(Published by Arizona Daily Wildcat on March 12, 2008.)
Downtown Saturday Nights used to be a big deal. Back in the ’90s, people would peruse local booths, get drunk and sleep in their car until they were sober enough to drive home. This year, the Downtown Tucson Partnership is bringing stranded spring breakers a similar event with a more wholesome goal: to build community.
This Saturday, Tucson’s downtown area will be raging with local businesses and talents for a five-hour all-ages festival. Downtown Saturdays: Music and Community Festival is for all Tucsonans looking to be entertained and educated about what Tucson has to offer.
“Logistically, there are a lot of things happening out of town like the South by Southwest Music Festival. There’s a huge contingency of people who can’t get out of town for the spring break,” said Jamie Manser, event associate for the Downtown Tucson Partnership. “It’s nice to have a spring festival in the middle of March.”
Alongside the local businesses, some of Tucson’s hottest local musicians will be strutting their stuff. They are Latin bossa jazz ensemble Combo Westside, local blues and folk singer Stefan George, singer-songwriter Amber Norgaard, alternative country singer Quincy and fusion artist Michael P.
Among local Tucson non-profit organizations, The Drawing Studio will be present at the festival. Its art professionals will be teaching and demonstrating different art studio processes, which is great if you haven’t been able to get into any art classes this year.
If you enjoy their instruction and feedback, The Drawing Studio has a headquarters downtown at 33 S. Sixth Ave., where you can peruse its extensive art library and participate in cheap open studio art classes.
“We had an event last September and it was really great seeing the diverse demographic of people that were down there: families, younger people, older people,” Manser said. “They were enjoying the local non-profits and the music and just being outside in downtown Tucson.”
One of the main goals of the festival is to let local musicians belt their hearts out in an all-ages venue. Tucson’s community radio station, KXCI 91.3 FM, invited many bands to perform including Combo Westside, Stefan George, Amber Norgaard, Quincy and Michael P.
Critical Stilts is made up of members of Flam Chen and Many Mouths One Stomach. These performers are dedicated to bringing festal culture to the public and to this event. They have been known to transform the audience into participants, so be aware of tall friendly people asking you to dance.
“We will walk and have fun, maybe do some march drills for the fun of it,” said Paul Weir, technical director of Flam Chen.
Flam Chen’s performances feature circus theatrics, fire art and dancing. They will not be performing on Saturday, but visitors can learn how to become involved with them.
“Tucson doesn’t have very many performance artists come out that are made to be seen by a lot of people,” Weir said. “I think the carnivalesque activities and circus arts excite people who want something more than what they’re generally fed. TV and media portray the world of something that you can never attain but for us we are TV,” Weir said.
“We are self-entertaining people. You can leave us on a desert island and we don’t want a radio or television, we want a pair of stilts. That’s the paradigm that we belong to. We don’t watch media to look for stuff to do, we create media (ourselves).”
Another spectacle for both adults and kids will be presented by The Physics Factory. This group of scientists performs stage shows to illustrate the magic of science. Employing sparks, smoke, lasers, “invisible forces” and other physical phenomena, the group demystifies science and hope to project an appreciation for the amazing world that we live in.
The Physics Factory will most likely show up in its Physics Bus, a science museum on wheels. The bus has been customized to run on Eegee’s used fry oil and this green attraction is only the first of many that this Physics team promises to bring.
“It’s an opportunity to see what the Tucson music and community scene has to offer. A lot of non-profits will be there to help you with what they do,” Manser said. “It’s just an opportunity to see what Tucson has to offer and how you can get involved and be a part of the community or sit and just have a beer. There’s face painting for the kids and beer for the big kids.”
An extensive selection of the Southwest’s finest ales will be available from the local Nimbus Brewing Company and there will be a beer garden for adult enjoyment.
Odaiko Sonora, Tucson’s Taiko drumming organization, will have a table at the event, as will Arts for All, Inc., a non-profit group for children with and without disabilities.
The Downtown Saturdays: Music and Community Festival will be held at the Main Library Plaza, 101 N. Stone Ave., from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The festival is free to all ages.
For more information and a complete listing of events, visit www.DowntownTucson.org/downtown_Saturdays/.