Array’s Ability To Pull Names Like Nas And Big Gigantic Shows That It Can Become One Of Dallas’ Best Festivals — So Long As Its Organizers Think Bigger In Years To Come.
Slideshow photos by Denzel Golatt.
Seems the only thing that could get in Array’s way moving forward would be not thinking big enough.
By making use of two of Deep Ellum’s largest venues — neighboring sister spots Canton Hall and The Bomb Factory — Saturday night’s ambitious, two-venue, music-meets-visual-art festival surely had no shortage of production value. And yet the event, part of the Soluna Festival currently taking place around town, still felt as though not enough programming was considered for both spaces.
On the art side of things at Canton Hall, the installations did exactly what curator Erica Felicella told us a few weeks ago she hoped would do: They welcomed crowds of all levels of art literacy. The interactive nature of the six new commissioned works at Canton Hall for sure drew the attention of their visitors and invited them to participate in groups. Tramaine Townsend’s 360-degree virtual reality installation, for example, saw people putting on a VR headset and turning their heads left and right to see the artist’s interpretation of social media’s empty sense of validation. Meanwhile, Darcy Neal’s touch-based light and sound “Cube Sound” installation at The Bomb Factory best captured the STEM and art intersection that Array’s organizers were originally tasked with finding.
Given the fact that these were new artist creations, though, there wasn’t really a natural flow to the space at Canton Hall. Maybe the next batch of artists who will participate in Array’s showcase should be tasked with, instead of creating new works, selecting pre-existing works and finding ways of enhancing them with STEM-inspired techniques and connecting them to other featured artists’ works.
At The Bomb Factory, the music portion of the offering — centered more around the notion of collaboration by combining national and local talents through live on-stage mash-ups — definitely drew more eyeballs. But the stated concept of blending talents together on stage rather than in the studio was clearly a task much easier said than done as most of the supposed collaborations amounted more to glorified guest appearances.
When Kaleo opened its set, the Neo-Classical Ballet danced around for about three minutes while lead singer JJ Julius Son solemnly played his guitar. Then, Kaleo simply closed out its set, leaving the dancers to be but a mere afterthought.
Later, the crowd in the room started to fill out in anticipation of Nas’ scheduled performance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra — then loudly cheered on the hip-hop superstar’s arrival, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was recently accused by his ex-wife Kelis of years of physical and psychological abuse. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s participation in his set similarly felt like an after-thought, barely audible over the booming bass of the speakers that blared Nas’ main backing tracks.
The night-closing set featuring EDM heroes Big Gigantic and the Dallas Mavericks Drumline best fulfilled the night’s promises. After Big Gigantic already started things off strongly, the drumline then came out and actually matched the energy of Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken — and didn’t let up either. It was a cool to witness an underexposed Dallas group actually got the chance to shine in this setting; it was just too bad that so many of the fans who’d come out to see Nas left by the time this moment occurred.
Still, the moment felt earned: Big Gigantic and the drumline seemed to develop a genuine kinship over the course of their collaboration, exemplified by the fact that drumline leader Todd Jackson, after having collaborated with Big Gigantic over Skype for weeks now, presented Lalli and Salken with personalized Mavs jerseys during their Friday rehearsal.
If there is to be another Array next year, organizers would do well to consider artists that complement each other as Big Gigantic and the drumline did, rather than simply book acts that sit on polar opposite sides of the musical spectrum and hope that the spectacle of their shared billing will be enough to impress audiences.
We do hope that there are future Array offerings regardless, though. After Saturday night, the potential of an event like this one was made quite clear — both on the music and art sides of things.