This week, we're talking context. Drums don't exist in a vacuum (treating them as though they do is my #1 issue with 'drum culture'). Music doesn't exist in a vacuum (as much as some people would like it to). For the past week, a single story has been occupying way more of my thoughts than EVEN THE DRUMS, because it's way more important. That story is: the social media frenzy surrounding Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta's performance at the Halifax Pop Explosion 2 weeks ago. If you're unaware, you can get the best summary of the events from the artist herself here. If you google it, you'll find the Canadian Press article that got picked up by all of the major news outlets (why'd you pick that quote for the headline, CP?) and generated controversy all over the internet. If you click around further, you'll find lots of unsavoury comments via your social media platform of choice. Those comments are written by people who took her actions out of context, either by accident (because they weren't there) or on purpose (because they have their own agenda).
I was going to post the following thoughts along with Lido's post on my personal Facebook page yesterday when it came out, but I decided it was too long and I didn't want to sidetrack her message with my own. Instead, I'm putting it here. Also, relevant to your/my interests: her drummer/percussionist guy is super heavy. Also her horn section is all Halifax guys and they are all amazing musicians.
That is all. Be good to each other plz xoxoxo
i was at this show. missed all of the ‘drama’ because i was downstairs watching designosaur at the seahorse. when i did make it upstairs i was blown away! amazing singer, powerful performer, commands the room, takes artistic risks, makes it count. the marquee was jammed. the MARQUEE! it fits 800 people! and the audience LOVED IT. show was great. killer band. super cool drummer. it’s a shame that that has gotten lost in all of the discussion.
to be completely honest, i often don’t feel comfortable (or necessarily safe) in a crowd that size. and i’m a 6’2” white male. crowds can be sketchy. drunk crowds especially.
so when i got to this show, like i often do, i went looking for a spot at the back. not because i’d been ordered to do so, or because i think i’m some kind of hero. it was partially because it was a busy bar and i like to have my own space. but also because i’m taller than a lot of people and when i stand in front of them, they can’t see. i know this because i have been asked to move in the past, by short people. not because those people are obsessed with height and making an issue where there was none, or because they don’t understand that i ‘earned’ that spot (general admission ticket means you get to be in THE ROOM, guys). it’s because they can’t see. they paid just as much as i did to get into the show, and now i’m blocking their view.
that wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind until somebody told me, and i’d be lying if i said i was happy about giving up my spot the first time it happened. the short people are not always nice about it. i didn’t choose to be this tall! it’s not my fault they didn’t get there before i did! i don’t discriminate against them because of THEIR height!
now i just do it before anyone asks. it makes the show better for everyone. i can still see and hear just fine from a few feet back, or to the side. no big deal.
everyone can learn to do that.
ps- if an artist is able to touch a nerve and provoke a huge discussion, that means they are a vital, valuable artist and you should pay attention!!!
pps- re the incident itself - i worked for the festival last year and i feel for them. they're now also getting all kinds of online blowback ("rascist festival" etc) because they chose to back their artist and not their volunteer. they were put in a tough position, and i support their decision.
hpx is run by a very small group of full-time staff, and a much larger group of people who work there for the week. many of these people are volunteers, who participate as part of NSCC course requirements, or in exchange for free tickets to shows. the festival can't run without them, but the situation has its challenges. i admit i don't fully understand the relationship between festival and volunteer photographer, but it is a MUSIC festival, which to me means #1 priority is presenting the artists, who are booked, promoted and paid, in the best possible context. if you're working for the festival, even for free, i'd assume you share that priority with the festival and wouldn't want to disrupt the flow of a show to make it about you, even if you disagree with what the artist is saying/doing.
for instance, in a different context: i used to work at a theatre where the ushers were volunteers, often kindly older retired ladies. occasionally we'd have standup comedy shows, with all manner of content coming from the stage that certain volunteers found offensive. there are avenues for them to deal with that. complain to the organizers if you think they were wrong. do some research on the performer before signing up. don't volunteer for those shows if they make you uncomfortable. whatever the volunteer's reservations, the theatre had a performer onstage who we'd chosen to host, and a room full of happy, ticket-buying audience members enjoying the show. we never had an volunteer take it upon themselves to hold up the show because they disagreed with the comedian. should they?