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Labor day film and music festival celebrates local artists

Courtesy+of+Tucson+Film+and+Music+Festival

Courtesy of Tucson Film and Music Festival

Being that few Tucsonans know much about the local music scene, the Tucson Film and Music Festival will feature a documentary during this Labor Day weekend about some of the most renowned bands that originated in Tucson.

The documentary “High and Dry,” directed by Michael Toubassi, captures the essence of Tucson music from the late 1970s up to the late 1990s.

Toubassi is also the festival’s director and programmer and said that “High and Dry” actually sparked the invention of the Tucson Film and Music Festival.

“The festival really grew out of that original screening,” he said. “The film festival part of it took off on its own and I think it was important to showcase music documentaries and filmmakers from Arizona and the southwest in a festival in Tucson. It was something that was needed.”

This year’s festival will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the “High and Dry” documentary.

Toubassi’s inspiration for the film stems from his strong involvement in Tucson’s music scene while he attended the UA.

“I think the love of the Tucson music scene is my main inspiration and motivation to make the film,” he said. “I was involved in the music scene as a promoter, booker, working at the college radio station there at the [UA], managing bands. I formed a band and once I moved to Los Angeles, I realized how incredible all the music and musicians were and how much I loved them. That’s what inspired me to make the film.”

He wanted the festival to shine light on the fact that its featured musicians were from Tucson, as few people knew where their roots began.

“[I want] to let people around the U.S. and around the world know that Tucson has an incredible music scene—that there has been fantastic music coming out of Tucson since the [1970s],” Toubassi said. “A lot of people didn’t know that the bands were from Tucson, so I wanted to highlight that they came from [here]. So bands like the Supersuckers and Calexico all have their roots in Tucson. A lot of people maybe like those bands, they just never knew they were from Tucson.”

The bands that will be featured in the documentary have rock ‘n’ roll roots, but all still bring varying flavors of rock to the table. You can expect genres including blues, indie-rock, folk, country and even mariachi-influenced music.

“Tucson is full of those elements,” Toubassi said. “All rooted in rock ‘n’ roll, but with a lot of these other things sprinkled in.”

Toubassi began his music scene involvement during the 1990s and felt it was the best time for music in Tucson. He also discovered how music from the past really influenced earlier music.

“Being that I was involved and active in Tucson throughout the entire [1990s], I feel that was one of the greatest times of Tucson music,” he said. “But as I was making the film, I discovered that a lot of what was happening in Tucson music in the [1990s] was really rooted in the bands of that late [1970s] and [1980s].”

The “High and Dry” Facebook page notes that the music documentary received an award at the Peoria Film Festival for Best Documentary.

Kelsey Self, marketing director for the Tucson Film and Music Festival, feels that the film is important for the Tucson community and gives the community a history lesson about the Tucson music scene.

“The film is important because it documents the history of the Tucson music scene in a way that hasn’t been done,” she said. “There are a lot of notable artists that have come out of Tucson and this film is a window into the history of the Tucson music scene.”

Festival attendee numbers have grown over the years. Self said they are happy to offer the community an “ever-expanding list of films and different events they can come participate in.”

After “High and Dry,” the audience will get the chance to see the concert film, “Going Back to Tucson,” which showcases Tucson bands and cover bands covering Tucson music.

Catch both films Friday at 7 p.m. for $8, and Sunday at 3 p.m. for $5 at the Rialto Theater.


Follow Erika Parra on Twitter.


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