2023 Year in Review, Part 1 – Melodies and Memories
Embark on a captivating journey with the first part of our “2023 Year in Review” series, “Melodies and Memories.” This episode is a heartwarming reflection of the vibrant spirit and rich cultural tapestry of Tucson. We weave through stories that echo the soul of our city, from the musical avenues to the tantalizing tastes that make Tucson unique.
- Brian Laidlaw and the “Silently Loud” Album: Experience the groundbreaking musical collaboration with non-speaking artists, creating a new symphony of sounds.
- Sarah Miranda’s Violin Legacy: Follow the melodious trail from Costa Rica to the heart of Tucson, resonating with passion and cultural diversity.
- Chamber Music’s Local Heartbeat: Discover how the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music are nurturing a thriving musical community in our city.
- Borderlands Brewery’s Crafted Concoctions: Explore the innovative use of local ingredients in brewing, a true taste of Tucson.
- Thunder Bacon’s Culinary Adventures: Delight in Lindy Riley’s extraordinary burger creations and their unique culinary collaborations.
- Juniper Bar’s Gin Wonderland: Immerse yourself in the gin-focused ambiance, showcasing a spectrum of flavors and stories.
Join us as we revisit these remarkable stories, celebrating the melodies and memories that shaped Tucson in 2023.
Engage with Life Along The Streetcar:
- Learn More About Tom and Our Mission: Visit our About page to discover the story behind Tom Heath and his journey with Life Along The Streetcar.
- Explore “My Life Along The Streetcar”: Dive into excerpts from our book and order your full-size copy here. It’s a treasure trove of stories and insights from our beloved city.
- Share Your Ideas and Nominations: We’d love to hear from you! Visit our Contact page to suggest topics, nominate notable Tucsonans for interviews, or just to share your thoughts about Life Along The Streetcar.
Your interaction and suggestions are vital to our journey. Let’s continue to celebrate and explore the rich, diverse stories of Tucson together!
good morning it’s a beautiful sunday in the old pueblo and you’re listening to ktt tucson thanks for spending a part of your christmas eve with us on your downtown tucson community sponsored all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station this week we’re going to do a little different a year -end review as we talk through some of the episodes we featured earlier in 2023 2023. Today is December 24th, 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar, where each and every Sunday our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM, streaming on downtownradio .org. Also available on our Androids and iPhones with our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. And if you want to get more information about the show, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram. And we also invite
you to our website if you want to check out past episodes, learn more about the book, or contact us with that button right there. and we invite you to listen to the lifelong streetcar podcast most places where you find your favorite podcasts well we’re in our sixth seventh year at this point i don’t know it’s been a while and we’ve never done a a year -end wrap -up because um i found out it’s hard and i like to do things that are hard but this year i thought you know what gosh darn it we’re gonna do it so uh i went back through and listened to the episodes throughout the year pulled out clips from some of the more poignant ones. And we’re going to do a year -end wrap -up, two parts today and next week to celebrate the holiday season and kind of dividing them up. Today, we’re going to talk about music, food, drink. And next week, we’ll get more into community and some of the influencers. And I hope you enjoy it. I got to tell you, it was really hard to take a long interview and break it
down into just a couple of minutes. it. So bear with me. Hope it works out and we have a little fun with it. And we’re going to start off with Brian Laidlaw. He’s a musician out of Colorado. He had recently released an album called Silently Loud. And it’s featuring lyrics of non -speaking artists throughout the nation. And there were two from Tucson, Joshua Greiner and Alton Grubbs that were involved with that. So we had Brian on his shows. He came down to Tucson to perform. He was doing it at the Poetry Center. We had both Tyler Meyer from the Poetry Center and Brian Laidlaw. But for the year -end wrap -up, no offense, Tyler, but we’re just going to feature Brian Laidlaw, his music, his start, and kind of more about Silently Loud. I’m currently living in Moab, Utah.
Grew up on the West Coast. I lived in Minneapolis for a while and then did a PhD at University of Denver. I started out as a poet primarily, you know, writing in traditional verse forms and studying the history of poetry, and then sort of gradually transitioned into being a songwriter, also using some of the same ideas of repetition and rhyme and meter, but writing verses and choruses and setting some of my poems to music. And so I spent a stint as a touring folk singer, songwriter, did a master’s in poetry at the University of Minnesota, and then taught taught songwriting at a music college in St. Paul, Minnesota, for a while. Okay. And then moved down to Denver, did a PhD also in creative writing, and always kind of focusing on the relationship between poetry and music, essentially.
