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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The Daily Wildcat Report Card: Dusk Music Festival

    Sydney Richardson

    A group of four Daily Wildcat reporters spent 11 hours at the inaugural Dusk Music Festival yesterday to give you an in-depth critique of what went well and what just didn’t at Tucson’s newest large-scale music event. Get the down low on how we graded the following five categories: music, food, amenities, entertainment pavilions and overall experience.

    MUSIC: A-

    The music of Dusk Music Festival was certainly the centerpiece of the entire festival, and even with only one stage, it brought in a considerable variety of musical acts. The music kicked off at 2 p.m. with Luna Aura, a high-energy dance-pop artist who unfortunately performed to a meek crowd of some two dozen people.

    Gaby Moreno followed right after with a completely different, laid-back sound. Her gorgeous voice and calm Latin-inspired rhythms made it comfortable to just lay out in the grass among the few families and eager fans waiting at the front.

    Moreno led off with a cool sound that easily transitioned into indie-rock duo Wild Belle’s set. Tucsonan Calexico took the stage afterwards as the sun set and dusk ensued. Both Wild Belle and Calexico got the crowd moving, bringing out lively brass instruments and powerful vocals and providing a fitting soundtrack to the festival’s namesake.

    Dusk timed A-trak’s set perfectly—he came on at 6 p.m. just as rowdy college students started to pile in. The older crowd didn’t budge, though, and happily got down to the ’80s and ’90s throwbacks the DJ threw into the mix.

    However, when DJ Mustard took the stage, the festival took a sharp turn. The vibe went from something like a low-key Austin City Limits Music Festival to a mini-EDC. The crowd grew almost as quickly as the hype did, as DJ Mustard played just about every song you’ve ever heard at a UA house party.

    After the standstill DJs, Danny Brown added some much-needed movement onto the stage, but his hardstyle rap didn’t serve as a great transition into the next set from upbeat rockers Matt & Kim.

    Although it seemed like most of the crowd was there for RL Grime, Matt & Kim proved they were the true headliners of the night. From Kim playing the bass drum with an 18-inch dildo to Matt making everyone sing along to a sentimental cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” the Brooklynites brought the most interactive and memorable set of the night.

    RL Grime finally took the stage to the endless chants of the UA ravers. The crowd loved his set and the EDM veteran proved that he still has what it takes to close a festival properly.

    While it seemed like the artists of Dusk were all over the place in terms of musical genres, it was refreshing to see the juxtaposition of Tucson families and hardcore ravers enjoying a collective, homegrown experience.

    As Dusk hopefully evolves into a multi-day festival next year, it should try to separate genres and artists accordingly. For a first trial though, Dusk killed it with the lineup and brought in some of the best live music I’ve ever seen down the Dirty T.

    — Sean Orth


    Great festivals are often measured beyond their music and entertainment offerings, and everything from water stations to cool-down tents can easily enhance a festival-goer’s experience. While it was the festival’s first year, Dusk failed to offer many amenities outside of a plethora of port-o-potties.

    I will give them that, though. There was never a line for the bathroom which can often kill a festival-goer’s vibe (looking at you, Lollapalooza).

    Water proved to be a huge issue. For those that showed up when doors opened, the temperature was in the high 90s, paired with a hot Arizona sun blazing. Better yet, there wasn’t a free water station in sight—only water bottles on sale for $3.

    Dusk did offer a lounge area with inflatable couches in front of a movie screen for those who needed to retreat from the crowd, as well as a few interesting pavilions. The tech pavilion gave attendees a shady spot to experience a virtual reality, a robot and a Tesla Model X, but the tent didn’t seem to attract too many people.

    For the avid concert Snapchatter, the festival did provide an area with many electrical outlets, but it wasn’t publicized or even labeled, so many people didn’t even realize they could charge their dead phones.

    Outside of that, the effort was there and the art was rad with plenty of cool photo-ops but Dusk should work on turning itself into more of a festival experience and less of a capitalist venture when it comes to offering its attendees well-deserved amenities.

