Hey, man, there's no such thing as bad press--at least that's what critics say whenever they run into somebody they've recently trashed. In the case of the fourth-annual SolstiCelebration, a drum-driven romp through a welter of progressive/alternative/New Agey signifiers heralding the arrival of the longest day of the year, spokesperson Amy Martin isn't so sure.
At first, she and other members of the outdoor festival's planning staff were excited when Dallas Morning News religion section writer Christine Wicker wanted to do a profile of the event and some of the rather unorthodox people it attracts. The story's slant was to be the remarkable acceptance of alternative philosophies nowadays, but Martin groaned when she saw the article's May 11 headline: "Pagan's Progress."
"I thought we'd left the 'p-word' behind a couple of years ago," Martin says in frustration, despairing of the negative reaction the word gets here--beneath the buckle of the Bible Belt. Other than Martin's receiving "a very cold reception at my in-laws," there hasn't been any real fallout outside of a complete and utter lack of corporate support.
"It kinda typifies the Dallas attitude," Martin sighs. "So conservative," she says, noting that of the 24 corporations solicited, all 24 turned down the SolstiCelebration's request for aid. Of course, the event organizers didn't approached anybody about last year's event, which attracted several thousand folks--up by a factor of 10 from the year before. Asking people for money isn't the kind of task that sees much of a quick return, and Martin and company shouldn't take it too personally.
At least that's the opinion of some who oversee the donations process for the corporations the festival approached. "We get a lot of requests," says L.D. Swales, Exxon's program officer for environmental and health contributions. "We can't say yes to everybody. We certainly don't think there's anything wrong with the event, and [the p-word] certainly wasn't a factor."
Other functionaries mentioned a preference for educational funding or established programs; the general lack of money for such fripperies in the lean, mean '90s was also cited frequently.
Martin, however, is less than convinced. "I just thought they'd want to be here," she says, noting local affection for White Rock Lake--which will benefit from the proceeds of the event and the rising attendance. "It was a rude shock. We were offering them a very attractive package. I'm still not convinced."
Particularly galling to Martin is the corporate bounty heaped on concerts and events that are often little more than drunken hootenannies. Although much of the action at SolstiCelebration may remind you of the crowd at a Grateful Dead concert--caucasians with dreadlocks, guys dressed like Aladdin--Martin sees a difference that may explain beer companies' lack of interest.
"This isn't really a big drinking crowd," she explains. "They're gentle and very spiritual. It's better than a Dead show, because everybody's not so zoned. Drumming and extreme intoxication don't go together very well."
Although there are activities scheduled for Friday and Sunday, the body of the celebration will be June 22. There will be storytellers and craftsmen. Other continents will be represented by villages that reflect their cultures. Expect drumming and dancing to be the order of the day. Live music, workshops, and poetry culminate in a 5:30 p.m. parade and sunset dance with "anthropological rock band" Ooga Booga.
From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. there will be a "heat siesta," during which most activities move indoors. The event will be held around the Bathhouse Cultural Center and the Dreyfuss Club on the east shore of the lake and starts at 9 a.m. Martin promises that the "dancing babe quotient" will be very high. For more information, call the Drum Hotline at 823-DRUM.
Feels like a stranger
Weird Eric at night, Deadhead's delight: The two-hour "Lone Star Dead" radio show on KNON-FM 89.3 steams towards its 12th broadcast June 15 from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m. Way past late-breaking news, to be sure, but there are a number of folks out there who, bitterly disappointed, never looked back when the station trashed its entire lineup two years ago; the Dead show was one of many beloved casualties.
"When [KNON promotions director] Dave Chaos called me, he couldn't believe I had the same phone number," DJ "Weird" Eric Schwartz recalls. The response to the show's return has been heartwarming. "A lot of people are glad we're back. My favorite phone calls are from people who're just driving through town and happen to find the show. They pull over, and it's like, 'Man, this is great, I hadda pull over and tell you!'"
Weird E and "Lone Star Dead" broadcast the Deadhead concordance: audience-made tapes of the Dead (and, to a lesser extent, the Jerry Garcia Band) drawn from a pool that spans the band's 31-year history. The show also sees frequent visits from founder and former host "Grateful" Dave Moynihan, informally providing what Schwartz calls "on-air color." Recently the show enjoyed its best pledge drive ever, and one has to wonder: Is KNON slowly reforming itself in its old image?
"I think the board of directors wanted to try something different," Chaos explains, referring to the traumatic changes. "And they did. Now, I think they're interested in bringing back some of the more popular shows--the proven performers--and so they're doing that."
Smart thinking: With a large clump of music fans still cast adrift from KERA-FM 90.1 after that station ditched its daytime music programming for an all-talk-and-news format, and with the KNON expatriates at the North Texas Music Foundation surely up to something, further delay might give KNON the chance to win back the disenchanted faithful.
"I'm glad Dave hung in there and sucked it up," Schwartz muses, referring to the bleak period when Bobby Elliott was station manager and lackluster programming drove
formerly loyal fans away in thundering herds. "I feel like we're coming back."
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Shannon Woody has reopened the ill-fated Dune Buggy Headquarters, 1816 Cockerell, as an all-ages, all-the-time music venue without distraction. "I'm totally into music," Woody claims. "I'm not doing this to make money selling beer or to stand around looking cool." To this end he has foregone licenses for alcohol, leaving his guests to BYOB, and has vowed to keep things affordable.
"I want to keep things cheap and positive," Woody says. "Play for the door, and I'll split it with you. Two dollars a head or something, maybe five dollars if they're really good. I'll give a band a chance. I'd like to have a different band in here each night."
But not just any band. "There will be no Texas blues," Woody declares in a voice heavy with resolve. "And we're going to stay totally away from worn-out R&B stuff like 'Mustang Sally.' I'd like to focus on pop psychedelia, but I also like jazz and classical. We could also do experimental music, but I don't want to get too weird."
Street Beat welcomes comments and tips via e-mail at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.