ArthurBall to follow ArthurFest

Special to The Times

THE outsiders are moving indoors.

ArthurFest, in its mostly alfresco inaugural edition Labor Day weekend on the grounds of the Barnsdall Art Park, showcased leading artists in a variety of underground, avant-garde and outsider movements, with Yoko Ono and Sonic Youth topping the bill. Now it has spawned a winter edition. Dubbed ArthurBall, the event will take place Feb. 24 to 26 in a series of venues along several blocks of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.

Among those being booked are Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme (who will team with longtime collaborator Chris Goss for a special project), weird-folk harpist Joanna Newsom and ArthurFest returnees Josephine Foster and Brightblack Morning Light. More acts, from headliners to cult favorites, are being secured, and the event will also include film, spoken word and art installations.

The Echo club will be the central venue, with nearby Taix restaurant, Jensen Recreation Center and perhaps other shops and galleries being used as well. Attendees will be allowed to stroll from spot to spot.


ArthurBall will be smaller than ArthurFest (which drew more than 4,000 people in its two days), but the philosophy is the same. Both draw on the aesthetic of Arthur magazine, which is co-presenting the weekend with Spaceland Productions.

“We’re just trying to find people who love what they do and who are good at it,” says Arthur founder-editor Jay Babcock. “And we’re asking, expecting the audience to be curious or open enough to at least check them out.”

Babcock says ticket sales and feedback far exceeded his expectations at ArthurFest, not just for such better-known acts as Ono, Sleater-Kinney, Devendra Banhart and Spoon, but also for a wide-ranging roster of cult figures and newcomers including Japanese noise manipulator Merzbow and neo-folkie Marissa Nadler. Plans for a 2006 ArthurFest are already being made, again on Labor Day weekend, but at a new site, as Babcock says it’s already outgrown Barnsdall’s Hollywood hilltop. A film from the 2005 festival is being edited by director Lance Bangs, who shot all 42 acts that performed.

“We wanted to do another kind of event, something with a lower ticket price, something that ranged more outside of music with films and spoken word,” Babcock says of the February plans. “It will be really fun -- people walking around. All the venues are indoors, but you’ll be able to walk outdoors, go from one venue to the next. We might use more spaces. And there are restaurants all along there people can check out. We might even run a shuttle bus if we end up using more places farther away.”

Among the other confirmed acts at this point are rock band Pearls and Brass, avant-jazz ensemble Unknown Instructors (featuring Mike Watt, George Hurley and Joe Baiza), French-Swedish neo-folk duo Mi & L’au, veteran piano man Biff Rose and Tarantula A.D. Also on board are the Legs & Pants Dans Theatre, ethnomusical films from the Sublime Frequencies team and a “vibrational healing” installation by White Rainbow.

“It will be the mix of people you would expect from reading our magazine and coming to ArthurFest,” Babcock says. “You have to stretch your mind in order for it to grow.”


The Dead things in life are still free

THERE was quite an uproar when the Grateful Dead organization announced that it had pulled free concert downloads from the Internet audio library Live Music Archive (, resulting in a quick reversal of the move.

But many hard-core Deadheads immersed in the band-fueled tradition of free music trading hadn’t panicked. They knew there would be a steady flow of quality recordings regardless, via various peer-to-peer sites using Bit Torrent programs that allow direct connection between traders.

“The public torrent sites have been flooded with soundboard recordings because of the Dead pulling them off of Live Music Archive,” says a former administrator of the torrent site the Trader’s Den, who asked to be identified only by his screen name, bill_kate.

He also notes that many traders prefer the torrent sites because they stimulate more dialogue and community among fans.

“These recordings have been circulating for some time and will continue to circulate freely,” he says. “It was a huge part of what the Dead were about, and the older fans believe in it.”

They’re just wild about Harry

RINGO STARR, Yoko Ono, Dustin Hoffman, Randy Newman and the Smothers Brothers are among those appearing in “Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?),” a documentary about the enigmatic late pop singer set to premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February. Nilsson, who died from a heart attack in 1994, was once identified by the Beatles as their “favorite group” and had a stretch of hits including “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” from “Midnight Cowboy,” as well as “Coconut” and “Me and My Arrow,” though he never performed in concert.

The film was written and directed by John Scheinfeld at LSL Productions, the team behind the documentary “Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Making of ‘Smile’ ” and an upcoming John Lennon film. It follows the singer-songwriter’s music career, his hard-drinking years and his gun-control activism in the wake of friend Lennon’s murder 25 years ago. Lennon has a presence in the Nilsson film by way of audio from old interviews.

Small Faces

* Ryan Adams’ new song “Words,” Lindsey Buckingham’s solo version of “Big Love” (originally done with Fleetwood Mac) and a performance by My Morning Jacket in the guise of fictional band Ruckus are among the tracks on “Elizabethtown -- Volume 2,” a second collection of music from the Cameron Crowe movie. Also featured on the album, due Feb. 7, are tracks by Tom Petty, Rachel Yamagata and the Temptations, and an excerpt from Nancy Wilson’s haunting score music....

* My Morning Jacket has postponed a New York show scheduled for New Year’s Eve and a European tour because leader Jim James is suffering from pneumonia. The Europe dates will be rescheduled....