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May 02, 1996

Pop

R&B songwriting had been an art on its deathbed. As Boyz II Men and other such acts ascended, the notion of a song as anything other than a bland, generic platform for vocal pyrotechnics and production wizardry went into virtual eclipse. But the vital signs are improving.

Tony Rich is one of the new R&B singer-songwriters concerned with evocative, detailed lyrics, social conscience, strong melodies and organic, subtle arrangements. They may yet keep the patient alive: The Detroit native's debut album, "Words," not only has something to say, but also sales have topped the 500,000 mark. Rich joins the likes of Dionne Farris and Spearhead's Michael Franti in carrying the torch for pop-soul music that maintains artistic aims beyond mood-setting for the boudoir.

* Who: Tony Rich Project, All That, Endz.

* When: Saturday at 8 p.m.

* Where: Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Harbor Boulevard; go north. Take the third right, onto Lake Center Drive. The theater is on the left.

* Wherewithal: $20-$22.

* Where to call: (714) 957-0600.

Dance

The American Indian Dance Theatre brings the Imagination Celebration to a colorful close with a pair of performances Sunday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The troupe's dancers and musicians are members of 20 different nations from Apache to Zuni, among them Arapaho and Assiniboine, Cherokee and Comanche, Navajo, Pawnee and Sioux. The dancers, outfitted in feathers and beads, will perform traditional works including the Hoop Dance, Eagle Dance and Fancy Dance.

* What: American Indian Dance Theatre.

* When: Sunday, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

* Where: Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Bristol Street; go north. Turn right onto Town Center Drive.

* Wherewithal: $6.

* Where to call: (714) 556-2787.

Art

It isn't the Jackie O collection exactly, but the pop culture artifacts on exhibit at Rancho Santa Margarita Library offer a glimpse into America's not-so-distant past. "Sign of Our Times: The Art of Popular American Culture" includes articles from the 1930s to the '60s, among them porcelain and metal advertising signs for Coca-Cola, Texaco and others, antique table-top radios, toys and restaurant china.

"It is about the kitsch that is so integral to popular American culture of today and yesterday," said exhibit organizer Carolyn Gregory. "My hope is that people will bring their children to show them how things looked a few decades ago."

* What: "Sign of Our Times: The Art of Popular American Culture."

* When: Through May 31. Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

* Where: Rancho Santa Margarita Library, 30902 La Promesa.

* Whereabouts: From the San Diego (I-5) Freeway, use Alicia Parkway exit and turn east toward the Saddleback Mountains. Turn right at Rancho Santa Margarita Parkway, right on Alma Aldea and right at La Promesa.

* Wherewithal: Free.

* Where to call: (714) 459-6094.

Festivals

More than 50,000 visitors are expected to please their palates and lend an ear--not to mention admire the art--at the Gogh Van Orange Art and Music Festival this weekend at Historic Old Towne Plaza in Orange. The festival will feature 17 performing groups, food samples from local restaurants ($2-$5) and a juried show with 40 artists.

Also on tap are a swing dance contest, an autograph party featuring '50s and '60s R&B recording artists, a student art show and a children's activity village.

* What: Gogh Van Orange Art and Music Festival.

* When: Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday, noon-7 p.m.

* Where: Historic Old Towne Plaza, at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, Orange.

* Whereabouts: Exit the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway at Chapman Avenue; go west.

* Wherewithal: Free.

* Where to call: (714) 538-3581.

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