When the musical lineup was revealed for this year's Dally in the Alley, Greg Baise, a co-chair of the annual Detroit street fair, didn't recognize many of the bands chosen by this festival's music committee. For him, it was a happy surprise.
"That's something for us that's really exciting. I feel lucky because I'm going to be exposed to new stuff," said Baise, whose past work history includes booking acts for Detroit's The Majestic Theatre and the Crofoot in Pontiac. "I'm really into music -- and I've never heard of these people."
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His passion is shared by his colleague Adriel Thornton, who handles communications for the North Cass Community Union (NCCU), the all-volunteer group that runs the festival. Both are part of a younger crew that formally took over the operation of the Dally when the NCCU's elder board members stepped back after last year's event.
In addition to the music lineup, which will feature nearly 50 acts performing on four stages, Thornton is fired up about about the arts side of the festival. Dally's artistic offerings will include installations by Andrew St. Jukes, Chris Kozeleko, Silky Membrane and Emi Slade and Nick Pizana, as well as a "live" art component.
"I'm excited because our [art] chairperson Evan Dawber really stepped things up this year. He has a vision that dovetails with everyone else," he said. "People are going to look at that and say, 'Yeah! Of course, it's the Dally in the Alley. Look at this amazing art.'"
Organizers are also working hard to build on the previous year's efforts to make the Dally the greenest festival in the city. Last year, the NCCU required food and beer vendors to carry compostable products, which are designed to naturally break down into the earth. This year the event will have 12 green stations with separate bins for compost, recycling and garbage.
The Dally, which celebrates its 35th anniversary on Saturday, has come a long way since its first stirrings as a small inner city art fair in 1977. The NCCU formed around the same time to fight an "urban renewal" effort to demolish local historic buildings -- including a garage where the Dodge brothers built their first car (that was ultimately taken apart brick-by-brick and stored away for a possible reconstruction). The group filled the role of a block club for the neighborhood and eventually took over the festival. At the time the NCCU used proceeds from the event to aid their preservation efforts -- a tradition it carries on today with other worthy neighborhood causes.
Allen Schaerges, a longtime NCCU board member and former treasurer, said in the early days the event wasn't held in the alley it's now known for, near Second and Hancock.
"We put it out on the street for a couple years. It was hot, and then it rained and nobody came," said Schaerges. "Then, one year we put it in the alley, and it rained really hard. And the next year we decided it was more fun when it rained in the alley, than out in the the street."
He said people started calling the get-together the "dally in the alley" and it stuck, becoming the festival's official name in 1982.
A switch in focus from visual arts to music and performance also helped the Dally to thrive.
"You've got this collection of bands that came together and all the food followed and all the vendors and all the tables and it just grew," said Ralph Hogg, a former NCCU board member. "It was the whole alley, and then it was one street. And then it was another. And it just had a soul of its own and and it just went there."
Over time the fair has become part of the legacy of the Cass Corridor, a neighborhood long known for its contributions to the Detroit's arts, music and activism.
At 71, Hogg is a great example of the Corridor's eclectic spirit. He's worked as a blacksmith, an architect and even as a labor and migrant rights activist organizer alongside Cesar Chavez. These days he's busy cultivating his own backyard wine vineyard. Hogg believes the Dally serves a vital role for the community -- allowing current and former residents of the Corridor to catch up with one another, and giving younger people an exciting introduction to the neighborhood.
That some of these newer folks are now running the Dally is a good sign for Hogg. While he says the NCCU has never had trouble attracting younger volunteers, he believes this year was a good time to step back and let them do their thing.
"It's not that we're not aware, but we don't go to the meetings," said Hogg. "It's their show. They turned over the books. They turned over everything to them and said, 'Hey, stumble and bumble -- we did.'"
Thornton, The NCCU's current communications director, has a great respect for the older generation of Dally organizers and sees the current group's work as a continuation of the joyful tradition they started.
"I feel there's a responsibility that we have to honor the spirit of what they've created and the work that they've done," he said. "The fact that this has been going on for 35 years -- for a free, unsponsored, unsupported-by-corporate-dollars event -- is astounding."
The Dally in the Alley takes place Saturday, Sept. 8 near the corner of Second Ave. and Hancock St. in Detroit's Cass Corridor. In the event of rain, the fair will be held on Sunday. For more information, visit www.dallyinthealley.com.
To catch a glimpse of the featured bands, plus videos and photos from Dally in the Alley, take a look below and check out the Dally's website for directions and a complete schedule of the day's performances.
Dally 2012: Self Says
Rapper Charles Vann, who goes by the moniker "Self Says," aims to mix "off-kilter rhyme styles with more serious, straight-laced lyricism," according to his website bio. He's performed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and shared the stage with One Be Lo, Finale, Phat Kat, Slum Village, Buff1 and Shigeto.
Witness The Scene From Dally 2010
Dally 2012: Aran Daniels
DJ Aran Daniels came to love techno music after listening to the sounds of the Motor and Shelter nightclubs in the 1990s. While influenced by labels such as Ghostly International and Playhouse, he tries to stay true to his Midwest techno and house roots. He's the resident DJ at Detroit's TV Lounge.
