A Musical Festival in Monotone Colors
For this past Saturday a friend gave me four free tickets to the
Cincinnati Jazz Festival Macy’s Music Festival (MMF). I will forever refer to it as the CJF because that is what I grew up with, although for as long as I can remember the marquee acts have always been Pop and Soul stars. The Jacksons, Midnight Star, Rolls Royce were all the acts I wanted to see in the 70s and 80s. But growing up poor doesn’t allow for extraneous purchases so music was ruled out. When I was in my 20s, I was a struggling college student which then morphed into a struggling single mother. So even though there were groups I wanted to see, again not budgeted.
So when tickets came my way for the music festival I jumped on them. The only person I wanted to see was Ledisi and I figured I could sit through a few groups to see her.
When Saturday morning came I claimed my windfall only to discover that Ledisi had played the night before. Of the acts playing Saturday night only one I didn’t recognize and two of the popular acts had their rise in the mid to late 90s. The other two acts have become a Cincinnati Music Festival staple and were probably acts my mother saw when she was in her 20s (and she is now 70).
“This will be my first time going to the Festival,” I thought. “Should I give it up?”
I took the tickets home to J, who immediately let me know where he stood. He had looked up the lineup while I was gone and immediately eschewed attending.
“These acts are for some old heads,” J said. “Do you really want to go?”
While I thought if I truly did J countered with,”Parking is going to be 20 dollars or more plus the crowds.”
“But the tickets are free,” was all I could proffer.
“We can go next year,” he reassured. When I still looked skeptical he said we could go see Beasts of the Southern Wild. I relented. J called around offering up the tickets to friends. He finally found one who said he would take all four.
“And he’s 53,” J said happily. “It’s his kind of music.”
Not that music is bound by age, but truthfully if I attend a concert I would rather the music be rock or danceable and not something I will get from the easy listening or throwback stations. Why can’t someone offer me free tickets to AfroPunk? Two weeks ago I would have been just as happy for a pass to see Foxy Shazam at the inaugural Bunbury Music Festival.
Most of the groups playing the Bunbury were white– from what I heard from Not Your Negro Tour Guide Kathy Y. Wilson.
Tried as I might, I couldn’t find one band among the jam-packed line-ups that even vaguely interested me and, unlike others who claim to love “all kinds of music,” I actually do.I am often among a number of blacks — and women — so scant at some music shows in Cincinnati, you can count us on one or two hands.
When’s the last time a white music fan in this city has had that weird distinction?
And if you have, good for you. Keep it up. Bring your friends next time.
(Not) Your Negro Tour Guide: Bunbury, Isle of White by Kathy Y Wilson 18July2012
And her summation of the all white festival has left many readers infuriated, telling her she is playing the race card. Readers wrote in, a few protestors said they spotted one or two musicians in different bands that were but mostly the Bunbury fans said lineup was fine and that no one complained that the MMF had only one white act. And maybe if she wanted to see black acts then that was where Wilson should go.
And that is the point. Whether it’s Bunbury or the well established MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF), the acts are invariably white. To MPMF organizers I will give them credit for trying to bring in alternative black artists/bands. One year I was hyped to see Toro y Moi only to find out at the last-minute his show was canceled.
Yeah, bummer. But that is what it’s like for someone black in this city who wants to listen to music that isn’t Urban Contemporary (re: black music before 1995). Then when you let someone know you like that type of music (no knock on the white artists, I love them, too) but would like them to expand their roster with a bit of color that you need to go check out concerts for your own kind.
(Sigh. Checking the calendar to make sure it’s indeed 2012)
The city is changing gradually, but if music can’t bring us together I’m not exactly sure what can.