    — Sean Orth

    FOOD: B-

    Besides the music, one of the biggest draws of Dusk was food. An impressive array of Tucson restaurants came to sell, including Illegal Pete’s, Union Public House and Prep & Pastry among many others.

    The large number of choices was a plus, ensuring no one had to wait more than five minutes for food.

    The majority of these restaurants were on the upscale side, based out of downtown and the north side. These restaurants thusly stayed true to their usual pricing and were a draw for the older demographic that came to the festival early to see Calexico and Gaby Moreno.

    This upscale food made sense early in the day when Dusk felt more like a cultural experience. But eating two small orange and cinnamon braised carnitas tacos for $7 made me wonder why Reforma Cocina & Cantina was the only Mexican restaurant there. Visit Tucson reported that our city has “The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food” in the U.S. Reforma Cocina & Cantina, owned by Steve Stratigouleas and Grant Krueger, serves food from central Mexico and is located at River Road and Campbell Avenue, but there is plenty of great Mexican food in South Tucson that stays true to our region at a lower price point.

    Those restaurants would have fit Dusk’s vision of creating a festival that truly represents Tucson.

    The upscale restaurants didn’t make much sense at night once the festival brought out the DJs and turned into a party. A large number of younger patrons turned to BrushFire BBQ Co. and Empire Pizza & Pub for a filling sandwich or slice of pizza.

    — Nina Ulloa


    One of the reasons why Dusk is Tucson’s first major music festivals is the attention culture. Sure, there was music—but there was also art, culinary experiences and technology from around the city. This is what takes a festival from a concert to an experience.

    One of the major draws was a TENWEST tent dedicated to art and technology, operated by TENWEST Festival. The tent had a Tesla, Oculus Rift, a light sculpture and a robot that played catch. It was fun and interesting, and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. But the tent felt cramped.

    There was also art elsewhere—projections in the VIP lounge and a cactus garden at the front of the festival grounds. There was no artist statement nor any type of information about the work itself. What were these works about? Who were the Tucson artists behind them? I couldn’t tell you.

    I hope the next Dusk festival has a larger dedicated space and budget for arts and technology.

    — Nina Ulloa


    Not going to lie—upon arriving at Dusk, it appeared the festival would be a huge dud. Only 20 people showed up for Luna Aura’s opening set. It was borderline excruciatingly hot and there were no free water stations. Dusk’s success looked grim, but it turned around.

    More and more people filed in as local faves Gabby Moreno and Calexico played, and by the time A-Trak kicked off the festival’s nighttime circuit of EDM, rap and alt-pop headliners, Dusk goers lit up, dancing along with each performer, apparently blissful (and intoxicated).

    The festival represented Tucson’s brand of quirkiness well. It, like the Old Pueblo, was unique because of the range of artists it hosted. This variety allowed Dusk to evolve from a hipster, hyperlocal and family-friendly event by day into a rave-like dance party by night. And since there was only one stage, Dusk attendees didn’t have to choose to watch one artist over another at any given time—a ubiquitous qualm people tend to express at larger festivals like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, FYF Fest and Lollapalooza.

    Wait time between sets was also surprisingly short. The longest break down/set up was only 15-ish minutes long—an obvious accomplishment for any live music performance.

    From its diverse musical line up, to its bougie food offerings and abundance of lounge sacks allusive of female genitalia, Dusk was worth $40 a ticket.

    Dusk’s planners should consider holding the event later in the fall next year, though—during the day, it was 95 degrees and sunny, and there wasn’t anywhere to fill up a water bottle for free, aside from a lukewarm water fountain located conveniently outside of the event’s exit. They weren’t strict about enforcing it, though, and you could buy disposable water bottles for $3 a pop at beverage stations, so was it really even that bad?

    We’ll leave that judgement up to you, reader.

    — Brenna Bailey

    Live Dusk in photos in the gallery below:  

    Follow Sean OrthNina Ulloa and Brenna Bailey on Twitter. 

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