Theatre Bizarre At Dally 2010
Dally 2012: Copper Thieves
The Copper Thieves are a Detroit-area rock band featuring Andy Roy, John Nelson, Marty Roy, Christian Doble and Tony Rochon. (Facebook: Photo by Stacy Roy)
Dally 2012: Darkred
Darkred is a two-piece experimental/psychedelic Detroit rock band featuring Chris Turner on drums and Rob Smith on guitar. (Myspace: Photo by Anubis)
Detroit's Next Great Artists At Dally 2010
Dally 2012: Deadbeat Beat
The Deadbeat Beat is a "big beat" Detroit-area rock band. (Facebook: Photo by Lauren Montgomery)
Dally 2012: Deastro
Deastro is Randolph Chabot, a Detroit-based artist who produces synth-driven electronic pop. He's also known to play with a band, including Jeff Supina on drums, Mark Smak on guitar and Brian Connelly on bass and keyboards.
Dally 2012: Roland Remington
Roland Remington plays mid-century exotica/tiki bar music on vintage melody percussion instruments. He covers artists like Martin Denny, Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman. (Facebook: Photo by Joseph Coots)
Dally 2012: Electric Fire Babies
Electric Firebabies make experimental Detroit new wave soul influenced by The New Dance Show, Stereolab, The B-52's, King Tubby, and Kundalini.
Dancing Poet Video Shot At Dally 2009
Dally 2012: Erno the Inferno
DJ Erno the Inferno describes his sets on Facebook as "disco and classic house having a love affair with techno."He puts together beats for local hip-hop artists and played bass in the recently disbanded indie/punk/folk-ish band, Noman. (Facebook: Photo by Joe Gall)
Amazing Sunglasses In This Video From Dally 1992
Dally 2012: Fancy Street
Fancy Street is a Detroit-area band that produces acoustic pop music.
Dally 2012: Allan James and the Cold Wave
Allan James and the Cold Wave is an indie rock band from Ferndale.
Dally 2012: El Dee
El Dee is a Detroit-area jazz pop band starring Lauren Deming and her tight-knit group of musician friends. (Facebook: Photo by Andi Hedrick)
Scene from Dally 2010
Dally 2012: Duende!
The band Duende! mixes rock, blues, country, psychedelic and other influences to create a melting pot of sounds.
Dally in the Alley 2008: Antique-o-vision
Dally 2012: Gardens
The rock band Gardens names The Beatles, Syd Barrett, Nirvana and Turkish psychedelic music among their influences.
Dally 2012: Loretta Lucas
Loretta Lucas is a vivacious folk-pop singer who has performed with her sister Julie in the band Sisters Lucas.
Dally 2012: Zydeco Hepcats
Formed in 2010, the Zydeco Hepcats play classic zydeco tunes as well as a healthy order of original blues and roots songs.
Dally 2012: Third Coast Kings
The Third Coast Kings are a deep funk and soul ensemble based in Detroit. The eight-piece ensemble aims to do funk the right way and hope audiences will appreciate their dedication to the classic sound.
Dally 2012: Pink Lightning
Pink Lighting is a rock-and-roll band featuring Neal Parks on drums, Everette Rinehart on bass, Tom Bahorski on guitar, Leo McWilliams on accordion and vocalist Chris Butterfield, who also plays a circuit bender. (Facebook: Photo by Kim Parks)
Dally 2012: Small Noises
Small Noises is a Detroit-area alternative rock/garage band.
Dally 2012: The Anonymous
MC goldzilla! and DJ some kid make up The Anonymous, an underground hip-hop group that emerged from Detroit's suburbs in the early 2000s. (Facebook: Photo by Jeremy Damaske)
Dally 2012: The Oscillating Fan Club
The Oscillating Fan Club's brand of guitar pop interweaves classic 60s rock music with more experimental and psychedelic influences.
Night Falls At Dally 2010
Filling The Streets At Dally 2010
Dally 2012: The Summer Pledge
Based in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood, The Summer Pledge combines progressive indie rock with classic soul music. (Facebook: Photo by Lauren Smith)
Dally 2012: The Walking Beat
The Walking Beat delves into a soundscape combining elements as diverse as hard rock, country-western waltzes, glam rock and Townes Van Zandt-inspired tunes. Brought to you by Detroiters Danny Kanka, Steve McCauley, Stephanie Selvaggio, Joe Lavis and Jon Berz.
Night Lights At Dally 2010
Documentary Captures Dally 2009
Dally 2012: Ungrateful Daughter
Ungrateful Daughter is an "artpsychpunk" band based in Detroit. Members are Frank Woodman on Jaguar, Hillary Woodman on electric Ukulel and Ryan Michels on skins.
Dally 2012: The Wire Eyes
Together, Ashley E. Hennen, Brad A. Potts, Jessica L. Brasher and Alex Tetreault form The Wire Eyes, a Detroit musical ensemble with a knack for creating haunting, ethereal sounds. Catch them while you can. Their Dally performance will be their last for some time as Hennen will be leaving Detroit for New York City.
Dally 2012: Tunde Olaniran
Tunde Olaniran mixes hip-hop, pop and electronic music to create a unique beat-driven sound. A seasoned performer, he has toured the world and fronted the rock band Taste This! earlier in his career.