A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
On a recent Thursday night, members of David's Pegasus were keeping it down the best they could. Stylish kids gathered around them and shuffled nervously. A few were stashing half-drunk beers. One — presumably it was his name on the lease — urged them all to restrain their applause. The singer shushed into the mic. Local cops were stationed outside with sound meters, enforcing the strict 50-decibel limit established by Fayetteville's noise ordinance, just aching to write that $275 citation.
As the scruffy hipsters who rented the place became less and less comfortable with the situation, a basket was passed around half-heartedly to raise money for the fine. Barry Brinegar — guitarist, lead singer, and founder of David's Pegasus — offered up the $200 that the band had in the bank. The prospect of raising the other $75 looked grim. People don't carry cash nowadays.
Little Rock's Magic Hassle had opened up the night, presumably bringing the initial heat down, and now, after midnight, the neighborhood patience had pretty well worn thin. The renter finally rushed in from the front porch and cut them short, ballsy enough to throw an amped-up show in his living room but not quite ready to hit the curb for rock 'n' roll. The band started packing up. Five songs in and the night was over, their quietest set ever.
They kept a sense of humor about the indignity of it all. “It was almost like being on a game show, or the movie ‘Speed' or something,” remarked Stuart Field, the band's drummer.
Performing in a local living room is par for the course here in Fayetteville, where the recently opened Smoke and Barrel Tavern represents a lonely glimmer of hope for struggling independent acts looking to get seen. New home venues crop up every six months or so, each with a name like “Ameroplace” or “The Dinosaur House” or “The New Deli” (a nod to one of the first such places, “The Delicious”) to somewhat mask their locations from the authorities. Addresses spread by word of mouth. But they invariably have a short shelf life. Eventually, the bands wear out their welcome, the residents grow weary of the crowds, or the landlords drop the hammer. Sooner or later another one will spring up. There just aren't enough official venues to meet demand — and too little demand to warrant more official venues.
Despite limited outlets, David's Pegasus still manages to get out at least once a month. Earlier this year, the band played before an estimated crowd of a thousand people at the Botanical Gardens for an outdoor family event called the Firefly Festival. They're as famous as they'll ever be in Fayetteville, Ark.
Still, the band's aesthetic seems peculiarly engineered for the living room floor. Taking their cues from the early video game systems of the '80s, the band's stage show features a visual component: short animated “games” are projected on screens, the music acting as a soundtrack for strange 8-bit narratives.
According to Brinegar, “We suspected the average person would rather watch TV than go to a concert, so we essentially made the TV our [fifth] band member.” Their recorded output samples heavily from glitchy game soundtracks and features simple drum machine beats. The effect is less Crystal Castles than a kind of proto-Radiohead, their technological anxieties stuck in the age of joysticks, cartridges and tangled wires strung to faux wood grained television sets.
It all started with a game system produced by the fictitious “Atardicorp Studios.”
“I wanted to make a system that was so primitive that it was funny or endearing,” said Brinegar, who maintains an abiding love for atavistic game technology and draws from a deep well of arcane video game knowledge, sometimes second-guessing himself about minute historical points in casual conversation. When he recounts his personal inventory of systems, you feel as if he's just shared the benchmarks of his past, from the Atari 2600 straight through the Nintendo Wii. (He covets an Xbox 360.)