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Posts Tagged ‘Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival’

LAAFF keeps the “loco” in local

by Alli Marshall in Vol. 14 / Iss. 06 on 09/05/2007

Mountain Xpress, http://www.mountainx.com/


Downtown Asheville’s Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival, now in its sixth year, is billed as a local festival for the locals. Locally based merchants sell locally made foods, microbrews, crafts and other products. Local talent pulls out all the stops when it comes to music, dancing, spoken word, performance and visual arts. In fact, LAAFF is so down-home, organizers don’t even advertise outside the immediate area—unless you count a flurry of e-mails to London-based Guinness World Records.

Riding towards a record: Michael Mooney tests a small version of his “tall bike.” He aims to break the world record at LAAFF.

Festival co-creator Michael Mooney, a self-professed “bike nut,” is in the process of building the world’s tallest bike, which he plans to ride at an event during this year’s festival.

“The first time you ride a tall bike, you just smile like you’re a little kid,” Mooney says. A semipro racer during the ‘90s, Mooney pedaled across the entire country before moving on to a new challenge. He was introduced to tall bikes (a recreational bicycle usually created by welding two regular bike frames together for extra height) by Jim Lauzon, co-owner of Asheville’s LaZoom Tours. Lauzon, a New Orleans transplant, took to riding his oversized bike around town, inspiring Mooney to build a half-dozen of his own creations.

“I’ve got a tall mountain bike made of three mountain bikes,” Mooney says. “I ride it on trails and I jump it big: I don’t just mess around.”

And he’s not messing around when it comes to breaking the world record for riding the tallest of these clownish contraptions. The current record holder tops out at 18 feet. Mooney, who heard the owner of that bike is building a 20-footer, decided to up the ante.

His creation—still in the construction stages—will reach a towering 44 feet. That’s four stories. “I figured if I built a 20-foot bike I could die just as easily,” Mooney shrugs.

The Guinness judges won’t actually be on hand to verify the local daredevil’s record-breaking stunt. Instead, Mayor Terry Bellamy and Clint Spiegel, owner of team sponsor Industry Nine Wheels, will carry out the Guinness-mandated measuring and officiating.

Back to the start: Before it became a festival, the event that would become LAAFF was conceived as an art-car parade. photo by Jonathan Welch

Mooney’s biggest challenge? Mounting the tall bike. For protection, he’ll be wearing a climbing harness, and so will the bike. But to break the record, the rope will have to remain slack, so it’s a safety device rather than a balancing aid.

“My friend Pandor is determined to turn me into Asheville’s Freak Folk Hero,” Mooney says. It’s arguable that that role has already been filled—many times over—but Mooney will have his own theme song, which Pandor will perform either before or during the momentous ride.

For bike fans looking for more two-wheel thrills, LAAFF is bringing back the popular bicycle jousting. This year, there will also be a children’s class and kid-sized gear for ages 10 and up. Kids who want more action can join the Berserker squad, armed with rubber-chicken nunchucks, rubber-chicken maces and foam-covered swords for putting the adult “losers” in the bicycle jousts out of their misery.

The rest of LAAFF will probably be more of what fans have come to expect (art cars, belly dancers, bands), though with a few tweaks. Organizer Erin Scholze lists all-day events at the location that formerly served as the Vincent’s Ear courtyard, a bluegrass jam at the Shady Grove Courtyard and a singer/songwriter circle (led by Jen and the Juice front woman Jenny Greer with Menage’s Mary Ellen Bush) as new to this year’s festivities.

“One of the things I really like about Asheville is how members of different bands will get together and make a new band,” Scholze says. Case in point: LAAFF serves up Asheville supergroups like the Big Money Band (with members of Strut, GFE, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and Fiddle Dave) and Sons of A Keeled Over Snake (with members of Sons of Ralph, Snake Oil, and the Larry Keel Band).

Even though organizers make a point of highlighting up-and-coming area talent (Latin fusion act Quebrao, alt-country group Nevada and jazz-funk newcomers Thing Three are included on the roster), it’s not strictly a music festival.

“LAAFF does showcase so much,” Scholze notes. “LAAFF involves that whole other group of performers besides musicians.”

In fact, the daylong festival was originally envisioned by Mooney and Kitty Love as an art-car parade. When the co-creators went to the city to procure the necessary permits, they found out it was easier to have a festival than a parade, Scholze recalls. Thus, LAAFF was born.

Still, a parade is on the itinerary (Firecracker Jazz Band spearheads that effort, scheduled for 4 p.m.), along with performances on the LaZoom theater bus (parked outside Bobo Gallery) and plenty of other surprises.

One request from organizers: Festival attendees should come in costume. “If everyone’s part of the show, it will be overwhelmingly good,” says Mooney (he’ll be the guy in the climbing harness, pedaling a brachiosaurus-sized bicycle).

“Don’t be a spectator in life or at the festival,” he adds. “Be part of the fun.”


LAAFF facts & acts

LAAFF takes place on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on North Lexington Avenue between College Street and the Interstate 240 overpass. Free. Info: http://www.arts2people.org.

