Get weird at Operation Restore Maximum Freedom XVI
KDVS festival promises underground rock and laid-back vibes
Back in 2010, the Operation Restore Maximum Freedom lineup hit hip-hop, electronic drone, metal, folk, garage rock and a bunch of other mismatched styles. This kind of schizophrenic genre diversity wasn’t unusual for the festival thrown by UC Davis radio station KDVS. It was precisely the point.
Like every other year since it started in 2005, ORMF showcased every possible music genre imaginable—the stranger the better—via a laid-back, all-day festival with nearly 20 local and national bands. For several notorious years, it was held at Woodland bar Plainfield Station, where folks would sprawl out on the grass or hang out inside with any of the unsuspecting bikers unaware that their favorite watering hole would be hosting a weirdo music festival on that particular day.
This year’s event—ORMF XVI—stays in line with the free-spirited vibe, but also has some significant changes. For one thing, the lineup is extremely focused, with 18 artists that generally fall under the garage, psychedelic, indie rock and post-punk categories. For ORMF, having such a cohesive festival lineup is, well, actually kind of weird.
“If you boil it down to its core, it is a rock ’n’ roll festival,” says KDVS events coordinator Kasra Gene Mirblouk, also known as DJ Kazmir, who organized this year’s ORMF. “It almost seemed like the people that were organizing this event were trying a little too hard to make it too diverse. I feel like that didn’t necessarily connect with a lot of people.”
This year, ORMF-goers can see Froth, the She’s, Charles Albright, Ladywolf, Screature and many other names in California’s greater underground music scene. While these bands might not be all over the map like in ORMFs past, they don’t sound exactly alike, either.
Old-school ORMF fans will note more changes, like how ORMF is now annual instead of biannual. Plainfield Station also no longer plays host. In 2014, ORMF moved from a brief stint at Third Space Art Collective to Sudwerk Brewery. That year, keeping with the ORMF tradition of weirdness, organizers placed one stage underneath the overpass in the parking lot. This year, the arrangement will feel more conventional, with a stage outside next to the Dock and a second likely inside the brewery. Mirblouk says it’ll still have the same casual, low-key atmosphere, though. People can wander around, buy pizza from Woodstocks and beer from Sudwerks, and enjoy cool bands. It’s not exactly Outside Lands.
The festival’s originally scatterbrained lineup was a reflection of the station’s free-form style. Since deejays could play any song they wish, that bred a spirit of blasting the most underground, unusual music possible.
While KDVS remains free-form, Mirblouk noticed that current deejays weren’t gravitating toward the most extreme noise artists around, so he created a lineup that felt true to the station’s playlist this past year. Next year’s lineup could be entirely different.
That’s the beauty of ORMF. As long as the festival continues, the adventurous spirit will never die. What that means to the current KDVS volunteers, deejays and the events coordinator is always up for reinterpretation, says Drew Walker, this year’s sound man who is also performing as experimental artist Doofy Doo.
“Every new generation gets to redefine it,” he says. “Next year it’ll evolve and devolve. That’s the nature of the college radio station.”