Davis might not have those frog signs along the westbound side of Highway 80 anymore — "Live in Davis because it's green, safe, and nuclear free.... It's academic!" — but there's certainly no shortage of wondrous music happening there.
Exhibit A: KDVS — the UC Davis radio station, a longtime champion of alternative music and the only entirely student-run station in the UC system — is about to put on the fourth edition of "Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom," a twice-a-year one-day music festival, the likes of which have seldom been undertaken by Northern California college radio stations.
Unlike other music festivals hawking themselves as "alternative," O:RMF is the real thing, presenting strictly music of the compellingly weird variety without sponsored stages and pricey merch tables — by sheer dint of student-volunteer willpower. "It's a good time out in the sunshine," said Erik Magnuson, who DJs at KDVS in addition to holding down the station's assistant programming directorship. "We're able to get great acts without having to worry about advertising to offset costs."
The festival isn't a station fundraiser — all profits go toward future incarnations of the event — but is instead an earnest offering of experimental sounds chosen democratically in committee by station volunteers. Those volunteers run O:RMF at Woodland watering hole Plainfield Station, which KDVS events coordinator and O:RMF organizer Brendan Boyle described as a "biker bar with a quasi-Libertarian vibe." O:RMF itself fully "represents the radio station," Boyle continued. "We're free-form, which is a real anomaly, and it's a reaction to our current political climate." Hence the military-operation-inspired name.
The first, all-ages O:RMF in May 2005 was headlined by elastic noise psychos Sightings and Elephant 6 pop oddities a Hawk and a Hacksaw, and the subsequent fests have featured bands like the increasingly relevant, drift-ambience peddlers Growing and the splendidly hard-angled post-punkers Erase Errata. In each case, KDVS has looped in some of the most keenly unconventional artists around, and the upcoming festival looks the best yet.
This time it’s drawn 17 artists of various marginal modes, all of great repute in their respective scenes: longtime glitch-head Kid606 started the Tigerbeat6 label, and quirk-folk guitarist Michael Hurley was a luminary in Greenwich Village's 1960s folk scene. Hop around to the dance punk of Numbers and the disorienting, psychedelic hip-hop of Third Sight. The garage-punk component is damned impressive by itself: the Lamps, one of Los Angeles's finest and an In the Red mainstay, will crack their bass-heavy fuzz whip along with Th' Losin Streaks, whose famously fun live show begets a cleaner, more Nuggets-like, ’60s garage vibe.
Suffice to say that few stations have the guts and the cavalier student base to put on an event like this, especially one that's plainly not out to make money. As Boyle puts it, "it's a very real event with no bullshit attached," and with any luck, attendees will get as stoked on smashing music industry conventions as KDVS is. (Michael Harkin)
OPERATION: RESTORE MAXIMUM FREEDOM IV
23944 County Road 98, Woodland
$15, $10 advance; all ages
For tickets and the complete lineup, go to www.myspace.com/maximumfreedom