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Ticket Taker: Big Bang festival organizer Oliver Brown is a DIY kind of guy.

Low-Fi, High Fun

Santa Cruz's Big Bang bacchanalia focuses on music, not money

By Hiya Swanhuyser

THE BIG BANG music festival is the second-annual grassroots, punk-rock-inspired, 10-night marathon of underground music brought to Santa Cruz by Sir Ukulele Extraordinaire Oliver Brown. It will be, Brown says, "a festival environment, where bands can perform, learn and be inspired by each other, like bacchanalia is supposed to be."

Last year's event was so successful that the 2001 Big Bang will be structurally similarly: each night, one local band and at least one out-of-town group will perform in varying venues centered in downtown Santa Cruz. A unique aspect of the festival is Brown's insistence on what some call "lo-fi."

"It's people whose driving force is to make music, not major labels or MTV," says Brown. "I find it revolting when a band goes on tour solely to promote their new album."

He says bands involved with the Big Bang are different, wanting more to "entertain, make music, tour, see people. That's the difference. The difference is in the motives."

Very much in the tradition of the do-it-yourself underground music culture that has ballooned since the late-'80s, the festival will draw heavily on local talent. As the DIY movement has grown, the values once articulated mainly in the world of punk rock have spread rhizomically to include many different musical genres, and the Big Bang is set to reflect this. Confirmed acts include Brown's own folky ukulele barbershop quartet the La Dee Dahs, rock heroes Tracy and the Plastics, and electronic experimenters Run Return.

True to the spirit of DIY, Brown says another major goal is to "keep money out of it as much as possible." The bespectacled musician himself, for the many hours of labor involved, will receive only the in-town band pay for performing: $35.

When I suggest that this is a bit extreme, Brown becomes defiant. "What are you, my mother? I get $35 like all the other local bands. Out-of-town bands get $50." Pressed for an explanation, he describes his work as "volunteer work for a community event" and "a hobby."

As a local celebrity, Brown realizes that many people harbor fascinations with him personally, a fact he accepts with characteristic good humor. For example, it is true, he says, flashing a smile, that his favorite color is pink.

"In first grade I had to start lying; I started saying orange." In addition, he admits freely to a penchant for pink-haired friends, a sentiment eloquently expressed in one of his most popular songs, "The Girl With the Cotton Candy Hair."

"You know the old saying 'There's no such thing as a free lunch?' " he asks over ribs at Mike's Soul Food. "Well, I think there are such things as free lunches--you have to offer them."

Big Bang Festival Schedule

The Big Bang runs Sept. 27-Oct. 7 in various locations in Santa Cruz. For more information, visit www.7thsign/~bigbang or call 426.8610.

Sept. 27: Oliver Brown, The Automatones, Absent Referent at the 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 9pm.

Sept. 28: Bonfire Madigan, Lady Fingers & Laura Limes, Tenth of Always at the Drop-In Center, 412 Front St., $3, 9pm.

Sept. 29: The Trouble Makers, the Pattern, Hate Mail Express, Rocknroll Adventure Kids at Stevenson College Dining Hall, UCSC, $3, 8pm.

Sept. 30: Karl Blau, Manswan, Betsy; location TBA, 8pm, $3.

Oct. 1: Track Star, Whysall Lane, Bunkbed at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., $3, 9pm.

Oct. 2: The Exploding Crustaceans, the Huxtables, One Fineday at Saturn Cafe, 145 Laurel St., free, 9pm.

Oct. 3: Uberhund, Fluke, Starbunker, Pedestrian at 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 9pm.

Oct. 4: The Carnivores, Keystone Eyes, Depth Charge, Revolt at 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 9pm.

Oct. 5: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone at Streetlight Records, 941 Pacific Ave., free, 4pm.

Oct. 5: Drunkhorse, Comets on Fire, Federation X at Cafe Pergolesi, 418 Cedar St., $3, 9pm.

Oct 6: The Lowdown, Numbers, Pink & Brown at 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 9pm.

Oct 7: Run_return, Uprock, Rhizome, OKR; location TBA, $3.

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From the September 26-October 3, 2001, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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