HOCO Fest is expected to bring international talent to Tucson

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Ian Green | The Daily Wildcat

Hotel Congress, located downtown on the corner of Toole Avenue and Congress Street, will be hosting HOCO Fest starting Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017.

The annual HOCO Fest begins this Wednesday, Aug. 30, kicking off five days of music, art, food and more. This year, Hotel Congress aims to establish their festival as an event known on an international scale by bringing in foreign artists. The popular venue will also use the additional publicity to showcase the highlights of Tucson to visitors.

Co-presented by Hotel Congress and New York-based creative agency Flip Your Wig Media, this HOCO Fest will be the 12th of its kind, according to Matt Baquet, talent buyer at Hotel Congress and director and co-founder of Flip Your Wig Media.

For this year’s national and international focus, Baquet said the event will include musical artists from Orlando, Virginia, New York, London and Berlin. Baquet said in the past bands were usually coming from Tucson, Phoenix or sometimes Los Angeles.

“It’s been a very Arizona-centric, local-centric event in the past, but this year we did some targeted marketing to LA, to Phoenix, Albuquerque; we’re trying to really spread it out,” Baquet said. “We definitely have sold a handful of tickets from all over the West. Hopefully next year it’s even more broad and we’re getting people from all over the U.S. and then forward and onward from there.”

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The length of the festival has also been extended. HOCO Fests of years past usually lasted three days, but this year’s festival will begin two days before Labor Day weekend for the first time, according to Hotel Congress entertainment and booking director David Slutes. Baquet said it seemed like a “natural step” for Hotel Congress to work on expanding the reach of the festival.

“One of the big points of this festival is Tucson is really thriving right now, and we’re trying to shed light on this amazing community, and we’re trying to get it on the map, per se,” Baquet said.

Part of shedding that light is putting the spotlight on Tucson’s desert environment. 

Baquet said the lineup for the event came together in two months, and he said “it’s that much easier to book interesting artists because they want to come to the desert and they want to see what it’s all about.”

Baquet, a Tucson native now living in New York, said there’s intrigue and mystery about the desert.

“People want to be here,” he said. “People want to see what it’s like. There’s just something in the air.”

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There are 56 artists and bands set to perform during the five-day festival, spread across 10 stages. Baquet said each stage caters to a different genre. Headliners include Thundercat, Frankie Cosmos, John Maus, Cherry Glazerr and Project Pablo, among others.

This festival is more than just music. Other activities planned include regional liquor tastings each day, yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday, an “Art in the Lobby” exhibit and a vintage clothing fair on Saturday. 

Cup Café in Hotel Congress and Maynards Market and Kitchen will also have special items on their menus during the festival, according to the festival’s website.

“I think it’s important to add non-music elements when you’re trying to do something that’s actually about the community and people, rather than just the music,” Baquet said. “We’re just trying to throw as much flavor at the people coming from outside Tucson as we can.”

The event will also include a lecture by Elysia Crampton, a HOCO Fest performer, about music history, Native American art, queer Native culture, Spanish chronicler studies, disability justice and trans liberation, among other topics, according to the HOCO Fest website. The lecture will take place at the University of Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 4 p.m.

“It just seemed like a very relevant and perfect fit for this festival and this town in particular, and we were lucky to team up with the U of A and Casa Libre to make it happen over there,” Baquet said. “To me, it represents what we’re really trying to get done, which is open some minds and bring like-minded people together. We’re out here for the music, but we’re also out here for the fellowship and the collaboration and fighting the good fight.”

Slutes said he is most excited about the headliners of the shows and Saturday night’s lineup inside, which features many electronic artists. For more information about the lineup and schedule of activities for HOCO Fest, visit Hotel Congress’ website. Tickets can be purchased at the door, at the Hotel Congress front desk or online. Ticket prices range from $15 for a single day ticket to $45 for a festival package.

VIP tickets, which include a VIP seated meal with an appetizer, two entrees and a dessert, start at $100. The festival will be held at Hotel Congress, and some events are for ages 21 and up only. Be sure to check the Daily Wildcat website for select coverage of the upcoming HOCO Fest.


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