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Tucson's 5-day HoCo Fest includes the wacky Dean Blunt, long-awaited return of Dream Syndicate

Tucson's 5-day HoCo Fest includes the wacky Dean Blunt, long-awaited return of Dream Syndicate

Orkesta Mendoza returns to this year’s festival, which is concentrated on six stages downtown. David Slutes, Hotel Congress’ entertainment director, expects 7,000 will attend.

In 2016, singer-songwriter Dean Blunt had members of the media attending one of his shows check in under aliases that he selected himself.

That same year, he listed a toy Mini Cooper filled with marijuana on eBay. No word on whether it sold.

This weekend, the English musician and avant-punk provocateur is heading to Tucson for the 14th annual HoCo Fest, Hotel Congress’s five-day music festival that will take up downtown through Sunday, Sept. 2.

“Dean Blunt is an absolute wacko nut and I can’t wait for that show,” said David Slutes, Hotel Congress’ entertainment director.

Slutes wouldn’t elaborate when asked to describe Blunt’s “wacko” show — he’s set to perform Thursday, Aug. 30, with rapper Lil B at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. — except to say that it would be “hilarious and interesting.”

The 14th annual HoCo Fest features more than 50 artists of all genres and generations — except country, Slutes noted.

“Adding someone like Blunt shows people that we are trying to think outside the box and we are really paying attention to each show individually rather than doing a big lineup, a big party,” said Hotel Congress’ Matt Baquet, who curated the festival.

Last year, Baquet rebranded and recast HoCo Fest as a regional boutique music and arts festival from its origins as a homecoming for Tucson musicians. The event grew last year to five days from its original three.

Part of the rebranding called for bringing in artists of the caliber of Blunt and California rapper Lil B, metal/punk rocker Andrew W.K. and up-and-comers rocker Boy Harsher and EDM artist Black Marble. Adding community activists panels, visual arts and vintage clothing and record fairs adds depth to the event, Baquet said.

“It’s not just a huge party,” he said.

But there will be parties. After-party events will be held from midnight to 4 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1, with their locations being kept secret until the last minute.

More than 50 artists are on the lineup, including several Tucson bands — Giant Sand and Orkesta Mendoza — and artists from Phoenix. National acts include Dream Syndicate making its first Tucson appearance in 30 years, and international acts include English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, Berlin’s M.E.S.H., Spain’s Bad Gyal and, of course, Blunt.

“It’s the first time he has been to North America in two years and he’s coming here,” Slutes said. “This is exactly how we curate it to pay the money to get people who are really special to come. We find that to be a good template to get other artists to come.”

HoCo Fest is concentrated on six stages downtown including the patio of Hotel Congress and the stage of Club Congress, and poolside at the recently renovated west side Hotel McCoy, where they will host pool parties from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Slutes estimates nearly 7,000 people will attend the festival, many of them coming from Phoenix.

Here’s your guide to HoCo Fest 2018:

What: A five-day music and arts festival.

When: 6 p.m. nightly through Sept. 2.

Where: Hotel and Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.; Cans Deli, 340 N. Fourth Ave.; 191 Toole, 191 E. Toole Ave.; and Hotel McCoy, 720 W. Silverlake Road.

Cost: $20 in advance for each day, $125 for a festival pass through

Et cetera: Shows for ages 16 and up on Wednesday and Thursday, otherwise 21 and older.

The lineup: See complete list at

Schedule: See for a day-by-day schedule of concerts.

Free panel discussions: 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, at Museum of Contemporary Art, 265 S. Church Ave.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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