Barrio style: Bonfires for Peace concert series is (not so) serious DIY

GATHER 'ROUND: Asheville soul act Lyric performs at a previous Bonfires for Peace concert at Pritchard Park. Photo courtesy of Pasckie Pascua

Pasckie Pascua may be a self-described career activist, but he says his long-running DIY concert series, Bonfires for Peace, isn’t about politics. “The mission is … gathering the community,” Pascua says. “It’s wholesome; [it’s about] family, diversity. We try to stick to just fun. No politics, no speeches, no religion. Sometimes when you say peace, people think it’s political, but it’s not, actually.”

As a journalist in the 1980s, in his home country the Philippines, Pascua became involved in the anti-war effort and has been advocating for peace ever since. “Wherever I go I’m advocating something, so I don’t want [the concert] to be like that. This is separate, this Traveling Bonfires community,” he says. “If I make it political, I will be building walls. … The bonfires are just a gathering, and when you gather, that’s the time to talk. When you talk, you split into groups, and that’s where you can advocate.”

He adds, “You don’t advocate to people when they’re dancing.”

When Pascua first started building Bonfires for Peace in the Philippines, during the politically turbulent mid-’80s, the gatherings were simply intended to bring people together. While you won’t find an actual bonfire at the center of Pritchard Park — or at the other Bonfires for Peace shows Pascua and his partner, Marta Osborne, have organized around the country — the bonfire is there in spirit. “It’s metaphorical,” says Pascua. “Of course in the Philippines, you can build a bonfire. You don’t have to have a permit for that. The symbol of a bonfire is open-ended. There are no walls or ceilings, it’s a circle, and the fire gathers people. In San Francisco, we did it inside a club. It’s still [called] Bonfires for Peace.” The second Traveling Bonfires for Peace concert of the summer will take place at Pritchard Park on Saturday, Aug. 9, from 4-9 p.m. The event is free and family-friendly.

Pascua says that when he launched the concert series in Asheville in 2002, he wasn’t picky about who played. “I just invited people in,” says Pascua. “I wasn’t very strict with ‘You’re good, you’re bad.’ The only rule was don’t cuss, don’t say bad words, don’t yell, don’t be angry, don’t promote any political or religious espousals.” With time, however, Pascua was able to attract more better-known local musicians to the festival. The Aug. 9 show will feature local activist and musician Marshall Jim Duncan, Celtic-blues band Pipapelli, soul-pop act Lyric and blues-soul band Riyen Roots.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the long-running series is how much Pascua and his small team are able to accomplish with a minimalist budget. Osborne estimates that each concert runs them about $250, much of which they are able to raise through advertising sales in their small newspaper, The Indie. “I don’t believe in growing a huge budget for one project or issue,” says Pascua. Small scale has always been his mode of operations. “It just doesn’t make sense to me to have a big concert. You can’t do it the next year because you don’t have the money for it anymore.

He continues, “I know I don’t have money, but I know I can do it.”

A big part of what makes the concerts possible, says Pascua, is the community. “Here [in Asheville], you don’t have to go through corporate structures. … Here, you walk in to Rosetta’s Kitchen, you see Rosetta, you say, ‘Can you help us?’ We stick to that barrio thinking where I come from.”

WHAT:  Bonfires for Peace with Lyric, Marshall Jim Duncan, Pipapelli and Riyen Roots
WHERE:  Pritchard Park
WHEN:  Saturday, Aug. 9, 4-9 p.m. Free.


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About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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