Skin Fest '99

There's something loathsome about Dallasites' predilection for shucking their jeans and sweaters for tank tops and hot pants at the first sign of warmth. Bleach blond bimbos (of both genders) and tanning-booth-addicted jocks eagerly stripping down for the lower-Greenville scene, aging biker mamas and beer-bellied daddies parading their wears as early as St. Patrick's Day. Oh, geez. Put your shirt on, I'm thinking. The mercury isn't even in the 60s. But oh, there's no waiting around for them. If the sun's out at all, so's the skin.

Granted, some people hate lots of clothing--it makes them claustrophobic. My brother, an energetic young man who kind of gallops from place to place, wears shorts all winter, even with his grubby sweaters and Doc Martens. And my dad sweats like a steam room all year round, so he doesn't own a coat. "Overheated" describes their internal thermostat. But these types fall into a different category altogether. It's the misguided fashion-hounds that I'm berating here.

But yea, their day in the sun has arrived: the perfect harbinger of a long, sweltering summer, of endless months of donning nothing more than sandals and Ray-Bans. The 1999 Deep Ellum Arts Festival is all about springtime and heading outdoors and thrusting one's naked arm in the air to the sounds of downtown's beloved bands. This is the weekend that wifebeater undershirts and Budweiser finally, logically, hook up. Not even a winter scrooge like me can complain.

This is the fifth year for the festival, a hodgepodge weekend of outdoor entertainment: seven stages for music, more than 100 visual "artists" hawking their goods, plenty of food and booze and...You get the idea. On April 9-11, the scene spans more than six blocks of Main Street, from Good-Latimer Expressway to Walton Street, and while the parking sure as hell ain't free, admission to the festival is.

The festival is a fairly adult event--the screw-you sounds of Hellafied Funk Crew, quasi-porno "artwork," and the get-yer-first-nasty-tattoo atmosphere aren't so appropriate for the kids. Still, it draws more than 60,000 folks a year. This year's schedule is chockfull of events that reflect the festival's tone perfectly: 93.3 The Zone's Blues Party, a "Ladies' Night" of all-women performers, stages named after college spring-break icons like Stoli, Malibu, and Lone Star. You can practically hear the guys of the Delta Lodge roaring down the street in their Death Mobile.

OK, it's not entirely uncivilized, but given that it's the closest thing Dallas has to Mardi Gras, who's looking for civilization? Civilized people don't get to wear hats outfitted with beer cans and straws, anyway.

Some highlights, scattered among the dozens of bands playing the handful of stages throughout the weekend: Friday, April 9, on the Stoli Stage, glammy new-wave power-pop act Floor 13 plays at 6:15 p.m., and the enormously amusing Weezer cover band, Weener, takes the stage at 7:30. Hellafied Funk Crew headlines at 10 p.m. On Saturday, Wakeland plays the Lone Star Stage at 8:30 p.m., blues guitar genius Mary Cutrufello the Stoli Stage at 10 p.m. On Sunday, the Lucky Pierres play at 2:30 p.m., Kim Lenz and her Jaguars at 5:30 p.m., and the always-festive Brave Combo headlines at 7 p.m., all on the Stoli Stage.

Not a bad way to ring in the flesh.

--Christina Rees

The 5th Annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival takes place on Main Street between Good-Latimer Expressway and Walton Street April 9-11. Hours: Friday, 5 p.m.-11:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m-11:30 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m-11:30 p.m Admission is free.