Freedom isn’t free (just 10 bucks)

A circle of fun during Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom in 2009.

A circle of fun during Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom in 2009.

Photo By Amir Moarefi

KDVS’ Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom Festival XI goes down this Saturday, May 14, 2 to 10 p.m.; Plainfield Station, 23944 County Road 98 in Woodland; $10 in advance, $15 day of show; all ages; get advance tickets at Phono Select Records, 2312 K Street in Midtown.

As the United States declared war on Iraq, a collective of deejays and young volunteers within the free-form radio community at UC Davis’ KDVS radio station decided to create a festival of music. Called Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom, the event is held twice a year in Woodland.

Rick Ele, longtime KDVS deejay and promoter of local shows, helped organize the first O:RMF with 21 bands lined up to play the event. He recalls losing $200—which he viewed as a success, especially since the festival operates on zero budget. (All the revenue raised from tickets goes to the artists.)

“Me [and] another guy, we each just basically paid 100 bucks,” Ele remembered doling out at the end of the night. “But U2 had just come to Arco [Arena], and all of their fans paid 100 dollars to sit in the nosebleeds. And I had a lot more fun at our show than any of those people did.”

But after 18 years at KDVS, Ele doesn’t hesitate to express that he’s ready for semi-retirement when it comes to planning and executing the biannual O:RMF festivals and local shows.

Enter Shiva Shahmir: Davis native, KDVS deejay and regular sound engineer at KDVS shows and Luigi’s Fun Garden. Shahmir not only forgoes sleep on a regular basis for the local music scene, she also volunteered to front the cost of ’60s lo-fi music legend R. Stevie Moore’s travel expenses just have him perform at O:RMF XI.

Ele remembers a 16-year-old Shahmir volunteering with KDVS while she was still in high school, eager to learn. “Where her interest and talents are is in making shows happen,” he says of Shahmir’s work ethic. “That’s an industry that is so male-dominated—not only that, middle-aged-male dominated. It was kind of refreshing to see a young woman doing that.”

After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a focus on musicology, Shahmir returned to Davis last May and saw an opening for the KDVS events and sound director position. She applied, got it, and since has dedicated her life to organizing music-related events and other festivals, including Whole Earth and UC Davis Picnic Day.

“It’s totally my baby,” Shahmir said of O:RMF. “I don’t have the nerves to go up onstage and perform myself. But I completely have all my respect in people who can not only express themselves, but also express a collective feeling. I love music and art and want it to go on further.”

As always, O:RMF will be held at Plainfield Station and will feature 12 bands with double headliners R. Stevie Moore and Nobunny, the latter of whom recently moved to Sacramento from Oakland. Plus Placerville’s Alak, Yolo County’s UC Davis Samba School and Produce Produce; and Sacramentans Zach Hill, Ellie Fortune, Appetite and Charles Albright. And, of course, beer.

“Come, have a picnic and, if your mind is caught by a certain act that’s going onstage, you can give them your full attention. And, if not, you can still enjoy yourself,” Shahmir said. “You have the opportunity, if you have never heard of any of this music, to open your mind.”