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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Go, Tucson, it’s your birthday…”

    Okkervil River, playing Saturday at Congress
    Okkervil River, playing Saturday at Congress

    Happy birthday, Tucson! That’s right – the wonderful city that brings us hot summers, Eegees and, of course, the UA is celebrating its 232nd birthday.

    That alone is enough of a reason to party all Labor Day weekend. You can start the celebration with Tucson’s own film and music festival, HoCo Festival 2007, which is playing out today through Monday.

    Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., and The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., will be hosting the event, which includes movie screenings and live performances. The festival has become one of Tucson’s biggest and most important art events of the year.

    The festival began two years ago with Club Congress’ 20th Anniversary Party, featuring 40 bands and 12 movies over three days. It was a party not only for the club but also for Tucson music and film.

    Highlighting only Tucson bands, the festival became an instant success and there was no question about whether it would continue, said David Slutes, entertainment director for Hotel Congress.

    “”It was giant from day one,”” Slutes said. “”It was like Las Vegas in the desert. Tucson was barren, and all of a sudden there was this huge festival.””

    HoCo Festival has since gained in popularity, bringing several thousand people to the Downtown area. It seems that this year will continue the trend, with more than 20 national acts scheduled and two movie premieres.

    Every big band signed out of Tucson in the last 30 years has played at the festival. This year, the lineup has a little more variety and includes non-local bands like Okkervil River and The Bellrays.

    One addition to this year’s schedule will be four class reunion showcases, which will highlight bands from Tucson’s past. Four stages will represent each class reaching all the way back to the “”Class of ’77″” and up to the “”Class of ’07.””

    “”This is the best event we know of that can celebrate what Tucson has done historically,”” Slutes said.

    Classic Tucson bands, such as The Supersuckers and Pollo Elastico, will represent the older classes, while up-and-coming local bands such as The Swim, Mostly Bears and The Deludes will help take the stage for the Class of ’07.

    “”HoCo is something that we wanted to play a role in given the merit of the venue,”” said The Swim vocalist Caleb Christopher. “”Congress is our favorite place to play, and we couldn’t be more excited about the bands.””

    For The Swim, an invitation to the festival is a big deal, Christopher said. The band formed in late 2005, and the band members moved to Tucson shortly after.

    Tucson provided a great scene for The Swim, which pushed the release of its first album, We’re Green, in 2006. Although many bands often choose to leave their small towns to “”make it”” somewhere else, The Swim takes a different approach to gaining popularity, Christopher said.

    “”I don’t think there would be any reason to leave,”” he said. “”What pushes a band to the next level is national or international success, which I believe that is to be conquered by touring.””

    The Swim plans to hit the road next year, but right now, the members are focused on the Tucson music scene.

    “”We will be rocking here in Tucson for years to come,”” Christopher said.

    Not only will distinguished bands grace Tucson, but Hotel Congress has also collaborated with the non-profit organization Upstairs Film to bring in movies.

    Festival director and Upstairs Film co-founder Michael Toubassi connected his organization with Hotel Congress in 1999 through Multi Media Mondays, which paired short films with bands.

    When it came time for Congress’ anniversary in 2005, it seemed like the logical step to include both music and film, Toubassi said.

    The positive response to the festival highlighted Tucson’s support for it, and with each festival the number of films has increased. This year, more than 30 films from around the world will be playing at the Rialto.

    “”This event helps to cultivate (Tucson’s) film community and music scene,”” Toubassi said. “”It also brings filmmakers to Tucson and shows that it has a film industry that is vibrant.””

    The festival will put the spotlight on Tucson’s film industry with the premieres of movies like “”Scott Walker: 30 Century Man”” and “”Hell on Wheels.””

    Several local Tucson filmmakers will also be featured at this year’s festival. Included in the lineup are films by UA graduates Jonathan Pulley and Megan Dragony.

    Pulley premiered his film “”Move Me”” at the Sundance Film Festival. Dragony will showcase her film “”Masters of Fantasy,”” which features the Tucson underground tabletop gaming community.

    Media arts seniors Justin Mashouf and Jordan Fuller will be representing the UA as they premiere their film “”The Runners,”” which addresses U.S.-Mexico border issues.

    Local filmmakers will be available after their screenings for a Q-and-A session, giving the audience the opportunity to go beyond the film.

    “”It is a great opportunity to talk to the filmmakers about the creative process of making a film,”” Toubassi said.

    As an extra treat for Tucson music fans, a series of three short films shot behind the scenes at last year’s HoCo Festival by local musicians Howe Gelb, Danny Walker and Al Perry will be included in the Desert Shorts Program on Monday at 3:30 p.m.

    The festival also inaugurates a partnership with the Tucson Artists and Musicians Health Alliance. This new organization is dedicated to providing effective, low-cost, local health care for artists and musicians in Tucson.

    “”No one does benefits more than musicians,”” Slutes said. “”We need to start doing it for our own community.””

    Movie tickets for the festival are available at the Rialto , with prices ranging from $5 for a single ticket to $30 for all films. Day passes for the music portion of the event are $8 for a single day or $20 for all shows. The passes can be had at Club Congress.

    An all-access pass costs $40.

    For a complete list of film screenings, musical performances and ticket information, check out www.tucsonsbirthday.org.

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