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Fringe Festival : THE FRINGE: MORE OF A MISS THAN A HIT : Pop Music : Rockers, Institutions an Unnatural Mix

October 07, 1987|RICHARD CROMELIN | The monthlong Fringe Festival, a mammoth undertaking that in effect was the local component of the Los Angeles Festival, ended Sunday after presenting 450 events (roughly half were theatrical productions) by 500 artists at 210 sites. Was the Festival a hit or a miss? Eight critics who covered the Fringe answer that question. and

The Hollywood Hills Rock Festival was an all-day concert featuring the cream of L.A.'s bands, held on Labor Day weekend at the outdoor John Anson Ford Theatre--just the kind of high-quality, out-of-the ordinary event that would have fit perfectly in the Fringe Festival, an event open to anyone who wanted to participate.

That concert's absence from the festival was the most glaring example of local rock's estrangement from the Fringe Festival. Only a few of the hundreds of festival events were related to local pop and rock music--hardly a reflection of the fact that L.A.'s grass-roots rock scene is the most vibrant in America.

Why wasn't the Hollywood Hills Rock Festival a part of the Fringe Festival? Because the rock concert organizers didn't know about it, and weren't informed about it.

This lack of communication suggests that the Fringe organizers need to reconsider their passive, clearing-house role and be more aggressive in penetrating the awareness of L.A.'s rockers.

That might not be as easy as recruiting in other disciplines. While the music scene is a closely knit community--or a collection of closely knit communities--it's not centralized in a way that would make it easily approachable for the Fringe's everyone-welcome, pay-as-you-go format.

Then there's the inherent nature of L.A.'s rockers. Many are wary of being seen as arty as opposed to popular, and don't want to endanger their street credentials by being linked with performance artists and poets and experimental dance ensembles.

At the same time, most rock 'n' rollers think of themselves as being on the fringe in one way or another, and they might not feel a need to participate in something called a Fringe Festival to make that point--they see business as usual is a sort of perpetual fringe festival. On top of that, rockers are naturally suspicious of institutions, even one as free-form as the Fringe.

These are the main obstacles the Fringe Festival has to surmount if it wants to add a rock beat. And without that beat, it simply doesn't reflect what's going on in Los Angeles.

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