We’re a lucky bunch, aren’t we? I mean, usually at this time
of the year I’m hunched over a Very Berry smoothie at Booster Juice
mumbling about the lack of hip-hop shows that roll through Edmonton,
vigourously scouring the pages of weekly papers in search of
something—anything—to do that night. But not this year. This
year, I’m multitasking (a skill I learned playing Legend of Zelda when
I was younger), effectively managing my time and trying to take in everything
our city has to offer.
It’s a beautiful thing, not being forced to attend a specific show
just to lend support. It’s refreshing to have the option to choose
between numerous events within the same month… or so you’d think.
While promoters like Definiti and Urban Metropolis are sure to make a killing
throughout April, there’s a definite backlash being felt by smaller
organizations. Sadly, it’s those small promotions that have the
potential to do the most good for the city.
On the cusp of March and April, Tuff House Records held Tuff Fest, a
three-day summit aimed at bringing some direction, attention and foundation
to local hip-hop acts. Its kickoff included a panel discussion featuring
speakers from Universal Music, the Alberta Recording Industries Association,
TV outlets, record labels, concert promoters, studios, local stores and
anyone else with a point of view. It was truly a noble effort by organizer
Orville Green, and everyone who attended the forum walked away with a few
pointers to improve their own efforts as well as the city’s
progression—everyone, all 20 of them.
Of course, the promotion can only be partly to blame for the lacklustre
turnout. How can an indie promoter possibly compete with the hype of Black
Eyed Peas, 50 Cent or George Clinton? Not only was Green charging money for
many of the Tuff Fest festivities, but he was also holding the event the same
week that Edmonton was flooded with Juno-happy pseudo-celebrities.
That said, the panel discussion was free. There was really no excuse for
absence. At least the acts scheduled to perform during Tuff Fest
should’ve found the time to show up, but I’m sure that’s
falling on deaf ears as well.
Speaking of the Junos, were you aware that there was an “urban music
showcase” at Red’s on Saturday, April 3? It was covered in all
the print media and a significant flyer/poster campaign was waged throughout
the city. People with a JunoFest wristband could get in at no charge, and it
featured performances by Juno nominee Blessed, Grammy nominee Fresh IE and
Juno winner (for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year) In Essence as well as a
gaggle of local talent.
The 150-odd people in attendance—mostly industry insiders and other
performers—got their dollar’s worth, but where were the public
masses? Where were the 1,200 others who sold out the Black Eyed Peas show
within two days? Where were the 8,000 people who bought advance tickets to
see 50 Cent and David Banner at Rexall Place?
There are two possible answers. Either they were sitting at home watching
Undergrads, completely oblivious to the fact that there are hundreds of
performances going on during Juno weekend, waiting to make their grand
entrances at their regular clubs so they can get the bartender to keep
filling their empty Heineken bottle with water. (Yes, I’ve seen it
happen.) Or they were simply tapped out, their bank accounts already drained
from the dozen or so higher-profile shows taking place this month.
My point is this: after 50 Cent cashes out, after Kool Keith hops back on
his spaceship and after the Black Eyed Peas “crossover” back to
the U.S., where does our local scene stand? We’ve already proven that
we generally don’t want to put any effort into the scene’s
progression. Nor do we seem to care about homegrown talent. But rest assured,
the next time we have a dry spell—maybe a month or two without any
decent shows—those same people who missed Darkson Tribe’s
performance at New City on April 9, those who flaked out on the Galaxie Urban
Music Showcase at Red’s or opted not to attend a free discussion panel
will be the first to bitch about how wack Edmonton truly is.
At least the forthcoming “urban” radio station has its work
cut out for it. V