflected on that album (and its follow-up, Mas Canciones) are seemingly everywhere in Tucson, whether coming out of the hall of local high schools where the style is taught or tableside at some Mexican restaurants. If you want to delve further into the world of mariachi (or just want to see the best in the genre perform), Tucson is host to the Tucson International Mariachi Conference each April, which includes concerts, workshops, and even a Mariachi Mass.
Tucson's current musical legacy stretches far beyond just mariachi, however - although the influence of Mexican traditional music does show up here and there. Indie rock legends Giant Sand and Calexico still make their home here in between world tours (no joke, both bands are internationally famous). Sergio Mendoza is in seemingly a hundred bands - ok, maybe four or five - but his female-fronted Spanish language act Los Hijos de la Montaña's first album was picked as one of Apple Music's best of 2015, his big band tribute to the brassy sounds of 1950s Mexico - Y La Orkesta - has been featured on NPR, and he's also a part of Mexrrissey, a Latin-alternative supergroup paying tribute to the dramatic frontman of The Smiths. Plus, there's a constant stream of bands seemingly ready for the big time, like Run Boy Run, Katie Haverly, Lando Chill, Xixa and many, many more.
Tucson's current musical legacy stretches far beyond just mariachi.
Video Playlist: Tucson Musicians
Those acts are often featured on influential community non-commercial radio station KXCI, whose shows and programming spotlight local, national and international artists that don't make it on commercial radio, in genres from gospel to punk. You can stream KXCI's broadcast any time for free. Plus, you can hear local music - plus an incredible selection of big (and very nearly big) acts - at downtown venues like the historic Hotel Congress (built in 1919 and a home for nearly every type of music for over 30 years), the Rialto Theatre (where acts including Lake Street Drive, They Might Be Giants and Elvis Costello are on the schedule for early 2016), the Flycatcher and more. WhoPlaysWhere.com is a great site to see when and where to catch shows at premiere music venues in Tucson or at a local restaurant.
Here's a playlist of local Tucson acts that have played on 91.3 KXCI's show Locals Only hosted by Matt Milner and Sophie Gibson-Rush. You can catch Locals Only every Monday night from 8 to 10. The show features a live performance most nights during the 9 o'clock hour.
Tucson also has a number of recording studios that have been the home to a remarkable list of artists. Wavelab, frequently the home of Calexico, has also recorded Neko Case and Animal Collective. Saint Cecilia Studios is a relative newcomer, but has the Spanish-language tribute to the frontman of the Smiths, Mexrrissey, album under its belt, plus Waterworks has hosted the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and R.L. Burnside.
Year-round, you'll find great music waiting to be heard in Tucson, and who knows, you might run into one of your favorite performers walking down the street heading to a recording session. If you're a music fan, you'll feel right at home in our city where music is part of our soul.
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