Feature Stories

Realms of the Fourth Eye is a Three-Day DIY Music Festival, and a Complete Mystery

Music festivals are nothing if not predictable. Find an A-list headliner, some mid-range supporting acts and pad out the bill with some local artists, then hire some food trucks and art vendors and throw in some beer and food, and voilà. The formula is simple, but in the case of first-time festival Realms of the Fourth Eye, it's been thrown completely out the window.

ROTFE, set to take place this Friday through Sunday, boasts a three-day, North Texas-heavy lineup with outliers (L.A., Philly, Austin, Houston) scattered throughout. Most importantly, it's a DIY festival, an apparent contradiction that may stretch the form to its very limits. With interactive and immersive art installations ongoing all weekend, a bill of high-minded and ambitiously tireless performers, and an enticing venue to house it all, ROTF looks to be one of the most provocative — albeit unpredictable — events of the summer.

Even ROTFE organizer, budgeter, funder and creator “Taboo” — who, aptly enough, insists on using a pseudonym for as-yet undisclosed reasons — has only a vague sense himself of how the weekend will go down. “I have no idea where this is going to go," he says with a gleeful, audibly impish bent. However, the motivations behind Taboo's idea are anything but vague: “I wanted to create a space that would allow artists to express themselves freely without boundaries or restrictions. A unique atmosphere ... an alternative world,” Taboo says. “The biggest thing is allowing the artists freedom of expression.”

ROTFE is the reaping of a seed sowed some 10 years back. Taboo envisioned and set in motion a not dissimilar event nearly a decade ago, only to see it all fall apart when his chosen venue bailed. An older and wiser individual now, Taboo has chosen a fitting and reliable venue in Pariah Arts and assembled a spectrum of creatives to help bring his concept to fruition.

Pariah Arts operates out of a Quonset hut, which is basically a repurposed semi-circular prefabbed and quite small steel warehouse originally constructed for military use. It's an optimal physical platform for the sort of DIY art events Pariah is known for hosting. Steamy, stark, charismatically cramped, subtly prurient and festooned with a chiaroscurist attention to light and shadow, Pariah's Quonset is just the sort of space DIY organizers salivate over.

The “three-day” component of ROTFE is worth emphasizing here. DIY events — typically high, high energy slash-and-burn affairs — are customarily run at an amphetamine-fueled pace, holding to a cyclical pattern of peak, crash, repeat. It raises a number of intriguing questions, such as: how it will maintain (or fail to maintain) its momentum; how the local DIY crowds will react to extended programming; and how organizers will manage what is by most accounts an unusual circumstance.

The beauty of ROTFE, it seems, rests in this unknowing, in the teasingly arcane notion of art fest as absolute wildcard. Will there be chill-out rooms à la rave? Will there be lengthy intermissions for detoxing and refueling purposes? (Buzzbrews will be onsite Saturday with a limited menu.) Or will chaos reign unimpeded, leaving nothing but sweaty flesh and contorted faces in its wake? How things will play out is anyone's guess.

“I really have no idea what to expect, to be honest,” artist Rob Buttrum says. The man behind noise/industrial/power electronics project Filth (performing Saturday at ROTFE), Buttrum imagines the three-day art and music fest will be something like “a freak show for the arts ... a fest for the weird and the curious.” Another performer, experimental artist Thor Johnson, echoes these sentiments, foreseeing ROTFE as “three days of crazy music and art, kind of like a Burning Man, with no fire, in an old Quonset hut.”

In many ways, this weekend's event, like many of the Dallas DIY spectacles of late, is the result of a cumulative push from a burgeoning underground that's becoming louder by the season. In this way, ROTFE slots neatly into our ever-expanding local DIY scene, a tight knit, self-renewing community involving familiar names like Lily Taylor, George Quartz, Thor Johnson, Stefan Gonzalez and Art Peña, among others. In bringing it all together, Taboo, true to his vision, has manifested a breeding ground for the creatively indulgent and the absurd.

“This is a gathering of subcultures,” Taboo explains. “I have all these different cultures working together for this event. The idea is to bring musicians and visual artists — everyone — together.”

REALMS OF THE FOURTH EYE takes place this weekend at South Dallas' Pariah Arts. Day passes (good till 4 AM) are $15; weekend passes are $20. BYOB (including water). This is a 21+ event.