Moveable Fests: BC70 and to HoCo Fest or NoCo Fest
Your weekend in local music
BC70 - a bicoastal tradition with guitar
One of the things they don't warn you about when you become a local music columnist, community radio programmer and/or hometown music aficionado is that you’re going to inevitably become an ambassador of sorts and get to know the folks that ALWAYS SHOW UP at every live show. They also don’t tell you how wonderful that’s going to be. While most local music scenes these days are largely composed of a great big network of musicians playing for crowds of fellow musicians, there’s something about pure, unfettered, unapologetic fandom that’s damned contagious and truly delightful.
In Tucson for the last few years, Bob Colby has been one of those guys, a familiar face at Che’s Lounge or Habitation Speakeasy devoting his retirement years to watching live rock and roll. Your humble scribe kind of wants to be that when she grows up.
Don’t let his gentle, subtle, post-punk wallflower demeanor fool you either. This is a dude who cut his teeth listening to the Modern Lovers play live in Boston circa 1970 or so and was friends with the likes of Mary Lou Lord, among other Boston luminaries. If Bob is impressed with your band, your band is impressive.
Known in his hometown for epic, birthday-themed shows, Tucson is pretty lucky to host birthday number 70, with an enviable lineup made up of some of Bob Colby’s favorite local talent.
Your rock and roll chronicler recently checked in to find out more.
Tucson Sentinel: Hi, Bob! I’m so excited for the show Saturday night! I also know how big a deal it is for your to have a Tucson birthday show, but some of our readers don’t know you, so would you be so kind as to share some context? I know you used to book shows back when you were part of the Boston indie music scene, right?
Bob Colby: “I’d been going to shows in Boston for several decades when I decided to throw myself a musical birthday party called ‘BC60’ for my 60th birthday in 2012. It was so much fun I decided to start doing monthly shows as well.”
“That continued for about 5 years until I did another birthday party, ‘BC65’ in 2017. That was the last show I produced in Boston as I was beginning to think about moving.”
TS: And then you came here. Where we’re super glad to have you, by the way.
BC: “I arrived in Tucson in September 2018. At first I didn’t know where to look to find a like-minded musical community. By happenstance I managed to find my way to a Resonars show at Che’s, and I was so delighted I had to talk to them.”
TS: You’ve got decent taste, my friend!
BC: “My first real conversation with a ‘music scene’ person was with Matt Rendon. I could not have picked a better person to point me in the direction of what I should check out. And things have continued very nicely since (excepting the COVID shutdown times.)
TS: Ha, I think Matt might deny being a “music scene” person, but he was absolutely the right guy to run into. Now tell us more about the upcoming show!
BC: “When my 70th birthday began to approach, I decided that I now knew enough great acts (and people) to attempt ‘BC70’ and I believe I’ve put together a bill that reflects both the friends I’ve made in this town as well as the range of my musical taste”
TS: You have indeed. New Misphoria, Watercolor, Exbats, Female Gaze and Weekend Lovers!
BC: “Also, I couldn’t be more pleased that one of the acts (the Exbats, who are one of the best garage rock bands in the country) now includes Matt Rendon! Full circle, you might say.
TS: May the circle be unbroken.
BC70 at Habitation Realty Speakeasy takes place Saturday, Sept. 3, at 3:30 p.m. at Habitation Realty, 641 N. 10th Ave. The show lineup includes Watercolor, New Misphoria, the Exbats, Female Gaze and Watercolor. It’s an all-ages event and mask use is encouraged. A $10 donation at the door is suggested.
Hoco Fest or NoCo fest? A rock fan’s dilemma
The mostly annual Labor Day event turned self-described “boutique festival” known as HoCo Fest has returned to Hotel Congress after a brief COVID respite. And it’s returned in a big way, as a 5 day festival (the event kicked off on Thursday) with a mix of well-known and emerging bands from all over and a little bit of local representation taking the stage throughout the long weekend. Beyond just the shows, HoCo Fest offers a plethora of events from industry panels and record fairs and film screenings to food tastings, pool parties, DJ sets and semi-secret afterparties, as a day long “Sonoran Desert Sustainability Summit” called Regenerate AZ on Saturday.
On the one hand, HoCo Fest is kind of a big deal for Tucson. It’s gained a solid reputation in nationwide music festival circles and it’s something of a draw for out-of-towners and a catalyst for folks to fall in love with Tucson and its music scene (and hopefully spend a bit of cash at local establishments while they’re here.)
The flip side of this, of course, is that a festival that grew out of Tucson’s legendary Desert Rock scene and that was once almost fully immersed in local music history and spirit has morphed into something that seems to be largely not meant for local audiences, though a cross section of local bands are represented, including Mute Swan, Female Gaze, Flagstaff band Sci-Fi Country and Tucsonan-by-retirement Kid Congo Powers. Tickets, especially full-day passes, are prohibitively expensive for the largely service industry and retail worker crowd that makes up a lot of Tucson’s local music extended family and several events are “password only” or otherwise quasi-exclusive and, much like Dusk Festival, the other major Tucson based annual music fest, a lot of the focus seems to be on the names the festival has landed and its place among the festival scene itself, rather than the town that hosts it.
With all that said, this year’s HoCo Fest has an impressive lineup and is probably worth the investment if you have some disposable income and want to get a massive amount of musical bang for your buck.
This music writer may sight and complain about this in the same way every year, but there’s always a chance that next year I’ll change my tune.
In the meantime, you can find out more at Hocofest.com.