Friday, May 10, 2002

Gospel choir cancels Jammin' gig

But music fest expects crowd

By Larry Nager,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Coalition For a Just Cincinnati claimed victory Thursday with the cancellation of the Harlem Gospel Choir's Saturday show at this weekend's Pepsi Jammin' on Main.

        And the coalition is still working to keep more headliners from appearing at Cincinnati's largest all-music street festival.

        “We have people trying to contact the Roots and Journey, even as we speak,” Amanda Mayes, Coalition co-chair, said Thursday night.

        Ed Bezel, the Nashville-based agent for Harlem Gospel Choir, said the group received faxes this week from the Coalition For a Just Cincinnati urging it to honor the boycott. Mr. Bezel said the group felt “uncomfortable” about coming here to perform.

        The boycott hasn't affected ticket sales, which Wednesday set a one-day advance sales record of 800. Fest organizers attributed that to tonight's headliner, singer/songwriter John Mayer.

        With 34 acts and an entertainment budget of $400,000, the fenced-in fest on Central Parkway around Main Street is expected to break the previous two-day record of 50,000.

        “Maybe it's people wanting to make a statement about what they care about,” said Mike Smith, executive vice president and CEO of Music Event Management Inc., an arm of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which owns Jammin'. He said he was “disappointed” by the choir's cancellation. “We've made every effort to be as diverse and inclusive and expansive as possible.”

        Clear Channel Entertainment, which books Jammin', has added local act One to replace the choir. Rock band Moth also won't play tonight, because of the cancellation of its national tour. It will be replaced by local band Thistle.

        As of Thursday night, the major Jammin' headliners, including African-American hip-hop act the Roots, remained in the lineup.

        The 2002 Jammin' is far more diverse than the 2001 edition, canceled after last year's riots. No African-American artists were booked on that show.

        This year's Jammin' features African-American reggae band the Flex Crew, from Columbus, as well as local hip-hop group the Watusi Tribe, jazz pianist William Menefield's quartet and R&B singer P. Ann Everson Price and her band. Although Jammin' is primarily a rock festival, the musical diversity extends to the Latin-American salsa of Tropicoso.

        Mr. Menefield was asked to boycott, but despite mixed feelings, will perform Saturday.

        “I made a commitment and that's what I have to do. I don't cancel out on people like that.”

        Ms. Everson Price, performing just before Mr. Menefield, was not contacted.

        “Nobody called me. They know better. I work wherever I want,” she said.

        Today and Saturday, boycott supporters are planning to picket and distribute leaflets outside the fest.

        Ms. Mayes isn't daunted by the potentially record-breaking Jammin' crowds.

        “That's just more people for us to outreach to,” she said.


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