And when you’re talking about these artists, you mentioned Joshua Greiner here in Tucson, and I think Alton Grubbs is another one from the Arizona area. When they’re collaborating with you on the music, are you putting to music a poem that they’ve written? Are you working together collaboratively? Are they writing the music? or how is this relationship kind of coming together?
Yeah, that’s a great question. The process is really amazing and it’s different with every student and it’s different with every song or poem. But basically it’s entirely their language. And for folks who aren’t familiar with the way that this goes, these writers are often working on a letter board, which is like a laminated piece of cardboard that has the letters of the alphabet on it and some punctuation and numbers as well. um and so they’re spelling out the words they want to have included um in the in the text um and really with both joshua and alton they’re they’re fully capable of banging out these incredible verses totally on their own they have awesome sense of rhyme and meter um they’re they’re like directing uh you know what things are going to repeat and what the sort of sequence of verses and choruses is going to be and then I have then get to ask you know once we have the complete set of lyrics what kind of music direction they want to see it take and sometimes it’ll be you
know I want it to be a fast country song or I want it to be a slow ballad or you know or sometimes I mean Alton in particular gives these really incredible sort of more impressionistic atmospheric kinds of music direction i think once he said i want it to sound like a moose covered in frost or i want it to sound like um you know i had another student say like i want it to sound like bird wings flapping um you know so so sometimes using the sort of conventional language of of describing music you know down tempo blues song or whatever um but also sometimes really talking about like the the feeling of the sensation of it um and so i feel like the luckiest person in the world to be beginning to see these incredible texts take shape and then being entrusted essentially with the performance of these tunes. And really, I see my goal as just trying to get the end version of the melody and the presentation to be as close as possible to whatever it is that’s in the student’s
mind when they’re writing the text. That was Brian Laidlaw from January of 2023. He was in town performing a concert celebrating the release of his album called Silently Loud, featuring music by non -speakers. You can hear that album on Spotify. And two of the artists who wrote for him were Alton Grubbs and Joshua Greiner from here in Tucson. And staying on the music trend here, a little bit later on in the year, we talked to Sarah Miranda. She was a violin performer and And a teacher, she’s at the University of Arizona, and she hailed from Costa Rica. So we met her and kind of wanted to find out that story about how do you get from Costa Rica to Tucson. And just really a delight of an interview that we had with Sarah Miranda. And this is from episode 245 that we did. That was back in April of this year.
My degree is a doctoral degree in music and arts. And my emphasis is violin performance. I am also doing a minor in cognitive science. I enjoy a lot of interdisciplinary studies. And I think that the intersection between cognitive science, you know, the science of learning is very important for all the fields, right? Right. But for music, because we teach us as musicians, a lot of us teach as well. And that’s one of my one of my jobs and one of my passions as well. So I wanted to dig a little bit deeper and get a minor in cognitive science to kind of like expand my view on how the brain works when we’re learning music, which is fascinating. A professor at a place where I auditioned, he suggested that I audition to the U of A. Tim Cantor is the professor, the violin professor here. And he talked about him, you know, very, very well. So I sent an application here. It was not among my first options because I didn’t know this program. And at the same time, once I knew about it, I was surprised
because Because, yeah, I hadn’t heard about it. There are so many programs in the U .S., so it’s hard to know them all. I applied, and, yeah, this was the option that suited me better. So I got here without ever, you know, being in Arizona before. So I didn’t know to what I was coming.
I didn’t know anything.
But it was a beautiful surprise.
So you get, so your path is Costa Rica, Tennessee, Missouri, and then, uh, and then Tucson and maybe a few stops in between. That’s, you’ve seen quite a cross section of, of our country by, by those travels.
Yeah, I mean, I love traveling and in other opportunities, I got to go to the East Coast and, you know, do a road trip there, like from south to north and also the Midwest during the spring breaks. I got to know the country a little bit better, but I had never been on this side of the country, southwest or even the west. So it was a very beautiful surprise for sure. I have had a beautiful time here.
