It's been four years since the last Potluck Audio Conference (PotLuckCon), which has bounced back and forth between New Orleans and Tucson since its inception (as Tape Op Conference, or TapeOpCon) in 2002. This weekend brings a new installment of the event to Tucson.
From a press release: "The Potluck Audio Conference is a two-day retreat of recording and production professionals from all over the country. Its main mission is to bring together the independent recording community to share knowledge and build consensus about how today's music is recorded and delivered."
The conference began with a friendship: When Tape Op Magazine founder and recording producer-engineer Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot! Recording Studio, was invited to curate a panel at the now-defunct North by Northwest music conference in Portland, Ore., in 2000, he invited producer Craig Schumacher, who owns Tucson's Wavelab Studio, to be on it. Schumacher stayed with Crane while in Portland, and the pair became fast friends. The next year, Crane was invited to curate another panel, on the topic of recording albums on a budget, this time at Austin's South by Southwest; again, he invited Schumacher to participate.
In a 2006 interview with the Tucson Weekly, Schumacher explained the roots of their own audio conference: "I reasoned that the people who were going to be in our audience were probably musicians who didn't have a lot of money to make records, and were coming to this to get those answers. 'How do you make records on a budget?' The two of us are running studios where we make records in a very short amount of time on a regular basis, and the panel is full of all these big industry guys who never make records on a budget! They have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on records! ... And the audience members wanted the information that we wanted to give, but it was totally lost on a panel where everyone has a voice, and no one should really dominate. But it's like, when you have a guy on this panel who's working with Elton John, I don't think he has a lot to say to some indie rocker who just traveled in a van for three days to get to Austin to play some little showcase."
Added Crane, "You've got someone talking about spending two weeks with U2 mastering their record, and it's like, 'I did four albums in the time it took you to master that record.'"
"So after the panel, we went back to our hotel room," recalled Schumacher, "and we're drinking a few beers and just reflecting on how goofy the whole thing was, and we realized, gee, you know, there just isn't really a forum for what we wanted to do. And I said, 'Larry, Tape Op needs to have a conference.'"
A lot has happened since then. Crane and Tape Op are no longer part of the conference; Schumacher has scaled back the conference from its heyday and redubbed it PotLuckCon; Schumacher struggled through a bout with cancer. (He's been cancer-free for a year, and his doctors say that if he can go another year without the disease reappearing, he should be in the clear.) But he's feeling healthy enough these days to revive the conference (he credits "the generosity of this group that re-inspired me to do it again") and is bringing it back to Tucson: Potluck Audio Conference will take place at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador from Thursday, Aug. 2, through Saturday, Aug. 4.
Thursday is reserved for registration and a pre-party at the resort, and the conference wraps up on Saturday evening with a "post-conference pool hang."
But during the day on Friday and Saturday, the event is loaded with panels with such titles as, "Are We There Yet? Has Digital Finally Become Good Enough to Replace With Analog?" and, "The Art and Science of Mixing." The panels bring together some big-name pros, too, especially for those who follow this sort of stuff and/or read the credits on albums; among this year's participants are Mitch Easter, Dusty Wakeman, Mark Rubel, Joel Hamilton, Don Zientara and Tim Lee. The hotel will also be loaded with all sorts of audio and recording exhibitors displaying their wares and discussing their products.
On Friday, Aug. 3, conference attendees will hop on buses that will bring them to Fourth Avenue for a music showcase at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., featuring performances by surf-garage-R&B combo The Modeens, instrumental rockers The Weisstronauts, twisted Americana act Tierra del Fuego and golden-throated Phoenix songstress Lonna Kelley. The show starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5.
And now, the best part for locals who'd like to attend the conference, but don't have the scratch to pony up for registration ($105 for onsite full registration; $60 for onsite single-day registration; $35 for onsite student single-day registration): Schumacher is offering what he calls ambassadorships to the conference. He'll find a way for you to donate a bit of time to help the conference run smoothly (picking up a conference bigwig at the airport, registering attendees, setting up exhibits, etc.), and you'll gain entry to the conference. Pretty sweet, huh?
Here's the deal: You need to contact Schumacher at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, e-mail address, phone number and availability, and a conference organizer will contact you to set up your activity. (If no chores are immediately needed, you may not be asked to do anything more than attend the conference and socialize.)
All the info you could possibly want is available at potluckconference.com. The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador is located at 10000 N. Oracle Road. (There's a link to its website at the PotLuckCon site.) Plush's website, with additional information, is plushtucson.com, and its number is 798-1298.
Another benefit of the Potluck Audio Conference returning to the Old Pueblo is that it's bringing the members of Seashell Radio who have moved out of Tucson back to town with it. They'll capitalize on that fact by performing a show tonight, Thursday, Aug. 2, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth Ave. The band begins playing at 9:30 p.m., and admission is free. For more info, check out plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
Two weekends ago, as the bars on Fourth Avenue were letting out at closing time, Tyler Dunn stumbled upon something pretty fucked up: A large group of thugs was attacking and beating two women. Dunn's instincts kicked into gear, and he jumped into the fray in order to put a stop to it. He was rewarded for his efforts with a broken jaw that has, so far, required three surgeries.
Starting at 9 p.m., next, Thursday, Aug. 9, A Benefit and Roast for Tyler Dunn will be held at Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., to raise money to help pay for Dunn's medical bills. Musician-cum-comedian Jericho Davidson will host the roast to Dunn, and there will be live performances by the Electric Blankets, Big Meridox and Church Key. Admission is a suggested donation of $5, but feel free to contribute more if you can. For further details, call the club at 882-0009, or visit surlywenchpub.com.
ON THE BANDWAGON
There are loads more worthwhile shows headed our way this week. Here are some of them: "Weird Al" Yankovic at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 7; Pitbull and DJ Havana Brown at AVA at Casino del Sol on Sunday, Aug. 5; Coheed and Cambria at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 7; Los Tigres del Norte and Banda el Recodo at AVA at Casino del Sol on Saturday, Aug. 4; Big K.R.I.T. and Tito Lopez at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Aug. 3; Soulfly, Angelic to Ashes, Genocaust and Sink the Titanic at The Rock on Saturday, Aug. 4; Drive Tour with College, Anorak and Electric Youth at Club Congress on Tuesday, Aug. 7; Jel and DJ Abilities at Plush on Saturday, Aug. 4; Finding Solace EP-release with Secret Tunnel Storyline, Complex Houses and others at The Rock on Friday, Aug. 3; Rebels Riot Tour with The Chop Tops, Danny B. Harvey, The Strikers and Radio Threat at Whiskey Tango tonight, Thursday, Aug. 2; North, Territory and Anakim at Club Congress on Friday, Aug. 3; the Familiar Strange at Sky Bar next Thursday, Aug. 9; Delta Nove and The Railbirdz at The Hut on Friday, Aug. 3; Pete Fine and Beyond Words at Club Congress on Saturday, Aug. 4; Country Saturdays with Hank Topless at Café Passe on Saturday, Aug. 4; Tesoro at Skybox Restaurant and Bar on Saturday, Aug. 4; Black Cherry Burlesque at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Aug. 3.