Tianna Glass uses the term Jazzmania 2010 on her blog, so I’m borrowing it here to refer to both the Jazz festival last weekend as well as to the free Monday night Jazz. If you have not read her blog, Things Black People Do in Hartford, you best get over there and check it out. And before freaking out about how that sounds so racist, I’ll offer this thought: almost all of the mainstream organizations and media give plenty of coverage to events and venues that already appeal to a particular audience as a whole. If a person is not feeling especially represented by that coverage, what harm is there in creating a new outlet? I mean, that is basically why this blog got started. I did not feel that most of the news in the local mainstream (and I include so-called “alternative” weeklies in this) represented my experience as a Hartford resident, and the experience of someone who is neither in abject poverty nor living in a mansion on the edge of town is somewhat needed if one is to “get” what it is like to live here. So, we welcome yet another perspective to the mix.
Last night as you probably have heard, offered up a free concert in Bushnell Park. The critiques will come below the fold, be sure, but for now, I will say that artist Janelle Monáe, the feature performer, definitely surpassed all of the hype that was permeating the cultural air space in the previous few weeks. Because of the hype, combined with underwhelming video clips online, I had gone to the show more excited for the other acts. I had never heard of her before recently, and as someone who has a radio show on a community station that receives oodles of independent, unique, and out there albums, I thought it strange that Monáe was off my radar. Usually if I do not hear of someone, it is because she is a lackluster, musically talentless pop star.
It’s safe to say that I became a Monáe fan last night.
Her show was theatrical, but not to the point of losing focus of what mattered– the music. Think of a collision between Ziggy Stardust, Freddie Mercury, Grace Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Lauryn Hill, Gwen Stefani, and Annie Lennox. Since I have seen none of them live in concert, this pleased me. There were costumes, a lot of movement on the stage, and a surprising vocal range. The guitarist wailed and made it seem effortless. This made the walk downtown worthwhile.
But, Monáe deserved a better venue and a better audience.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Bushnell Park. But certain things work better in other environments. Given the drama of her performance, I would have preferred to see the show in a more suitable venue, like the Bushnell Theater. The audience’s imagination would not have been interrupted by sight of the truck abutting the backstage area and she would have been ensured a sound system that she deserved. There were times when the vocal levels were too low. This was a problem during other performers’ sets as well.
My next complaint is with the audience, and there are many elements here.
Given all of the recent hype, that side of the park should have been packed. It was not even close. And let’s not blame the weather. I attended four straight days/evenings of jazz there last week, two of which were interrupted by downpours and thunderstorms, and the crowd then barely blinked an eye at it.
The question to pose might be to whom this show was targeted. When I arrived around 6pm, there were about half as many people as were in attendance by the end of the evening, but given the number, this says little. The photo above was taken around 7pm. Anyway, of those in attendance, a large number were high school kids. It reminded me of the 104 Fests they used to have (before those stopped when inconsiderate concertgoers ripped up the Bushnell lawn to throw clumps of grass and mud around) at which young kids would bop around, unchaperoned.
It’s nice for youth to have something to do, but it also can become annoying for the adults. At every single recent free jazz event, someone I know has had wine and beer in glass bottles, and has openly drank it in the park. The police at the jazz events were plenty aware of this and never said a word. The drinking was almost always accompanied by a picnic snack or dinner, and spread out over the course of the evening. In other words, nobody was throwing bottles or acting irresponsibly. Now, at last night’s event, alcohol consumption was being monitored, likely because of the presence of people who were not apt to make responsible choices. I saw a few people who had bottles of beer, but most were told they had to pour drinks into cups. I am glad that they were keeping an eye on things, yet at the same time, for those of us who know how to behave, this kind of necessary intervention (for some) felt irritating, not to mention that it removes police from other areas of the city where their assistance might be more needed.
Why did this feel like a necessary intervention? Well, at the end of the night, the lawn was completely littered with empty water bottles, cups, beer cans, and wrappers.The maintenance of the Bushnell Park lawn is usually kept up with well, and since I arrived fairly early, I feel confident that this trash was not there before the concert. When I walked through this morning, the litter was removed; however, just so you all know, the way to say Happy Birthday to Hartford is not by throwing all your crap on the lawn! It is also a rude gesture as guests, which is what many of the audience was — visitors, not residents. As a point of comparison, I never saw this happen at the Jazzmania 2010. Sure, there were a few more trash barrels placed on the lawn, but given last night’s low turnout, a deficit of garbage cans can not be blamed for the litter.
It was great to have a free show to attend, even if a lot of the electronic acts earlier in the evening did nothing for me. The time between performers was kept to a minimum and none of that annoying blue or orange plastic fencing was used to corral the crowd. But for an event that was supposedly to celebrate Hartford, I would have liked to have seen more of that happening. For instance, at one point, the MC gave props to an act as being from the “best city in the world” (or something to that effect), and then named New York! Now, Hartford does not need to make any claims to being the best city ever, but to dub another place as such at a birthday party for Hartford, is, well, like going to a little kid’s birthday party and then telling his big sister that she is the awesomest kid ever. It’s not necessary to say at that time. But none of this is ultimately surprising, given the source. At Real Hartford, we are not at all fans of people, organizations, or businesses that come all up in here, complaining about how the city is “boring” or “dangerous” or “poor” or whatever, then doing something that appeals to a very small set of people, and then claiming that this entity has made the city less boring, dangerous, poor, or whatever. That’s not being wavy — that’s bootleg!
The “nothing to do in Hartford” complaint obviously irritates me. I have never had any shortage of things to do here, between work, hanging out with friends, trying new restaurants, or attending countless free/inexpensive concerts and performances. Maybe I am past the age of needing an adrenalin rush at concerts or perhaps my musical tastes are varied enough, but Hartford has had plenty to offer me at the cost of $10 or less. What I am saying is that the damsel is not always in distress, and maybe she just does not need rescuing.
At any rate, I was entertained plenty. If the music was not interesting to me at the moment, I had plenty of fashion FAIL to witness. Menfolk: unless you are ripped, you probably should not wear shirts cut down to your belly buttons. And even then, you had better be married to Jennifer Lopez if you want to get away with that. Womenfolk: It might be cute for a first grader, but if you are a grown woman, you have no business wearing a jumper. Please don’t. Also, leggings are not pants. I repeat: leggings are not pants. There are ways to wear leggings appropriately, such as under dresses, skirts, and tunics, or around the house where only your blood relatives or spouse is subjected to the view; worn incorrectly, however, means showing off ladyparts that the general public does not need to see.
I’m not saying that the correct example is the most fashionable, but the woman is someone I could reasonably have a conversation with. Do not expect someone to make eye contact with you when your thong is on display for everyone to observe whether they want to or not.
There were some things really right though. Here are a few photos of people enjoying themselves without any air of pretension and/or actually looking fly.
And here are blurry shots of Mayor Segarra busting moves on the stage with Cubic Zirconia.
Segarra has been making quite a few public appearances and seems to be reintroducing transparency to the office of the mayor. Another theory: if Segarra is preoccupied with dancing, he won’t have time to get himself into any trouble.
Having musical diversity is great, but I’d like to see a way for this to happen that eliminates most of the aforementioned problems. At the least, maybe we can get an ordinance banning public display of see-through leggings. You know, for the sake of the children.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.