That’s Sarah Marana back in April of this year, 2023, talking about her journey from Costa Rica to the University of Arizona. And the interview talks much more about her performance as a violin player and things that she is learning and how the brain works and learns and how music plays into that. And our last conversation about music on our year end wrap up is with Elaine Russo. She is with the Arizona, the Friends of the Arizona Chamber Music, and we got a little taste of what chamber music is and how this volunteer -run organization impacts that here within Tucson. The interview was about a concert that was being done in support of the effort to raise money for Ukraine, and it was done by a Ukrainian performer here in Tucson that was playing music that hadn’t previously been, that he hadn’t previously performed from Ukrainian composers. But this section of the interview really features more about on the overall impact of chamber music and the organization, the Arizona Friends of Chamber
Music. This is Elaine Russo. Can you explain to me what chamber music is and how that differentiates from like orchestra?
Oh, I’d be happy to. Yes. In the hundreds of years, many years ago, there were not huge concert halls. And so the way music was heard was live in small group presentations. So they’d be like solos or duets or trios or, you know, quartets, something of that sort, typically in a composer’s home. For example, Schubert, who’s one of my favorite composers, had what were called Schubertiads in his home. And he would invite friends over and play his new compositions or, you know, other music of the time. So that was how music was shared originally before we had large concert halls like we have today. Yeah. Arizona Friends of Chamber Music prides ourselves on is that we bring world -class musicians to Tucson. So the Wednesday night concerts are just absolutely phenomenal. And then we also have a series called Piano and Friends, and those concerts are on a Sunday afternoon at 3 o ‘clock. And they feature young, upcoming artists who are just beginning to become known in the world, if you will. Many
years back before Long Long became known worldwide, he was one of our performers at the Piano and Friends concerts.
That was Elaine Russo. She was our guest talking about the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. That was episode 259, and that aired back in August of 2023. If you’re just joining us, we’re doing a year -end review today, being Christmas Eve and next week being New Year’s Eve. we are focusing on stories throughout the year we broke them into different categories and today we’re really hitting on music and when we get back from the break we’re going to talk about things that are more um food and beverage oriented yum but first i want to remind you that you’re listening to lifelong streetcar downtown radio 99 .1 fm and streaming on downtown
radio .org support for downtown radio is provided by the tucson gallery located in downtown tucson inside of the proper shops at 300 East Congress Street. The Tucson Gallery offers original work, reproductions, and merchandise from Tucson artists like Joe Pachek, Jessica Gonzalez, Ignacio Garcia, and many more. For information about all of the artists, including when they will be live at the gallery, head to thetucsongallery .com or find them on Instagram and on Facebook as Tucson Gallery.
All right, we are back to talk about food and beverage stories we covered in 2023. 23. And again, all these stories are on our website, lifelongthestreetcar .org. You can get all the full interviews. These are just little snippets of some of the interesting people. And we’re going to start off with the head brewer over at Borderlands, not just because their beer is great, but because they’re also doing a lot of expansion and moving into different venues. And they support this city of gastronomy concept of using our local ingredients for their products. So this is our interview with the head brewer, Ayla Kapai. This is back from August of this year, episode 257.
My real title is the beer chick that gets stuff done for the brewery. But yes, but you’re right. Head brewer and director of production operations. Basically, that means anything that has to do with Borderlands beer production is my responsibility.
possibility and how side it because you’re building out some taproom concepts are those built out yet or are you still working on those in the process so we of course have our original
downtown taproom location the sam hughes location is the newest one that’s currently opened it opened in january of this year that’s located at tucson and sixth street it’s actually where the old pj subs location used to be so that place is open and thriving it’s a partnership with chef Maria Maison from Boca Tacos. And the next concept dose is opening on River and Craycroft area in that Whole Foods parking lot. That’s another partnership with Maria Maison. Tentative date of opening about two months. We’re hoping for mid -September. Okay. And since the show’s recorded,
we’re going to tell you what date it is now, because two months in this world could be anything. Especially in Tucson. Who knows? The way things happen. I went to your location on deal on 6th and Tucson not too long ago. And I did not realize until after I left that it was a partnership and the beverages were delicious, but the food was just unbelievable. It was such
a small menu, but it’s just executed so well. We’re so grateful. We have been wanting to work with Chef Maria for years and it took us a long time to figure out what kind of a partnership we could make happen. I wholeheartedly agree. I purposely like to have my lunch meetings there so then i can leave my beer cave and say oh it’s lunchtime i guess i have to eat something i guess
i have to i guess i have to have some delicious maria food uh so then dose will open and so you’ve got then the original location sam hughes partnership and voltron dose that’s that’s a lot yeah there’s another one too oh can you tell us is that a teaser or is it just like you’re
