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HOCO Festival: Tucson Film and Music Festival

Hotel Congress and the Rialto Theatre, Friday, Aug. 31, through Monday, Sept. 3

Let's be patient while Michael Toubassi's execution catches up to his ambition.

His legacy is assured by his unmissable High and Dry, a documentary of the grit and grist of the Tucson music scene through the '80s and '90s. Lately, he's taken on the film portion of the annual Labor Day weekend whirlwind of film and live music dubbed the HoCo Festival: Tucson Film and Music Festival.

Fans who could suffer through a few inexplicable delays, technical bungling and bits of dubious curating were rewarded, however, with especially fine documentary insights into the history and scope of thrash metal and the life and work of obscure avant genius Scott Walker. A surprise treat was the 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed, fascinatingly animated in exquisitely detailed paper cuttings, and scored live by Friends of Dean Martinez. The North American premiere of the documentary Samba! had all the elements of great drama in a setting of Carnival spectacle.

Charming animated music videos for the Be Good Tanyas and Bright Eyes brought back the days when art and music merged on MTV.

Musically, the HoCo Festival couldn't have been more diverse. The best dancing was found by the outdoor stage, featuring such veteran crowd-movers as Bob Meighan, Ned Sutton and Al Foul. My favorite moment was Al Perry leading an all-Telecaster orchestra through Booker T.'s "Green Onions." Who needs a keyboard with six guitar soloists? By the end of Perry's set, 11 had thrown down, by my count.

Little gems sparkled inside Club Congress night after night: Ian Moore's intensely bright, psychedelic "To Be Loved"; Mike Semple's pop-fusion project, Secretary Bird, and especially his "Imaginary You," with its intimations of Stereolab and Yo La Tengo; the thrill of hearing the BellRays' Lisa Kekaula accompanied only by a spare electric guitar--just that voice, soaring and skittering between heaven and earth, followed in whiplashing contrast by current Austin favorites Okkervil River, suited up in lyrically artful folk rock with the occasional fey accessory à la Morrissey.

The energy apogee of the weekend was strategically positioned at its close: an insane performance punk by Borts Minorts, the current incarnation of Pollo Elastico's Chris Carlone, followed by the high-voltage Pork Torta and the howling swan song of The Weird Lovemakers. The trick was to stick it out long enough to get the supercharge.

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