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Tucson music scene can be seen this weekend

Photo courtesy of Capitol Records
Bob Log III is one of the several local artists featured in 'High and Dry,' a film documenting 20 years of Tucson's music scene. The film will debut at the Loft as part of Club Congress' celebration.
By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 1, 2005
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If you don't believe that the words "Tucson" and "music scene" should be spoken in the same sentence, filmmaker Michael Toubassi is hoping his documentary on the subject will change your mind.

"Right now, the scene is on an uphill path. It's pretty good. A lot of bands are still making music, which is really a tribute to themselves," said Toubassi.

Director/Producer/Writer Michael Toubassi's newest documentary "High and Dry" is set to premier at an exclusive preview this weekend at the Loft Cinema. A retrospective of the last 20 years of music in Tucson, the film looks at the trials and tribulations of what Toubassi refers to as an "eclectic bunch of musicians."

A UA alumnus, Toubassi began his relationship with the Tucson music scene booking shows at the Student Union Memorial Center's Cellar and spinning records as a KAMP disc jockey. Gradually branching out to band management, booking shows for several downtown clubs and working with several local indie labels, Toubassi saw the local scene grow from the inside.

"I'm trapped in the past of Tucson. It wasn't until I moved to L.A., and was no longer a part of it, that I appreciated it with nostalgia and perspective. I decided that someone should make a documentary," explained Toubassi. "I was talking with some friends about it, and I just said, 'I think I should do it.'"

Tackling 20 years of music history is never an easy task, even in a relatively small city like Tucson. Starting with a small number of locals, the list of people that Toubassi and his crew realized they wanted to interview grew quickly.

"After interviewing a few people, we noticed that the same bands kept coming up. There are so many great bands in Tucson. We really wish we could have included everyone. It came down to the fact that we needed to make a two-hour film, not a miniseries," said Toubassi.

While the film does feature such local headliners as Howe Gelb, Al Perry, David Slutes, Bob Log III and Calexico, "High and Dry" aims to show the diversity of music in Tucson.

Although Calexico member Joey Burns has not yet seen the film (Toubassi wanted to present the film to both participants and the general audience at the same time), he's excited about the implications that "High and Dry" offers for local musicians.

"A lot of people think that the words 'Tucson music scene' refer to rock-based bands, but there's all sorts of music here. It's very diverse," said Burns.

Because of the relationship Toubassi had with many local musicians prior to making "High and Dry," it wasn't difficult to find people interested in helping with the project. Local country rocker Al Perry knew Toubassi before the film was even a vague idea.

"I've seen two to three generations of bands come up in Tucson. I've known Mike (Toubassi) for years. When he's in Tucson, we get Mexican food; when I play gigs in L.A., he's there. Of course he was going to talk to me," said Perry. "It's kind of cool - he didn't try to go for any gossip. It's a positive reflection on the Tucson scene. Doing the work is what is important."

More than five years in the making, "High and Dry" is finally ready for a preview audience this weekend, coinciding with Club Congress' 20th anniversary. Toubassi is hopeful that the film will eventually be distributed in the U.S. and abroad.

"Any documentary stands as a historical piece of work. Maybe families will want to have this history, but I guess that's a pretty egregious kind of goal. I just want people to know what happened in Tucson prior to the current scene," said Toubassi.

"The fact that he actually finished is quite an accomplishment," said Joey Burns.

"High and Dry" will screen at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. There are three shows scheduled: Friday at 7p.m. ($10), and Saturday and Sunday at 3p.m. ($8). The screenings on Saturday and Sunday will be followed by question-and-answer sessions with Toubassi, as well as other crewmembers.

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