For veteran attendees of music festivals, there's something magical about the dusk hour.
Anticipation builds for the larger acts, the heat of the day fades, the changing colors in the sky create a beautiful backdrop and everything just seems right.
The organizers to Tucson's Dusk Music Festival had all that in mind when they chose the name for the inaugural multi-genre festival, which brings Matt and Kim, RL Grime, A-Trak, DJ Mustard, Danny Brown, Calexico, Wild Belle, Luna Aura and Gaby Moreno to Rillito Park on Saturday.
The all-day event, which also includes art installations, carnival games and rides, local craft beer and food from a dozen of Tucson's top restaurants, also functions as the kick-off for the TENWEST Festival, which will bring a Technology Pavilion to Dusk, featuring interactive digital installations, Tesla cars and virtual reality gear.
The Dusk organizers have been enjoying musical festivals with friends and family for years and wanted to establish a signature event in Tucson, taking advantage of the city's own art, music, climate and vibe. Steve Stratigouleas, owner of Reforma Cocina Y Cantina and Union Public House, and John Rallis, a local mortgage lender, had been talking about putting together a festival for years and in January, the duo got together with Pete Turner from Illegal Pete's restaurant and architect Page Repp to begin making it a reality.
"We started looking at different acts, who's available, who's affordable, and just started throwing names out there," Stratigouleas says. "When it came down to it, we just started picking up the phone and reaching out to artists and putting together offers and learning as we went."
The name, Stratigouleas says, came from Repp's wife, who's been going to Coachella for a dozen years.
"She's always felt like dusk at music festivals is the best time of the day," he says. "It's beautiful and the festival really starts to change at dusk. The name stuck out and we ran with it. It ties everything in, the feel, the music, the sunset."
The organizers had considered larger acts like J. Cole, Snoop Dogg and the Black Keys, but had to stick to a more reasonable budget, hoping to build slowly rather than risk a big failure.
"The first time doing anything is risky and has its own added layer of difficulty," says Stratigouleas, adding that plans are already in motion to continue next year, perhaps as a two-day event with a larger headliner.
The central goal for the lineup was to bring in a broad slate of acts, representing everything from electronica to hip-hop to indie rock, to ensure Dusk would have something for everyone.
"The diversity is extremely important to us. We really wanted to have a multi-genre festival. You go to Outside Lands or Coachella and the artists are all over the board. We knew that would appeal to more people," Stratigouleas says. "I listen to EDM, I listen to hip-hop, I listen to pop and everything in between. We just felt this is what a festival should be."
For headliners Matt and Kim, what unites the various Dusk performers is a "kinship of energy."
"When you break down music past genre, past anything, people connect to that energy," says Matt Johnson, the group's keyboardist and singer. "Looking at the lineup, I think this festival will have a great energy to it. There are so many times that lineups are less diverse and given what me and Kim do, taking from all sorts of different music, we love it. What we do at a festival is ramp it up to 11 and I'm sure the other acts will too."
Matt and Kim made a splash earlier this year at Coachella, playing a brand new song during the festival's first weekend, then hitting the studio and returning seven days later with a fresh EP already available. Johnson says the burst of new songwriting came after a brief rest last winter and the excitement of returning to the stage.
"When we finally got back on the road again it was so inspiring. It was as if we'd come back from retirement even though it was only two months," he says. "We had all these ideas for songs and the energy we wanted to put across."
Like always, those ideas extend beyond just the music. Long known for their innovative music videos, Matt and Kim focus on the visual component that adds a deeper layer to their art. Kim makes all of the band's album art and Matt calls on his film-school background for video ideas.
"It's an old advertising term, but I want something that intrigues me if it can be explained in one sentence: Matt and Kim do a choreographed dance while in bed. Matt and Kim take their clothes off in Times Square," Johnson says. "When we started making music videos, we had no money. So we had to think of the million-dollar idea you can make for a hundred dollars and we held that over as things grew."
The latest video, for "Let's Run Away," uses the "centriphone" technique, swinging a GoPro camera around and around on a string and slowing down the footage to capture a unique look.
"I call it the poor man's bullet time," Johnson says. "We were learning as we shot it about the kinds of things this technique would make look cool. As we were shooting, we'd try something, like for example the deck of cards. The more movement that's slowed way down and given this other dimension to it was cool."
The We Were The Weirdos EP is a celebration of individuality, Johnson says, featuring his high school yearbook photo on the cover.
"We're looking back on where we came from, especially what got us into music. I was deeply into punk rock and I had my share of stuff yelled at me for the way I looked," he says. "But I think embracing being a weirdo gives you the courage to be yourself and do the things you want to do. Maybe I still don't look like that teenage Matt, but it's still in there."