TapeOpCon Music Showcases

Various Venues, Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9

For you non-gear geeks out there, TapeOpCon is a music conference started in 2001 by local engineer guru Craig Schumacher, attracting recording enthusiasts from all over the world. Based in New Orleans as recently as 2005, the Katrina disaster forced TapOpCon to relocate to Tucson last year. This year's festivities stretched from the Rialto Theatre and Club Congress to the northside Hilton El Conquistador resort.

After a day of fascinating panel discussions about recording techniques that would leave the casual music lover numb, Club Congress paid tribute to musical and cultural mecca New Orleans on Friday. While the predominately male attendees enjoyed a Katrina benefit Cajun cookout outside at Congress, across the street at Rialto, the funky Rebirth Brass Band were burnin' down the house. Back at the Congress indoor stage, jambalaya was digested to the smooth Western/surf slide guitar of the Jon Rauhouse Trio. Afterward, the swelling crowd worked off some étouffée while dancing nonstop to the Caribbean-Zydeco, Nahleans shuffle of Sunpie Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots.

Tragically, most of the exhausted crowd left after Sunpie and missed the surprise hit of the weekend--the seven-piece, coed, multi-instrumentalist juggernaut that is St. Louis' Gentleman Auction House. Looking (and sounding) like they'd just got back from an Arcade Fire band camp, complete with matching bob haircuts, GAH combined trumpet, violin, xylophone, organs and dual drummers to make spine-tingling pints full of musical bliss.

Saturday evening, the El Conquistador resort hosted a "private" poolside concert with DeVotchKa, Calexico and John Vanderslice for conventioneers (and perplexed hotel guests). I've been to some odd venues, but it was quite surreal to watch the gypsy-cabaret, Klezmer-rock group DeVotchKa belt out the dark, dramatic "The Enemy Guns" amid bouncing beach balls and cavorting children splashing about.

Vanderslice followed with a touching solo set, featuring moving versions of "Angela" and "Dear Sarah Shu." Calexico's highlights included Nick Luca on vocals for a twangy cover of "Walk on the Wild Side," and Schumacher himself on harmonica for the most distorted, rocked-out "Not Even Stevie Nicks ..." that I've ever seen, as bikini-clad beauties floated by in the glimmering water.

Maybe those swimmers can head a panel discussion next year on the acoustic benefits of mastering a final mix while underwater. I'm sure the gear geeks wouldn't mind.

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