Singer moving to 'Tucson of Europe'

Marianne Dissard plans 2 farewell concerts this month
2013-02-07T00:00:00Z 2013-03-07T12:42:09Z Singer moving to 'Tucson of Europe'Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Marianne Dissard can't help but feel a little sad when she looks out at her Armory Park neighborhood from her front porch.

"I'm going to miss the hell out of this place," she confesses.

After nearly 20 years in Tucson, Dissard has decided it is time to move on.

By this time next month, the French-born singer will be living in Palermo, a city of 650,000 people on the Italian island of Sicily.

Before she leaves, she will hold two going-away concerts, one at La Cocina on March 19 and the other this Saturday at Club Congress.

Dissard, 43, calls Palermo the Tucson of Europe.

"It is sunny and cheap," she said. "There are buildings in Palermo that were bombed during World War II that they have not bothered to rebuild. It lives in a strange place, which I enjoy."

The singer, who has released two studio CDs while in town, with a third on the way, believes a change in scenery will help her focus more on her music.

She likens the feel of Palermo to downtown Tucson before revitalization, a time and place that she felt helped her grow as a musician.

Dissard moved to the Old Pueblo in 1994, fresh out of film school in Los Angeles on a mission to create the documentary "Drunken Bees" about Howe Gelb and his band Giant Sand.

Before Los Angeles, Dissard lived in Mesa with her family. They moved to the Phoenix area from the southwest region of France in the mid-1980s after Dissard's father was transferred with Motorola.

Dissard said her dad, Georges Dissard, often traveled to Phoenix on business and fed her tales of the Wild West from the time she was a little girl.

"I remember him bringing things back from Arizona," she said. "Postcards of Indians with feathers on their heads; a tape with Emmylou Harris on it. You couldn't get that stuff in France."

After finishing "Drunken Bees," Dissard decided that she wanted to stick around.

"Everything was super-relaxed," she said. "I took it as an opportunity in my life to find out what I really wanted to do."

She spent her time creating performance art, while working nights at Grill. Downtown was a very different place then.

"Kids from the university were scared to come downtown," she said. "There was this whole perception of what was going on down here. It had a completely different look and feel."

She used that bohemian atmosphere as a way to explore her creative side.

"Venues like the Downtown Performance Center, the Red Room, 7 Black Cats were places of experimentation," she said. "If you were a musician who wanted to do something in front of an audience or sometimes no audience at all, you could do it. I really took advantage of that."

Two decades later and Dissard feels it is a different world.

"We've got new restaurants and coffee shops with recognizable names," she said. "When the Grill closed a year ago, I thought to myself that things had changed. When it burned, I thought 'That's it. I'm gone.' "

Besides, Dissard says her love for Tucson's music scene and her desire to help others within the community have distracted her from creating.

"Some of my skills are in getting things done," she said. "Whether it is producing a music video in a day for Sergio Mendoza or arranging a tour of Europe for my band. I enjoy that, but it does come at the expense of my music."

Dissard's concert at Congress this weekend will feature the singer performing duets with many of the musicians she has worked with in Tucson over the years, including Brian Lopez, Gabriel Sullivan and Naim Amor.

Her second concert at La Cocina will have Dissard performing with her new musical partner, Josh Karp, who goes by the stage name Budo.

In the meantime, Dissard is dismantling her life.

She's had several moving sales. The leftovers - glasses, plates and other household items - are stacked up in front of the chain-link fence that encircles her yard, free for the taking.

"The vinyls went overnight," she said.

She only plans on bringing two suitcases with her to Palermo, but with nearly 20 years of memories and memorabilia, she feels that might be a bit ambitious.

"I'll have to find a way," she said. "I'm making myself ready to be anywhere my music needs me to be."

If you go

• What: Marianne Dissard's "Adieu Tucson" concert.

• When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.

• Tickets: $5. 21-and-older.

• Details: 622-8848.

• Bonus: Dissard will perform a second show at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., on March 19. The music starts at 6:30 p.m. Admission to that concert is free.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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