For the past several years, guessing the headlining act at SCAD’s annual free graduation concert in Forsyth Park has become something of a pastime for avid area music fans. Partially because the college usually can be counted on to hire big-name acts with cross-generational appeal, and partially because the powers-that-be decided from the start of this most welcome tradition that —in keeping with their almost legendary privacy fetish— they’d refuse to publicly confirm the artists’ names, keeping the whole thing a surprise right up until they took the stage.
Well, given the information-driven age we live in, it’s nigh on impossible to keep that sort of cat in the bag. So, folks have been scouring the internet for weeks now, checking everyone’s tour schedules in hopes they’d stumble upon the secret star. By now, most readers will likely have heard it’s this triple-bill of contemporary female modern pop acts — which is, by leaps and bounds, the most youth oriented (and frankly, lily-white) show SCAD has to date provided as a send-off to its senior class.
I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a lot of head-scratching and outright grumbling going on in various corners of the community over this year’s selection. Plenty of folks see this as not only a noticeable drop in quality from years past when the featured attractions included such legends as James Brown, George Clinton, Ziggy Marley and The Neville Brothers, not to mention lesser acclaimed acts Blues Traveler and The North Mississippi All-Stars.
One thread running through most (if not all) of those choices was a sense of artistic heft, or at least an existing legacy of some sort — neither of which, sad to say, any of the popular and/or chart-topping names on this bill can lay much claim to.
Also, with the possible exception of Blues Traveler (which drew a more stereotypical frat-boy crowd than an art school audience), prior graduation show acts were immensely well-received within our black community. That contributed to what some of us found so heartening about these Forsyth Park shows: namely, they drew a very diverse crowd to the park, in terms of gender, race and age.
It is highly unlikely this show (inherently geared more to white high school kids than SCAD students or most anyone over 28) will bring people together in that way, and so, some will call this a misstep.
However, as someone who knows a bit about booking concerts, take it from me: finding nationally-known artists of a certain stature who are A) within your budget, and B) willing (and logistically able) to play an outdoor show in this market on a very specific day and time, is incredibly difficult. It’s a wonder these shows happen at all, considering the fretting, headaches and negotiating that surely go into lining up the talent, erecting the stage, taking care of hospitality and accommodations, etc...
In the end, if the weather is nice, this will be a big free party in the park featuring one enormously famous Britpop diva and two cute, rising acts that are MySpace royalty. They wouldn’t have played here otherwise, and what they lack in gravitas, they’ll likely more than make up for in sass and spectacle.
Plus, tons of young people (who always get the short end of the stick in this town when it comes to live music) are beside themselves about this event. Pack a picnic and enjoy it. Then start crossing your fingers for next year all over again... Listen & Learn: natashabedingfield.com, theveronicas.com, katevoegele.com. Fri., 7 pm, Forsyth Park.