Monday, May 21, 2007
City Stages Catches Gospel Bug
Since our little and insignificant expose' (or online letter of personal sympathy and expression) on City Stages was posted on the PRAYZE Report awhile back, we felt it would be refreshing to play "catch up" with a follow-up regarding the local music festival's current stand on improving their relations towards gospel music. We have constantly been reminded by public officials since the festival was started that they were committed to being a world-class music festival and yearn to expose as many music styles and genres as possible. Gospel music has been represented, as we cited before, at the Birmingham-based festival in previous years, but we felt that the three-day event has failed to give it the proper accolades and treatment that the mainline stages and genres receive. There has been very little press in the past on the gospel groups they have been featured and usually only one headliner closes the event. Yes, it's sad to say that in the past years, City Stages (another reminder - it's a three-day festival) could only afford one well-known gospel act (and the rest being local church choirs) for its own gospel stage.
Well, it looks like the officials and staff of City Stages have heard our faintest cry and have done some kind of revamping to fix this problem. It's not much...but it's enough considering that now the music festival is trying to bounce back from a serious financial crisis and a few bad attendance turnouts from previous years. City Stages 2007 will be featuring gospel music on the premiere stage of the festival, the well-known Coca-Cola Stage, on Sunday (one day only). While the other stages will be bouncin' and banging their heads to the music of Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin, gospel music will be headlining the big stage from beginning to end. Artists planning to hit the stage include WellSprings Gospel recording artist Vickie Yohe, urban hip-hop/southern R&B sensation Canton Jones, the Birmingham Mass Community Choir and Kurt Carr & the Kurt Carr Singers (coming back once again - he appeared on the stage last year - all thanks to Pastor Stephen Green of More Than Conquerors Faith Church). Expect a repeat performance from Carr once again.
Okay. Maybe City Stages hasn't gotten the gospel idea down to a science. There's a whole lotta' things they need to familiarize themselves with in order to provide the justice the gospel genre deserves. Here's a few pointers:
1. Repeat headliners are a "no-no" in the booking world. Never book the same artist two or three years in a row for a less popular genre. The public and fans of that genre will forever remember that...and will feel like "favoritism" is the operative term for that kind of decision. We do want to see someone different from time to time.
2. The Coca-Cola Stage is an outdoor stage...so if you are going to attract church folk to an outdoor event while other are getting loaded with booze and smoking their lungs away, you better have talent and big names to draw them out there. Second-rate artists can be good...but you got to bring the heat when it comes to gospel. Otherwise, the crowd will tell you if it's a success or not.
3. Diversity can make you or break you. In this instance, it may break you. You got on one same day, three different kinds of gospel music represented. Local choir gospel first, then Praise-and-worship slow material next with Yohe, then comes the big hip-hop breakdown from Canton Jones and then contemporary gospel from Kurt Carr last. Expect to see different groups of people come and go with this kind of line-up. They are all good artists...that's not the problem. The problem is that there's a big difference in styles from all of the artists that instead of seeing a build-up of the audience, you're going to see one group leave and another group come. Start with the openers first and build up on bigger, well-known and established artists as the program continues.
4. If it rains or even drizzles a little, expect the saints to become "aint's". LOL
5. Do some homework on the bigger gospel festivals that take place across the country. It won't hurt. Best place to start might be the annual Chicago Gospel Festival.