gonna have to tune in next year for that for that i think there’s already press or something about
it um within a year we’re opening sonora moonshine company and that’s primarily going to be an agave and tequila mezcal bar interesting where you have a location for that yes off of
broadway and she’s pointing she’s pointing to give directions which is horrible on the radio but
it is it’s terrible the listeners are like what is going on here it’s that away
way i mean so it’s a downtown area is it it is downtown relatively close to the thunder canyon
location i am very excited to brew agave inspired beers with it so it would be great to use cactus and roasted cactus in our beers and that was something else i think i read this in either
that article to some foodie or something else but you you’re also using a lot of native grains and
you’re focusing on the region that’s right we we brew beers that are inspired by our southwestern landscape and deserts so that is why we our prickly pear wheat is so successful we use an organic and local prickly pear provider here to produce that we are working with local grains sonora white wheat at ekw farms which is located in marana and we try as much as possible to source local ingredients when we can, because we really believe that our beer should reflect the flavors
that we celebrate here. That
is Ayla Kapai. She is the head brewer over at Boarlands. And this is episode number 257, which actually aired July 23rd. I think you said August in the intro, but July 23rd. And what is a good beer without a good burger? So we’re going to move over to our interview with the uh one and only lindy who brought his thunder bacon burger into the downtown location where uh the donut bar of all the places i’ve cooked in in my career i just i enjoy you know doing burgers uh it’s i enjoy having fun with them i like pushing you know the boundaries with them different flavors flavors that probably shouldn’t work so it’s uh it’s kind of where my happy place is so well before you left the uh uh thunder bacon i think the last location before he came downtown the the burger i had there was the uh the slider and it was an actual slider inside of the inception burger that’s actually on the menu now okay that was fantastic it’s a slider inside a one of our i mean a burger inside of a burger yeah i’m so happy
i was i’ve been wanting to do that one for a long time and uh if we were actually goofing off in the kitchen one day and and i was like this is gonna work it’s kind of cool so yeah it definitely worked and then you know it’s for my experience being in tucson you’ve always been associated with with fourth avenue in fact i think i remember reading somewhere weren’t you a bouncer or something or a doorman or something i worked the door and i barbecued at shay’s lounge okay yes many years and then you that was before you got into your own sort of yes yeah yeah so you’ve always been associated with down with fourth avenue in my mind right and then i read this article in the paper that you know you and the donut bar coming together some kind of crazy concoction and you’re moving downtown yeah what what uh what got you off fourth avenue uh honestly so i love the ave um the end of the avenue i was on um was definitely a quieter end we were actually building really well like towards we’re starting
to build up and I don’t know there’s something about being downtown that I like a lot of you know people that I know the own businesses down here and places that I love to eat are down here and I just feel I feel if you really want to come down somewhere and just kind of walk around and get a little bit of everything that’s probably Tucson this is a great area right here not that but but I’m naming this episode Thunder and Icing. I love it. Feel free to take that. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the icing to stay in a thunderbolt shape on some of our donuts.
I know you’re busy and I appreciate you coming out and supporting. I appreciate what you do in the community. And you know, you just everyone that I’ve talked to in this first time we met, but everyone I’ve talked to and what I’ve seen on social media, you just have a genuine kindness about you and people love talking about you and like what you’re doing for Tucson. And, you know, not just putting us on the map because you put us on a TV show a few years ago but you’re you’re pouring your heart and soul into this and we really recognize i appreciate it i just like doing what i do and you know uh honestly there’s there’s a lot of really good burgers in this town people doing it right and i absolutely love that i just like being a part of it so it’s it’s you know this year uh i think with thunder bacon i took more of a interest in doing what i do like with you know the baking of the buns and the grind of the meat this time and the type of burgers we’re doing instead of like just really trying
to push something that was you know uh if we win some awards great if not then just happy getting up and doing this thing you know that
is lindy riley his name is synonymous with burgers here in in tucson and we had the uh the pleasure of sitting down with him a little bit earlier in the year in august well we’ve talked about burgers we’ve talked about beer and now we’re going to bring that all together with the concept from iron john’s monkey burger and juniper which has the the Burgers, the Beers, and the newest June Bar in downtown. This is our interview from September with Stuart and Kellner, who are the driving forces behind the new Juniper Bar, which opened in September of this year.
Yeah, so Iron John’s and Monkey Burger came together in early 2020. We chose to try and bring, you know, the burger concept I had with Monkey Burger and the great beer that Iron John’s had to create something new and have it all just go underneath the Iron John’s kind of umbrella. And in doing that, we’ve ended up with a couple of different projects, remodels. So our old Monkey Burger location on Broadway and Craycroft is going to be opening hopefully in the next few months for Monkey Burger.
