Open Carry Guitar Rally Trinity River Walking Bridge Friday, July 4, 2014
A miraculous "Open Carry" tradition started over the weekend on Fourth of July right here in Dallas. The miraculous part is that it didn't involve needless public displays of heavy firearms and another reason to wonder if Kevlar and bulletproof helmets are a smarter investment for our young ones than college or a car.
The walking bridge over the dried up Trinity River was filled with people carrying their favorite pieces of hardware. The crowd wore an assortment of patriotic T-shirts with catchy slogans behind their favorite musical instrument that hung over their shoulders. The collection didn't just consist of huge appliances that looked like the only fitting case for them would be a mid-sized coffin. There were appliances of all sizes from massive, custom cut steel guitars to tiny ukeleles that are perfect for the concealed carrier.
Musician, artist and self-proclaimed "instigator" Barry Kooda brought together the crowd of 300-plus people for the nation's first Open Carry Guitar Rally, a parody of the Open Carry gun lovers who managed to take their love of high powered firearms to an even weirder and creepier levels by walking into restaurants and stores with their favorite gun in tow. Kooda started the idea on a Facebook page and thousands of shares later, he attracted a huge crowd of followers and a heap of press that may have turned Friday's gathering of the guitars into a new patriotic tradition.
The gathering may have been satirical in nature but the event didn't drip with hyper-awareness about the issue at hand, like most protests or guitar circles. It may have been a hard left hook with a poke in the eye at the Open Carry gun movement but the word "gun" really never came up much during the actual moment. It was more of a spontaneous collection of free expression, another American right that ranks first on our list of civil liberties.
The crowd gathered towards the middle of the bridge before their big pride walk and they were easy to spot as you could hear the collection of strings being tuned and plucked the closer you walked towards them. Kooda the former Nervebreaker couldn't resist making a grand entrance. He stood on top of a kids' climbing heptahedron with his face covered and his 1955 Les Paul Special slung over his shoulder, looking like a soldier of fortune preparing to sneak into Iraq and melt the face of his contract target.
Perhaps this is an unfair description of his appearance. His words insist that he wasn't responsible for the large turnout and waves of support, even from some of those in the more serious Open Carry gatherings.
"This whole thing is not me," he said. "This was open-sourced. Everyone else did stuff. I just listed the time and place."
Most of the participants just brought their guitars but some good ideas spread throughout the crowd like the prolific "Don't shred on me" T-shirts designed by Pat Ramseur, a parody of the famed Gadsden flag revived in the rise of the Tea Party movement that became the official symbol for the rally.
Mark Bregenzer bought a cheap Toys 'R Us guitar emblazoned with an American flag for everyone to autograph with an instruction sign that read "I WANT A FULLy AUTOgraphed guitar. Please SIGn."
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Guitarist Mat Dick of The Fed-Ups stumbled on to the next great musical invention: wah-wah pedal shoes. They would work great for the guitarist on the go so long as they don't have to walk long distances judging by the careful steps he took from one side of the bridge to the other.
This walking shred went off without a hitch and carried over to Babb Bros BBQ for two more American traditions that are less harmful (if you don't count hearing damage due to constant exposure to loud music and cholesterol): live blues music from the Jason Cloud Band and giant piles of dead animal meat covered in a tangy sauce.
"I just thought that this was the coolest idea and I just really hoped it would happen," said self-proclaimed "porch picker" Jonathan Mark from Fort Worth, who walked in the rally with his favorite guitar. "It turns that whole Open Carry thing on its ear without being too confrontational."
That's the true beauty of Kooda's idea. His rally makes you realize the most disarming and powerful defense anyone could ever carry in their arsenal is a sense of humor.