Last Sunday, I read this breaking news story by Kansas City Star reporter Jenee Osterheldt about DJ Jazzy Jeff being forced to cut his set short last Saturday at a club in Kansas City’s Power & Light District.
It was a pretty compelling story. And after I read it I wanted to share my thoughts on it just as soon as I was done reading it. But I decided to hold off and not pull the trigger on the post.
And in this case, I’m glad I did. Because during the week I was able to dig a little deeper and take a closer look. I was able to put some context on the situation that would have been missing had I posted last Sunday. I also wanted to take a longer look into the story’s larger sociological impact on live music.
And as I read the other reporter accounts and learned about the history of discrimination associated with the P&L District, the situation started to make more sense. In short, DJ Jazzy Jeff was saying that the club’s owners had used the false excuse that the volume of the music was damaging the club’s sound system, when in fact they had shut down the show because the hip hop music he was playing was attracting the “wrong crowd.” Which seems pretty silly because DJ Jazzy Jeff was playing the exact “Top 40” hip hop music that the club owner had requested he play before DJ azzy Jeff got to the venue.
I continued to peel back the layers to reveal this story’s racial and sociological subplots. The more I read and thought about this situation,the more I realized that it was all about the fans being the victims.
But then I thought about this story in a different way. Because it conjured strong emotions about another live concert culture topic.
I turned the situation inside out and looked at it from group dynamics perspective. I thought about how some music fans, or groups of music sub-cultures, can make other music fans exit the venue emotionally or physically, or not even enter the venue at all because of race, gender or clothes their wearing.
Have I ever been discriminated against at a concert? Aside from the minor annoyances of security checks, I’ve never been to a show that was stopped short on account of the race, dress code, or because the fans or the musicians were being discriminated against.
But I will say this.
Because I do like many types of music, I can say that I’ve been to many shows where I’ve felt like the odd one out because I was just being myself and not fitting the exact dress code or adhering to the style associated with that subculture and that music genre’s “accepted” dress code.
It’s gotten better is some aspects in recent years as our tastes in music blends and supersedes “genres.” This has made it gradually more acceptable to like music that might not be “associated” with your skin color or ethnicity. And the amount of different music styles were exposed to increases each day, but racism, reverse racism and fan to-fan and cultural discriminating, unfortunately, are all still a part of our world, concerts included.
Have you ever been to a show where, even though you loved the music, you still didn’t “fit in”, or you felt left out or discriminated against because of your race, age, gender or clothes?
How did it make you feel? Did it change the mood and feel of a show? Did it make it more intense and dramatic? Does it make it more of a hassle and downer?
And if you were at the show or have had an experience with the P&L District I’d like to know your thoughts, too.
You can see the trail of Kansas City Star stories that unfolded from the initial Sunday story here.
Image courtesy of pbinderphotography.com