TWO DAYS, TONS OF MUSIC
If you can smell fall just around the corner, there must be another big ol' music festival going on at Hotel Congress.
As we discussed a few weeks ago, the downtown stalwart this year cut its annual HoCo Fest and Club Congress anniversary festival in two: The anniversary celebration, which reunited a slew of local bands and focused on local music in general, took place over Labor Day weekend.
This week brings us the newly split-off HoCo Festival, with a focus on national and international acts (with some locals sprinkled throughout), all for a good cause: All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Border Action Network, whose mission statement, in part, says that the organization "works with immigrant and border communities in Arizona to ensure that our rights are respected, our human dignity (is) upheld and that our communities are healthy places to live." Congress' website states: "Knowing that this has been a challenging year for Arizona (having brought so much unwelcome notoriety upon itself with the passing of SB 1070), these acts understand that by performing here this year, they are making a statement that will hopefully help educate and motivate the public to vote this November." (In other words, fuck you, Jan Brewer.)
Additionally, HoCo Fest organizers are taking steps to leave a small carbon footprint, using solar energy whenever possible.
And take a gander at the lineup. It's solid. Way solid.
Although Calexico had to bow out because they were asked to open a few shows for some band called Arcade Fire, they'll still be there in spirit: They helped curate the event. Here's who they, and the crack booking team at Congress, lined up.
Friday, Sept. 24, Outdoor Stage: Having recently reunited for Congress' 25th anniversary celebration, locals Love LTD turned in a performance worthy of a callback: They'll be the first band to take the stage at HoCo (7:15 p.m.). If you haven't seen Mostly Bears perform, why are you reading this column? The local trio is adept at combining prog tendencies with hooks, and they flat-out rock (8:15 p.m.). Camilo Lara (the president of EMI Mexico, and this week's Nine Questions subject) brings his recently expanded electronica outfit, Mexican Institute of Sound, to Tucson via Mexico City for a raging dance party (9:30 p.m.). The Latin dance grooves continue when Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, a local all-star psychedelic indie-mambo collective and your choice as Band of the Year in this year's TAMMIES, take the stage (11 p.m.).
Club Stage: Including veteran Tucson musicians like bassist Jason Steed and guitarist Gene Ruley, Silverbell is a recent addition to the Tucson scene fronted by singer-songwriter Betsy Scarinzi (7:45 p.m.). The Father Figures are a Phoenix trio fronted by North Side Kings member Tom Reardon and described by the Phoenix New Times as "a pastiche of Shellac-era Steve Albini, Fugazi-like power chords, and pop hooks straight out of the playbook of Elvis Costello" (9 p.m.). Austin's Riverboat Gamblers embody pretty much everything a great punk band needs: a few chords, some sing-along choruses, boundless energy and a slight element of danger (10:15 p.m.). I've seen Phoenix's legendary Meat Puppets—who play locked-in punky grooves that reference everything from ZZ Top to their beloved Grateful Dead—play live more times than almost any other band, period, and I can tell you this: Their appearance at last year's HoCo Fest was one of the best performances I've ever seen them turn in. They've been to hell and back (see my interview with bassist Cris Kirkwood in our Aug. 28, 2008, edition) and came out stronger than ever (11:30 p.m.).
