When former Tucsonan and UA grad Michael Toubassi—who currently lives in Los Angeles and is the co-founder of the production company Upstairs Film—set out to document Tucson's music scene several years ago, he probably wouldn't have guessed what the project would morph into.
Toubassi directed High and Dry, which covers Old Pueblo music history from the late '70s to about 2000. A cut of the film was unveiled in 2005, as the opening event for Hotel Congress' 20th Anniversary weekend celebration. It was a perfect tie-in: Many of the bands featured were already reuniting for the Congress event.
It all gave Toubassi an idea: Why not combine films about music and/or the Southwest with corresponding live performances, and build a festival around it? What is now called the Tucson Film and Music Festival was born.
For a couple of years, the event coincided with Congress' ongoing anniversary parties—now called HoCo Fest. But starting last year, the festival had grown to the point that it could exist as a stand-alone event. Take a look at the ambitious schedule of events planned for this weekend's TFMF (tucsonfilmandmusicfestival.com), and you'll understand why. A few highlights:
Toubassi has designated three films as official selections of the festival, which runs Friday, Oct. 9, through Monday, Oct. 12, at a slew of locations around town. Friday night's official selection is Largo, a concert documentary filmed at the titular eclectic Los Angeles nightspot that features performances by Andrew Bird, Aimee Mann, Zach Galifianakis and Flight of the Conchords, among others. Sunday night's film is Rock Prophecies, a doc that traces the career of music photographer Robert Knight from his days documenting pre-fame acts like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, to seeking out current young bands that he thinks could achieve a similar measure of success. Sandwiched between the two is a Saturday screening of The Sweet Lady With the Nasty Voice, a documentary about the door-opening, legendary rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson. A huge bonus: Later that night, at Plush, Jackson, who turns 72 on Oct. 20, will perform a show backed by locals the El Camino Royales.
Other festival highlights include the Tucson premiere of The Heart Is a Drum Machine, a documentary by Tempe musician Christopher Pomerenke that features, among many others, John Doe, MGMT and John Frusciante, trying to answer the question, "What is music?"; Such Hawks Such Hounds, a survey of the past four decades of American underground hard rock; the West Coast premiere of One Man in the Band, which chronicles a number of, well, one-man bands; and I Need That Record!, which documents the ongoing death of the record store via interviews with the likes of Thurston Moore, Mike Watt and Ian Mackaye.
Additionally, there will be screenings of short films and music videos, plus more live performances, including shows by These Arms Are Snakes, Le Chat Lunatique and The Quick and Easy Boys.
Admission to individual events runs from $5 to $15, and an all-inclusive pass is available for $40. Tickets may be purchased at the Web site listed above.
The TFMF is far from the only game in town this week, so let's see how many more worthwhile shows we can cram into this space, OK? OK!
Tom Walbank and Arthur Migliazza, two of Tucson's finest practitioners of their instruments—blues harmonica and jazz/blues piano, respectively—celebrate the release of Burn Your Bridges, a collaborative new CD, with a performance at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., on Friday, Oct. 9. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available in advance for $12 at Antigone Books, Plaza Liquors and Enchanted Earthworks; by calling 319-9966; or online at rhythmandroots.org.
Instrumental Japanese post-rockers Mono (whose name I recently learned rhymes with "oh no"), masters of the slow-building crescendo, earlier this year released their fifth studio album, Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Temporary Residence), which expands the band's sonic palette to include a chamber orchestra. Recorded by Steve Albini, it is easily the band's most ambitious release yet. They're joined at their Wednesday, Oct. 14, performance, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., by Athens, Ga.'s Maserati, who open at 9 p.m. $8 in advance; $10 day of. 622-8848.
New York's A Place to Bury Strangers, which trades in atmospheric modern shoegaze and space rock, released its second album, Exploding Head (Mute), earlier this week, and it's a doozy. The band's penchant for noise has been moderated a bit by producer Andy Smith (Paul Simon, David Bowie), who applies high-fidelity studio tricks to the band's layers of sound. It should appeal to anyone who's still waiting for that new My Bloody Valentine album. They're at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, along with openers Darker My Love and All the Saints, who get things rolling at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $12. 798-1298.
After a brief hiatus, Monster Pussy, your 2009 TAMMIES winners in the Punk category, return for a show this week that also features L.A.'s Whitman ("one of the most intense, nonelectric musical performances I've ever witnessed" sez Monster Pussy frontman Mullarkey), a solo acoustic set from power-poppy Clark 8 (L.A.), and the ever-charming locals Great Job. This one goes down at Dry River, 740 N. Main Ave., at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10. Admission to the all-ages show is a fiver. For more info, head to myspace.com/dryrivertucson.
Champaign, Ill.'s Heather and Nic Dillon, who began playing music together in 2001 as part of Winter in Alaska and, later, under the name Casados, eventually fell in love, got married and began performing acoustic chamber-ish pop as You and Yourn. Their upcoming album, It Would Make Things Worse (Parasol), scheduled for release on Oct. 27, should appeal equally to fans of Iron and Wine and Simon and Garfunkel. They'll open for Forrest Fallows at an all-ages show at The HangArt, 512 N. Echols Ave., at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 13. Admission is $5. Head to myspace.com/thehangartspace for further details.
One of the most lauded solo rappers to emerge out of the Wu-Tang Clan collective, Ghostface Killah returns to Tucson for an all-ages show at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to support his new Def Jam album Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City. Meyer Hawthorne opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $20 in advance at the Rialto Theatre; they'll be $22 on the day of the show. Call 740-1000 for more information.
Local alterna-rockers Tongue Dried Sun will perform a pair of acoustic sets at the Fox and Hound, 7625 N. La Cholla Blvd., at 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Admission is a minimum donation of $5, or you can pitch in $20 for a VIP pass that includes access to a buffet in the green room, a Tongue Dried Sun CD, a raffle ticket and a meet-and-greet with the band. For more details, head to tonguedriedsun.com.
Finally, here's a quick rundown of more good stuff: Margaret Cho at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Oct. 9; SOJA at The Rock on Sunday, Oct. 11; Atreyu at the Rialto on Tuesday, Oct. 13; Big Band Express as part of the Jazz in the Courtyard series at St. Philip's Plaza on Sunday, Oct. 11; A Day to Remember at the Rialto on Monday, Oct. 12; Jaguares at the Rialto next Thursday, Oct. 15; Diamonds Under Fire at O'Malley's on Saturday, Oct. 10, and The Depot Sports Bar on Sunday, Oct. 11; Kittie at the Rialto on Wednesday, Oct. 14; Jesse Cook at the Berger Performing Arts Center next Thursday, Oct. 15; Viva Tucson! Tejano Music Showcase at AVA at Casino del Sol on Friday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 10; Tito Puente Jr. at UA's Centennial Hall on Saturday, Oct. 10; Dos Hermanos and Otherly Love at The HangArt next Thursday, Oct. 15.