The Electric Stage
• 11 a.m.—Quebrao
• Noon—Sons of a Keeled Over Snake
• 1 p.m.—Bandazian
• 2:15 p.m.—Kellin Watson
• 3:20 p.m.—Chalwa
• 4:45 p.m.—CXI
• 6:15 p.m.—Trainwreks
• 7:45 p.m.—Big Money Band
• 9:15 p.m.—The Rebelles with their band the Pheromones

Performing Arts Stage (on Walnut)
• 11 a.m.—Jarrett Leone Didgeridoo
• 11:25 a.m.—Nevada
• 12:05 p.m.—Dance with Luna May Seal
• 12:20 p.m.—The Oxymorons Improv Comedy
• 1:05 p.m.—The Electromagnetic Duo (theremin music)
• 1:45 p.m.—Jodi Taylor and her Dancers
• 2 p.m.—The Sophisticated Chimps
• 3 p.m.—Maria-guajira
• 3:30 p.m.—Vendetta Crème
• 4:10 p.m.—Baraka Mundi
• 5 p.m.—Speedsquare
• 6 p.m.—Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola Asheville
• 6:35 p.m.—Hip Hop Revolution (Kids Breakdancing)
• 7 p.m.—HuNab Kru Breakdancing
• 7:50 p.m.—Avec La Force Percussion and Dance Initiative
• 8:40 p.m.—Wicked Geisha
• 9:15 p.m.—Unifire Theatre

Bobo Stage (by Patton Avenue)
• All Day—LaZoom Bus Tours with performance acts
• 11 a.m.—Rev-Doc Spins
• Noon—Jar-E
• 2 p.m.—Guerguerian, Benavides and Wolf
• 4 p.m.—August Hoerr and Shane Perlowin
• 5 p.m.—Rev-Doc Spins
• 6 p.m.—Banana Da Terra
• 8 p.m.—The Plowshares
• 10 p.m.—Earthtone Sound Systems (inside Bobo)

Shady Grove Courtyard
• Noon—Thing Three
• 1 p.m.—Bluegrass Jam
• 5 p.m.—Songwriters Circle hosted by Jenny Greer and Mary Ellen Bush

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by Kitty Love, LAAFF Festival Director

Spirit of the Smokies http://livingnewstories.com/

September 2005

The Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival is about to happen. All the weirdness elves have dusted off their magic wands and pulled out their bags of pixie dust for another day of enchanting surprises.

In reading Gayatri’s instructions for how to write an article for Spirit in the Smokies, what emerged on paper was more a poem than an article. It’s about empowerment, and the nature of creativity, and working together, and creating community, and healing our relationship to profit.

The LAAFFestival is a totally homegrown arts festival, consisting of exclusively local WNC offerings (even the beer!), which takes place Sunday of Labor Day weekend on Asheville’s funkiest street, Lexington Avenue. Its reason for being is contained within the mission of its parent organization, Arts2People. We are seeking to preserve the culture created by the united anarchists, the artists, the folks whose lives are art (this means you!) we have come together here for a purpose, drawn inexorably out of our dull and destructive pasts, and have created an affiliation that deserves celebration.

As chief cat-herder, the festival has been for me an exercise in trust. I have always had a do it myself attitude, often to a fault. The downside of being capable is allowing limited opportunities to see the miracles of which others are capable. In part, I created the fest to further the enlightenment I received from the experience of single motherhood. At that time, I wasn’t averse to begging help from strangers in parking lots, much less from my friends and family. I was astounded at what people could do; things I never thought of, solutions that were totally unique.

So the festival is like that. My coordination style is this (to the organizers): “Here’s some insurance, money, a tent, some supplies and a couple of volunteers. Knock us all out and don’t leave any trash.” And we unleash our creativity on the town.

This article, of course, is an unabashed sales pitch designed to entice you, the reader, into joining the frolic. I have become addicted to the process of co-creation of community and radical self-expression, and I know you will, too. We open the invitation to everyone to come and do something funky with us, and then enjoy the wacky, weird and wonderful result. Come in costume! We encourage participation, not just voyeurism (though there’s plenty to gawk at!)

A few festival tidbits include: beer painstakingly crafted in Asheville by the French Broad Brewery, food by local culinary artisans, WNC crafters, an underground art competition, interactive art games, kids art activities by the Arts Council and ArtSpace Charter School, art cars and an art car painting party, performance in three separate areas, and more, all brought to you entirely by volunteers from the community. Last year, we successfully enticed over 10,000 of you to come out and share the fun!

To share a few lines from the free association exercise that preceded this more left brain discourse:

When I work on creating the LAAFFestival I…

See peoples’ desire to connect and give and share

Feel like art has a chance against profit

Feel like art and profit can happen together

Believe poor people can prosper

Believe we can deflate the false importance of money

See god/dess

Feel divine guidance

Feel the presence of the energies of the mountains

Remind people to play

Create an investment in home

Acquaint people with the birthplace of creation

Its what the arts are all about, and how they create a quality of life worth preserving against the seduction of growth choices made with only profit in mind. As our area prospers, lets not relinquish what drew us here in the first place.

Arts2People works to preserve our culture, to strengthen the prosperity of our professional creatives, and to empower people through the creative process. Please go to arts2people.org to learn more about us.

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