Saturday, Sept. 25, Outdoor Stage: After co-fronting the underappreciated Mississippi-based power-pop band the Windbreakers in the 1980s, and remaining largely silent during the '90s, Tim Lee has been releasing solo albums throughout this decade that jangle, shimmer and shine (7 p.m.). Amparo Sanchez is a Barcelona-based songstress who has in the past recorded in Tucson and collaborated with Calexico, whose Joey Burns once wrote to us to say that Sanchez is "influenced by Billie Holiday, friends with Manu Chao (she wrote the line 'welcome to Tijuana / tequila, sexo y marijuana'), and has been awarded ... (by) the BBC Awards for World Music" (7:30 p.m.). It's difficult to imagine life in the Old Pueblo without The Jons, one of Tucson's most versatile and talented bands, who inject a bit of Mexican flavor into their wildly diverse brand of pop (8:15 p.m.). When he's not leading his solo band, playing with the punk outfit the American Black Lung, serving as half of Bajo Turbato along with Chris Black, or playing with the Fell City Shouts, his collaboration with Brittany Dawn (or, for that matter, booking the Red Room at Grill), Gabriel Sullivan fronts the Taraf de Tucson, whose unique sound Sullivan describes as "gypsy reggaeton" (9:15 p.m.). Because they've recorded most of their albums here in Tucson, at Wavelab Studio, we got a head start on the love of Denver's DeVotchKa before the rest of the country caught on to their cabaret-and-gypsy-influenced romantic pop (10:30 p.m.).
Club Stage: For four hours, from 7 to 11 p.m. (at which point the Bang! Bang! dance night takes over), the legendary Robyn Hitchcock presides over Robyn Hitchcock's Cocktail Hour, armed with some very special guests, great songwriters all. Hitchcock, the former frontman for The Soft Boys—a very influential antidote to the British punk scene—has since released heaps of twisted, profound literary pop gems as a solo artist and/or backed by his bands the Egyptians and the Venus 3, which includes R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. To get to the point, he's a peerless songwriter. For a stretch, he spent a good amount of time in Tucson, but he hasn't played here in what seems like eons; we couldn't be more excited for his return. Oh, but I'm neglecting to tell you who his co-conspirators for the night are, aren't I? Howe Gelb, the newest inductee into the TAMMIES Hall of Fame, needs no introduction, so we'll just leave it at that. The folksy Victoria Williams is armed with an unmistakable voice and a tremendous knack for telling stories through songs. And, finally, there's Steve Wynn, who led the incredible paisley underground band the Dream Syndicate throughout the '80s and has continued to release explosive solo albums since. Recently, he's been collaborating with ... Robyn Hitchcock.
HoCo Fest takes place on Friday, Sept. 24, and Saturday, Sept. 25, at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets for each night are a measly $10. Buy a $20 two-day pass, and you get a free commemorative poster. For more information, head to www.hocofest.com, or call 622-8848.
ON THE BANDWAGON
After building a grassroots following for the last 16 years, the uplifting Michael Franti and Spearhead are suddenly huge. They'll be at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Sept. 24. Also this week: Mariachi Sol de Mexico with Vikki Carr at UA Centennial Hall on Friday, Sept. 24; Daniel Tosh at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall on Friday, Sept. 24; Powhaus Presents Robot 2010: A Dance Odyssey at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 25; The Rhythm Room All Stars at Plaza Palomino on Friday, Sept. 24; Nathan McEuen, Scott Gates and Kevin Schramm at Abounding Grace Sanctuary on Saturday, Sept. 25; DJ Dan at Level on Friday, Sept. 24; Fort Lowell Records showcase featuring Dead Western Plains, Young Mothers, Wet and Reckless and Tracy Shedd at Sky Bar on Saturday, Sept. 25; The Expendables, The Aggrolites and B Foundation at the Rialto Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 29; Seashell Radio, Drew Andrews (of The Album Leaf) and Leila Lopez at Plush on Wednesday, Sept. 29; Ludo at The Rock on Tuesday, Sept. 28; Igor and Red Elvises and gHosTcOw at Plush on Friday, Sept. 24; Agatha, The Teeets and Run-On Sunshine (featuring Monster Pussy's Mullarkey) at The Boxing Gym (1080 N. Contzen Ave.) on Sunday, Sept. 26; Marianne Dissard and Françoiz Breut at Plush on Sunday, Sept. 26; Namoli Brennet (all-request show) at Club Congress on Sunday, Sept. 26; Hank Topless at the Red Room at Grill on Saturday, Sept. 25; HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS, The Electric Blankets and Automaton at Plush on Saturday, Sept. 25; People From the Sun at Club Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 29.