So in addition to that, you’ve got the tap room on 18th, which is a pretty huge facility. You’re still operating out of there, correct?
Yes, yes. That’s operating just as a beer tap room right now. Now our goal is to turn that into our whole brewery operation and into a restaurant there as well. Hopefully sometime middle of next year.
You guys don’t rest much over there. You’re always rebuilding something. You know, as we air this, we are a day or two away from the grand opening of the Juniper Bar, which is a former taproom that Iron Johns had that they’ve converted.
So I think the team that we have at Iron Johns really does enjoy the project side of things. But we definitely look forward to being operational. and getting back to what you call the normal day -to -day of operating a restaurant and brewery. And we’re really looking forward to the awesome beverage program that Kellner’s put together for us over at Juniper and how exciting that is for our portfolio as well.
The taproom that’s on Congress in between 5th and 6th, it was closed as Iron John’s earlier in August and is reopening September 1 as Juniper. And Kellner, you’re the brains behind these fabulous drinks I’m seeing on Facebook?
That’s nice of you to say. I don’t know if I’m the brains behind it, but I am doing it. We really wanted to take advantage of what we saw as a nice opportunity in the Tucson market to do something that was gin -focused. Tucson has seen so many different amazing places choose a specific focus in the last five or six years, and nobody had done gin yet. That’s what we decided would be our niche for the Congress taproom.
And I understand it’s gin -focused, but not gin -exclusive, right? You’re offering, you’re still going to have the Iron John’s beer and things on tap?
We’ll have the Iron John’s beer on tap, and we’ll also have full bar capacity to produce any classic cocktail with any spirit.
The major focus on gin. We have a gin portfolio right now that is composed of more than 50 different gins from 16 different countries. So it’s certainly the largest gin portfolio in Arizona that I know of. Wow. And we worked very closely with several different distributors to put that portfolio together to find interesting bottles and certainly tasted our fair share of gin to put that together.
Is gin your background or are you overall like a cocktail expert in crafting different cocktails or is gin kind of like a driving force for you?
Gin has been something that I’ve been really interested in in the last few years because I found a trend traveling outside of the United States, a gin tonic trend, lots of gin tonic focused bars. And the tradition there is focused on that Copa Ballon glass. It’s like a big, giant, merlot -shaped, almost looks like a wine glass. But a photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s almost a 30 -ounce capacity in that bowl. And what that allows you to do is it allows you to add all sorts of fresh and dried botanicals to a gin tonic. It takes that gin tonic from an everyday experience that you might be used to in a normal bar that you would go to anywhere, to something that’s a real broad and varied experience that can include all kinds of fresh ingredients that you would usually find in a high -class cocktail bar, but repurposed specifically to the gin tonic. And that’s just something that I hadn’t seen come this way yet. And so that is another thing that we decided to make primary focus of this bar. It’s
big, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful. It’s a great aromatic experience as well as a tasting experience. and you get to have that enormous cup of ballon glass in your hand.
That’s Kelner Brown, and he was joined earlier by Stuart Lauer. They are the forces behind Tucson’s gin bar called Juniper down on Congress. And that’s going to wrap up our year -end review when it comes to food, beverage, and music, highlighting some of the shows, but certainly not all of them that we discussed throughout the year. Kind of sad I didn’t get a chance to get Ray Ray’s Sonoran Tea in there. That’s another great story that we did earlier in the year. but you can listen to that on our website uh it is lifelongstreetcar .org and hope you can check out those stories if you liked them and then also any others you want to look at throughout the year and then the last show of 2023 will be focused on art and culture as we highlight some of the features from 2023 that impacted those areas of our community well tomorrow is christmas and for those celebrating merry christmas for those of you not i just wish you a very happy and safe day. And I want to thank, of course, Ryan Hood for
the privilege of using their music at the beginning of the show. And we’re going to leave you with a little treat here today. This is a song from Joseph Washington Jr. Kind of sums up the holiday spirit for many of us. It was back in 2016. This story is called Shopping. My name’s Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more Life Along the Streetcar.
Shopping around downtown I’m going shopping I’m going shopping, shopping, shopping around downtown
Every time Christmas comes around Stop shopping Traffic jams Stop shopping And I’ve got a Christmas wish Together I’m gonna buy presents For my love For my friends For my family For everyone that’s been so good to me I’m going shopping Shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping, downtown.