A cool breeze ran over the Continental Avenue pedestrian bridge Sunday afternoon while dozens of guitar-wielding musicians strummed, picked and plucked their favorite six-stringed instruments in harmony.
The fourth annual Open Carry Guitar Rally invited hippies and rockers to free-jam rock, blues and folk classics such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe" and Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road" from 3-7 p.m. over the Trinity river, with the Dallas skyline as a backdrop.
At one point, the rally's founder, Barry Huebner, walked over with his green acoustic Ibanez and joined a jam circle. Huebner goes by Barry "Kooda" and was once the guitarist for Dallas punk band the Nervebreakers.
Together, Huebner and the group sang David Bowie’s “Heroes.” A bassist, electric guitarist, cajón drummer and flutist stepped into accompany Huebner, creating a spontaneous ensemble bonded by peace, love and rock ’n’ roll.
The group’s singalong highlighted the main virtue of the Open Carry Guitar Rally — honoring Dallas citizens’ right to keep and bear guitars.
“We would get some pro-gun people, you know, give us a hard time, but we just threw humor back at them," said Pat Ramseur, one of the event's organizers. "You know we’re not confrontational at all, but we were just trying to point out a little of the silliness.”
About a hundred people turned out this year, Huebner said.
"That’s fine with me, as long as everybody is having a good time and it’s very peaceful," he said. "People seem to be enjoying themselves, and a lot of good, different songs are getting played.”
Russ Pittman, a rally guitarist and Dallas resident, played Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” with his Fender acoustic, leading one of the rally’s first jam sessions. “It’s a Sunday, and we all got to have a friend in Jesus,” Pittman said.
The screech of a distorted Les Paul with a portable Vox Mini series amp pulsated through the ground and echoed down the bridge.
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“I think it’s just a matter of getting out and having everybody play their guitars,” said Craig Pelham, a guitarist in a tie-dye T-shirt. “It’s a peaceful get-together, and that’s kind of what it’s all about.” Pelham was playing a custom-made guitar with a body fashioned from an Arturo Fuentes cigar box.
Anni Howe, another guitarist who works as a DJ on KNON-FM 89.3, said she met her husband, Ean, at last year’s rally but considers the 2017 Open Carry Guitar Rally to be the best one so far.
“We’re loving it,” Howe said. “It’s so good. This is the best one yet. They just keep getting better each year.”
Huebner said this year’s Open Carry Guitar Rally maintained the easygoing vibe and free-flowing tempo of the first gathering.
“To me, it’s so much better letting people do what they do and not trying to structure it at all,” Huebner said. “All of this stuff is just organic and grew from nothing.”
Huebner said the rally has come a long way since he played his first spontaneous gig at Klyde Warren Park with his wife, Laura, and their dogs a few years ago.
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“It was me there sitting at Klyde Warren singing songs to my dog, with her going like, ‘Let me take a picture,’” Huebner said.
And since his first jam at the park and the first Open Carry Guitar Rally in 2014, Huebner's guitar carry movement has sprouted all over the U.S., influencing open carry rallies in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Nashville, Austin and Oregon.
He said he hopes the movement continues to grow, but he’s not sure if he and Laura will return for another rally in 2018.
“We’ll probably be here, but there’s a possibility we will be in Costa Rica,” Huebner said.