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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Local Rock Also Left Out of Art & Soul Lineup

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 9:42 AM

Overlooked: The Real Tom Thunder - EKAPHOTOGRAPHY
  • EKAphotography
  • Overlooked: The Real Tom Thunder

Yesterday, ASD reported that Oakland's venerable Art & Soul festival, which offers two days of musical performances from gospel, Latin, R&B, blues and jazz artists--many of them local--had somehow neglected to book any live hip-hop acts. Apparently, that's not the only oversight. A&S also has a "World Class Rock" stage presented by KFOG, which features folk-rocker Shawn Colvin and roots-rockers the BoDeans. No disrespect to either the South Dakota-born Colvin, nor the Wisconsin-based BoDeans, but neither of them are from Oakland. And neither of them have much appeal to rock's primary demographic, young people under 35.

In fact, looking at the A&S lineup, with the exception of the "World Dance Hip-Hop Infusion" stage (which offers Hip Hop Praise Dance, among other things), and the kid-oriented "Family" stage (with Abby & the Pipsqueaks and Jump Street), the A&S lineup skews on the gray hair side of 35 overall. R&B singer Bobby Caldwell is best known for the 1978 song "What You Won't do For Love," which was already long in the teeth when it was sampled by the Luniz on "Playa Hata" back in 1995--fourteen years ago. Smooth jazz vocalist Will Downing is likewise unknown to young people, having peaked back in 1993 with his album Love's the Place to Be. Though artists like Zakiya Hooker, Frankie Lee and Teddy "Blues Master" Watson are continuing the Bay's storied blues tradition, no one under 40 listens to blues, period. Similarly, the gospel lineup, which includes Walter Hawkins & the Love Center Choir, Edwin Hawkins, and Terrence Kelly & Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, is unlikely to be much of a draw for youngsters, except perhaps those attending with their families.

It's quite possible that A&S's biggest chance at cross-demographic relevance comes with their "Cuica & Clave" Latin stage, with Chino Espinoza y Los Duenos Del Son and Fito Reynoso & Su Ritmo y Armonia. During Reynoso's performance at "Uptown Unveiled" in June, a bunch of young salseros eagerly danced to the Cuban vocalist's infectious sounds, so that looks promising, at least.

However, it's quite telling that not only are none of Oakland's hip-hop and jazz-funk bands represented--neither are R&B/soul artists with youthful followings, such as Goapele or Keisha Cole--but the festival completely overlooks the area's burgeoning indie rock scene, which can be heard nightly at such venues as the Uptown and the Stork Club. I'm not saying A&S should have booked Green Day, although that would have been nice, but up-and-comers like The Real Tom Thunder, The Drogues, The Girlfriend Experience, Everything Must Go, From Monument to Masses and Truxton (to name a few) are completely left out of the loop. All in all, it kind of seems like festival organizers wanted to pretend that the 16-35 demographic doesn't exist whatsoever. Maybe they should just rename the event Art & (Sanitized) Soul (With No Local Rock or Rap).

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Eric Arnold


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