From The Editors: June 24, 2015

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at 2:32 PM
From The Editors: June 24, 2015 by The Editors
Contributed photo

Dear Mayor Sinnott:

Can we talk seriously about Celebrate Erie? Because we’d like to make you a sincere offer.

We could criticize the selections (a former lead singer for Boston who never penned a Boston song who’ll be here to play the “hits” that first hit airwaves in 1976 when he wasn’t with the band, and a funky group with many pop-culture earworms who got their start in 1964, in particular), but we won’t waste the space for what we hope is the start to a more productive conversation.

In short, Mayor: We are offering to help plan the lineup for Celebrate Erie 2016.

We know that planning such an event is a logistical nightmare. Finding a good act at the right time at the right price that you can only hope will bring people out isn’t an envious job. You even admitted at the press conference Monday, June 22 that Fran Cosmo was booked just the Friday prior and Kool & (part of) The Gang just days prior to that.

Coordinating this effort to ensure Erie has something to celebrate is an arduous task at best and burden at worst that serves as a distraction from the concerns that need the most of your attention, like crime, violence, poverty, and population decline for starters. We know you’re a busy guy with a lot on your plate, and we know that being the leader of our fair city requires that you make tough decisions in the best interest of all of us. Will you please everyone? No. But still, we need you to do what you think is in our best interest as a city. After all, we wouldn’t have elected you otherwise, and the fact that no one’s opposed you must be an affirmation that those seeking leadership in politics must agree.

If you’re still reading and are skeptical about an alt. weekly publication booking the headlining entertainment with what we’d assume to be the same budget of $85,000 next year, give this some consideration:

First, we know music. It’s one of the prerequisites of running an alt. weekly. We review artists’ albums, feature write-ups on upcoming shows, and have interviewed up-and-coming artists -- alt-J, Frank Turner, Kopecky, and Shakey Graves, just to name a few. Our contributors have their fingers on the pulse of the music industry.

Second, while some of those names may be unfamiliar to some people who have attended CE before, it’s time to take a risk by trying something new. Otherwise, why should we be paying $85,000 for what would cost just a few bucks in a jukebox?

Third, we’ll handle the marketing. Rather than aiming CE simply at Erieites, if we secure good, contemporary, relevant acts, we’re more likely to attract an outside crowd, thus injecting those outside dollars into our economy.

Just to prove that we’re serious, several editors took an hour Monday, June 22 to do some research (we recognize that price and availability are just the start of the conversation, but bear with us for a second).

In the $30,000 to $50,000 range, we could’ve gotten (this year), Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ben Folds, Blues Traveler, Bruce Hornsby, Cold War Kids, Fitz and the Tantrums, Flogging Molly, Jeff Tweedy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, OK Go, Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists, Sugar Ray, or Spoon.

For less than $30,000, we could’ve gotten Derek Trucks Band, Rusted Root, St. Vincent, Robert Randolph, or the Silversun Pickups.

We even asked our current interns -- college students who are fervent about seeing live music, especially for free -- to weigh in. All approximated at less than $50,000 based on the best numbers we could find in an hour online, they suggested: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Minus the Bear, Future, Flatbush Zombies, Jhene Aiko, Portugal. The Man, The Antlers, and more.

And that’s just for this year. With a year to plan, we could provide a more exhaustive list and even seek consultation from professional talent bookers in Erie.

Fear no one will show up because these names aren’t recognizable? Here’s another change: Let’s move CE to late August to capitalize on the influx of college students; including the local universities is a no-brainer when we’re all looking for ways to reverse the trend of brain drain in Erie, and although it’s a far cry from a solitary answer -- in addition to marketing this festival outside of Erie  -- kicking off the school year with a free festival that features contemporary music that also exposes these young people to the vibrancy of Erie sets a strong and encouraging tone that this is a place to consider returning to and being active in for four years and -- more importantly -- beyond.

Is this a silver-bullet answer? No. Will CE be perfect regardless of who’s planning it? No. But we think it’s time for change.

With just a few years left in your last term, you have the chance to be bold, to gamble by taking a calculated risk. You have the chance to change the tone from washed-up C-listers to something fresher, something more innovative, something more than an event for people to simply sing along to songs they’ve heard countless times from jukeboxes or cover bands at bars. This city deserves better, Mayor. Let’s not keep spinning our wheels here to hear more of what we already know; let’s be bold together.

If you’re still worried that people will only show up to hear the songs that they already know by bands relevant twenty, thirty, even forty years ago, we’ll set up a complimentary boombox at the opposite end of the festival. Anyone who’s afraid of change and progress can gather together to relish the days of old, far away from those who believe more in the potential to come.

Sincerely,

The Editors

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 20
Available on Sep. 28, 2016

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