$15

Ben Kweller

Presented by The Rialto Theatre
21+

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191 Toole

191 East Toole Ave

Tucson, AZ 85701

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Doors 7 PM | Show 8 PM | 21 and Over

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Indie icon, Ben Kweller, returns with some of the strongest music of his career. He didn’t go away just because—he was fifteen minutes away from death. “We almost died,” Kweller says. “Me, Lizzy, our two boys … dead. We wouldn’t be here if Liz hadn’t woken up that night.”

Kweller is referring to an ill-fated trip to the mountains of New Mexico, back in 2013. The family went on what was meant to be a winter wonderland vacation and instead suffered acute carbon monoxide poisoning.

“We were in this sweet little cabin and in the middle of the night, Lizzy woke up and said, ‘Ben, get up! Something’s wrong—I feel horrible,’” Kweller says. “I immediately jumped out of bed and collapsed to the ground. We instinctively crawled to the front door and opened it. Fresh air rushed in the cabin. I called 911. We grabbed the boys out of bed, trying to shake them awake, and managed to get everyone outside in the snow. The boys were crying and falling in and out of consciousness—it was like something out of a horror film,” Kweller says. “When the ambulances arrived, they tested our blood and said our CO levels were so high, we were 15 minutes away from not waking up. Fifteen minutes! We spent the next day in the hospital on pure oxygen and days after that feeling lethargic and mush-brained. When we got back home, I was an incapacitated zombie. I told my team to cancel everything. I was done.”

As the months rolled on, Kweller began to battle depression as a result of the poisoning. There was a period where the “Sundress” singer didn’t think he’d ever see the stage again. “I just didn’t care—I didn’t want to play music anymore,” Kweller says. “I didn’t want to leave my family’s side, and for the first time in my life I was scared. When you almost die, everything changes, and all the unimportant sh*t disappears. Luckily, I kept writing songs and they got me through some really dark places. Eventually I had 50 ready to go but I was still reluctant to start the machine back up again. A close friend of mine called me up and said, ‘Just come over and let’s record something together. Even if it’s just a demo, maybe it’ll make you feel better.’”

That close friend was producer and songwriter, Dwight A. Baker (Misseo, Brandi Carlile). One thing led to another and the two ended up co-producing an entire album. The album is called, Circuit Boredom, and lucky for us, it will be released! The first single, “Heart Attack Kid”, was released in early ‘19 with a music video co-directed by Superorganism’s Robert Strange. The BK touring machine is also gearing back up with shows in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

With a regretful sigh, Kweller shares “There were so many times over the past five years that a fan would come up to me and say, ‘Dude, where have you been?’ “rather than going into detail, I’d shrug it off and say, ‘man, I needed a break, but I’ll come back one day.’ Inside, I wasn’t sure, though.” A major turning point that convinced Kweller to put music back into the world, was the loss of his friend Anton Yelchin. The two had a close bond and even shared the silver screen in Rudderless, a music-based drama directed by William H. Macy. “I’m still in awe of Anton’s creative output and all that he achieved in such a short period of time,” Kweller says. ”One of my best friends, gone in the blink of an eye—it absolutely woke me up. I knew I had to overcome my own trauma and do what I was born to do. Plus, Anton would’ve thought it rude if I didn’t share these songs.”

All of this comes as a relief to BK fans, whom, for over 15 years, have sung along to his anthems and cried to his ballads. They know his gift for jumping through genres while remaining heartfelt and authentic. They also know that nostalgia and optimism were his trademarks long before his run-in with mortality. Now, with the forthcoming release of Circuit Boredom, we are reminded that a light really is at the end of the tunnel, we just have to listen for it. We’re glad BK’s back.

John Kent, Kweller established Radish in 1993. The group made its mark on the local Dallas scene, not far from Kweller's hometown of Greenville, TX. In 1994, the musical wunderkind and his teenaged outfit released the Hello EP through Practice Amp Records. That same year, the label released the full-length album Dizzy, which convinced producer Roger Greenawalt to partner with the group. Under his wing, Radish produced another demo and inked a contract with Mercury Records during the summer of 1996. Ben Kweller was still a teenager at the time, having turned 15 years old that June.

Restraining Bolt Mercury Records released Restraining Bolt the following spring, and Kweller led Radish through European and American tours (as well as several late-night TV appearances, including The Conan O'Brian Show and Late Night with David Letterman). Despite scoring a Top 40 hit in the U.K. with "Little Pink Stars," Radish failed to enjoy significant success at home, and changing tides at their label (Polygram, Mercury's parent company, was absorbed into Universal Music Group in 1998) prevented them from releasing another album. When the group disbanded in 1999, Kweller headed east to Guilford, CT, where he stayed only a short time before relocating to Brooklyn, NY. Not yet 20 years old, he signed with Island Records as a solo artist.

Sha ShaBen Kweller launched his solo career with a series of EPs, some of which reprised the material that Radish had written but not released. His heartland hooks and folksy flourishes made fans out of several artists, and Kweller soon found himself touring with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Guster, Kristin Hersh, and Evan Dando. He inked a deal with ATO Records in 2001 and released one final EP before issuing Sha Sha, his solo full-length debut, in 2002. More touring followed, as did a collaboration with Ben Folds and Ben Lee known as the Bens. Kweller's sophomore effort, the subdued On My Way, followed in spring 2004 and was supported by a co-headlining tour with Death Cab for Cutie. Two years later, he returned with his self-titled third album, on which he played all the instruments. Kweller furthered his experimentation with 2009's Changing Horses, which saw the songwriter embracing country music and employing a pedal steel guitarist. The singer continued to explore pop music on 2012's Go Fly a Kite, which found Kweller dabbling in everything from power pop to alt-country.

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191 Toole

191 East Toole Ave

Tucson, AZ 85701

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