Three is a magic number

Almost everyone loves a festival. But as event planner Par Neiburger points out, even weekend-long music blowouts can hit a bit of rut.

Unified by Trinumeral: When you think about performers most likely to spend a weekend grooving in the woods, chances are that Wu-Tang Clan founding member GZA (aka The Genius, top) isn’t the first to come to mind. NOLA-based funk-and-jam outfit Galactic (bottom) might be, however.

“A lot of festivals fall prey to, ‘OK, I’m at another festival’” mentality, he says. Which is why a major part of the Trinumeral Music & Arts Festival (slated for Deerfields this weekend) is that the audience isn’t just at the show: They are the show.

“We want to engage the public,” says co-organizer Grant Howl, who considers himself more of a coach than a promoter. Costumes are encouraged, as is “thinking outside of the box.”

“If people are coming, they’re coming to be part of something,” Howl notes. Not that attendees should prepare for a clothing-optional weekend, or anything along the lines of Burning Man, the an annual festival-turned-temporary-intentional-community bent on radical self-expression. But Trinumeral—which places equal emphasis on visual arts and music—is an opportunity for free spirits to get creative. Topping the “things that have blown our minds” list, according to Howl, was a guy who threw hundreds of paper airplanes off the roof and a sculpture professor from NYU who spray-painted a building.

Those impromptu installations took place at previous Trinumeral events, which brings us to that festival’s other defining feature: its date.

The word “trinumeral” is actually trademarked by Howl, who figured out that for the first dozen years of this century, a party could be planned around the annual occurrence of same-numbered dates. The first party landed on Jan. 1, 2001, or 1/1/01.

“The 5/5/05 Trinumeral fell on Cinco de Mayo, and was held in Miami,” Howl recalls. It had five dancers, five visual artists, five DJs, five performance artists and five bands. That configuration only applied to that particular festival, but it set a precedent for the well-roundedness of arts that Trinumeral-goers could expect.

According to Neiburger, inspiration came from the Andy Warhol “happening” (or multimedia performance) known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. From that brainstorm, Trinumeral has grown, moving from city to city. With it, a dedicated core group of artists and performers lend their talents each year, with new musicians and artists—many from the local community where Trinumeral is held in a particular year—added to the tribe.

“We have a really committed team of people who believe in this. We’re trying to do something real,” Neiburger says, while Howl expresses a sincere thanks to “all the people who put even a drop of love into this.”

Other shows of support: Asheville-based experimental rocker Gavin McGowen has donated a 1985 biodiesel Mercedes for a green raffle. The car will be given away to one pre-sale ticket holder.

The annual gathering didn’t actually cement as Trinumeral until June 6, 2006 (6/6/06); the same year Howl and Neiburger learned that World Hula Hoop day also falls on every triplet date. For the Western North Carolina Aug. 8 (8/8/08) event, Trinumeral and World Hula Hoop plan to combine their wacky, colorful forces.

Fun and games aside, there is a serious intention behind Trinumeral. The lineup of musical acts reveals atypical offerings, from Howl and Neiburger’s own must-see shows (St. Croix’s roots-reggae outfit Midnite and hip-hop artist GZA of Wu-Tang Clan: “No one expected us to have GZA in the woods,” Neiburger asserts) to mold-breaking up-and-comers like guitarist Kaki King. In 2006, King was the first woman ever to be named a “Guitar God” by Rolling Stone Magazine.

“It’s fun to book bands you think will be huge one day,” Howl says.

The Trinumeral organizers also like to book artists with superstar followings, such as live-action painters Kris D, whose work is rooted in geometry, and LEBO, who has painted onstage with the Beastie Boys, Béla Fleck, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Burning Spear and others. The Deerfields installment of Trinumeral also features Victor “Sandman” Leong. A sandcastle artist originally from North Carolina, he’s traveled the world creating his delicate sculptures that measure 12 feet tall by 40 feet wide. Leong’s assistant will teach a kids’ class in sandcastle construction at Deerfields, thanks to the 20 tons of sand being hauled in to the festival grounds.

It’s worth noting that Howl and Neiburger know Leong and other artists from their years as art students in Florida. While in art school, the festival organizers realized that musicians and visual artists are often separated by their professions and venues (concert halls versus art galleries). “The worlds are separated when they shouldn’t be,” Neiburger says. “It’s important to bridge those gaps.”

They have until Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12) to accomplish just that—and the co-organizers seem content with their charge. “We hope we can just be happy and creative,” Howl says.

who: Trinumeral Music & Arts Festival
what: Three-day multimedia event celebrating the eighth day of the eighth month in 2008
where: Deerfields amphitheater
when: Friday, Aug. 8, through, Sunday, Aug. 10 (gates open at 10 a.m. Friday. Full-weekend passes are $150 at the gate with Saturday-Sunday and Sunday-only tickets available.


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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