2008 HoCo Fest

Club Congress, Friday, Aug. 29, through Sunday, Aug. 31

In September 2005, Club Congress celebrated its 20th anniversary with a three-day event featuring one-off reunions of popular local bands through the years. The weekend was so popular that Congress milked a 21st birthday in 2006; since 2007, the Labor Day weekend affair has been dubbed the HoCo Festival--meaning this past weekend saw HoCo's second edition.

HoCo's genre-themed stages reflected the eclectic downtown music scene that Club Congress has been the heart and soul of for 23 years. On Friday, the shorts-and-sandals bluegrass crowd enjoyed early sets on the outdoor Alt-Country Stage from the likes of the Dusty Buskers and the Fell City Shouts (Tom Waits-influenced up-and-comers), while inside, on the Fuzz Stage, local hipsters and forever-young punks grooved to two all-female, Runaways-inspired trios: The Shudders (Oakland, Calif.) and Tucson's Winelord. Anaheim, Calif.'s Dusty Rhodes and the River Band was particularly well-received outside with both crowds, coming off as a wonderfully "disheveled Decemberists."

Though Night Two of HoCo fell victim to a nagging monsoon, Congress organizers adjusted well. While a late groom delayed a rock 'n' roll wedding (Gentlemen Afterdark's Robin Johnson) conducted by local cowpunk legend Al Perry, the most anticipated performance of Saturday--that of the Meat Puppets--went on without a hitch. The influential Phoenix act may be best-known for their appearance on the Nirvana Unplugged special, but the Kirkwood brothers gave longtime fans a classic Puppets performance (bordering on Spinal Tap Mark II) full of druggy solos and power chords.

Saturday's rain made for an unlikely pairing of Ned Sutton and the Rabbits with Giant Sand's Howe Gelb, which saw Gelb whipping up a countrified version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love." To top off the evening, the Bang! Bang! DJs gave partiers a second wind with jams from Depeche Mode and Joy Division. Priceless.

The same thing can be said about the whole event. Through intermittent rain on Sunday, Congress skipped the cover charge. Ironically, The Swim ended up being the biggest rained-out act, as newer bands (particularly indie-poppers Young Mothers) impressed on The Caliente stage inside. HoCo's closing performance was bittersweet, as the Deludes performed what could be their last show before lead singer Larry Wawro leaves town.

If you missed out, don't fret--there's always next year's Deludes HoCo reunion!

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