Take that, rockin’ robin

According to Radix Faruq, half of experimental-rock duo The South French Broads, “There are a lot of ways of expressing yourself without ending up in handcuffs at the end of the night.”

Unpredictable in the park: The South French Broads bring their chaotic charm to this community-building event. Photo by Timothy Boettcher

And that’s why Faruq’s band—along with a group of musicians, dancers, painters, clowns and poets—have temporarily edited out the not-so-kid-appropriate material and ramped up the family-fun quotient for an all-ages event. Dubbed “Pigeons of the Park,” the show is slated for downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park and is intended to be equal parts entertainment and community-building.

“I’ll probably make a speech about people being able to sit and congregate,” says Faruq, who believes tourists, taxpayers and the homeless can commune in the centralized green space. He points out that Asheville Parks and Recreation overseas a whopping 54 public parks—enough for everyone to have a place to hang out. Faruq’s utopian vision is that concert goers will be inspired to buy food for less fortunate park regulars. In reality, he realizes, it’s more likely that the two camps will simply cohabit for the duration of the three-hour show. It’s a start.

To the people who are afraid of Pritchard Park’s sometimes unsavory populace, Faruq suggests, “Don’t go there.” As for the intention of the Pigeons of the Park initiative: “Having shows is a very good thing.”

The South French Broads front man promises the event will be “eclectic” and “inclusionary,” but here’s what else to expect: Faruq’s band incorporates rock, jazz, punk, poetry, improv comedy and theatrics into its set. Alex Beldon plays bass, harmonica and percussion and shares vocals with Faruq who, in turn, fills out the sound with drums, sax, toy instruments and samples.

“As a band goes, we normally have more success outside Asheville,” Faruq admits. He adds, “At the Rocket Club, people said what we did was bold.”

And then there’s the Sylva-based husband and wife duo known as Solito, which has a history of irreverent experimentation. They were formerly known as Dragonmoose, The Sky and Myself and more recently, The Shitz, their promo photo shows the duo sitting on the toilet together reading (what else?) a copy of Xpress. One of their MySpace aliases is “Musicalspanking.” They play a melange of guitar, effects, loop machine, drums, cymbals and vocals.

Another member of the showcase, performance artist Dr. B. Sanchez, describes himself as “naturalist avasi ritualism campaigning under inter-planetary influence with a post-natural bent,” while the band Joy Janson and the Mistakes operates under the much more straight-forward definition of folk and bluegrass.

Rounding out the lineup is Rock U., made up of musicians ages 10 to 18 who are taking part in this summer’s Rock Band Camp at the Asheville Arts Center. The final week of the camp wraps up Friday, Aug. 1, so the burgeoning rockers will take the stage in full-form.

“I wanted to be able to get some youth involved,” Faruq says. He started performing as a musician at the tender age of 14 and booking venues a year later. From experience, he knows how difficult it can be for young artists to find a platform, so the inclusive, kid-friendly climate of Pigeons of the Park extends not just to the audience but the the entertainers as well.

Faruq also understands how music helps both players and listeners maintain a youthful glow. “Anything you create, it keeps you young because every time you create you’re giving birth to something,” the event organizer says. A parent of two, he suspects that many Asheville moms and dads are involved with various arts projects and therefore raising arts-aware offspring. He points out that the city and surrounding area supports this not just with its wealth of parks, but also its many arts institutions.

The South French Broads aren’t alone in wanting to bring performance to street-level with Pritchard Park events. Local arts promoter Arts2People has been hosting a concert series and weekly arts and crafts market in the park during the summer months. Faruq learned of the Arts2People plan only after he had already arranged for his own permit, but he views it as a matter of great minds thinking alike.

“We love music. Even the bus going by is musical to us,” he says of himself and collaborator Beldon. And, with the Pigeons of the Park’s central location, it’s likely street noise—passersby, delivery vehicles, construction and a city bus or two—will be a ready counterpoint to the instruments and voices on stage.

who: Pigeons of the Park
what: All-ages, rain-or-shine, multi-media concert.
where: Pritchard Park
when: Saturday, Aug. 9 (6-9 p.m. Donation. www.thesouthfrenchbroads.com.)

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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