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Ping Laments Days Of Music Festivals With Music

April 29th, 2019 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Music


I am prepared to be called a “racist” and “just old” for my strong opinions on a portion of what I saw and heard on day one of the 2019 Fortress Festival … but you’d be wrong.  Race has little to do with it and I guarantee you I sample/buy lots of current music.  But … what we call “music” these days has so de-evolved to the most common denominator … a mundane, heavy beat … it’s that simple.

Maybe a guy or girl on stage rattling out rapid-fire spoken word is catchy and creative and an art form in its own right, but it has little musical value.  That’s from a common sense, historical perspective … from a student of all genres. (I like to think it is a more sophisticated palate … I digress.)  A monotonous beat, a studio trick or two, some simple “street theology” and an attitude — and an “artist” has a hit … and a following.

Is it better than I can do?  Certainly!  But more importantly, to equate the two art forms — music and spoken word — is an insult to the millions of people of all races all over the world who have dedicated their lives to learning to play and have mastered an instrument, or carry a tune … or compose beautiful melodies and harmonies … or colorful poetry in lyrics … or complicated multi-percussive beats.

… Surely both schools of thought have their place, but they are not the same.  Compare the multi-layered rhythm track on a Bob Marley song — a rhythm track with a “cha-chink” reggae guitar downbeat; a Hammond B-3 organ chopping out rhythm too; a complete drum kit; and an eclectic assortment of percussive gourds and rattles and what have you —  to the ‘boom boom boom” baseline of the majority of today’a hits.

The defense rests.

So I was wandering around at The Fortress Festival, watching 400-500 heads (small crowd, an early show) nodding in unison to the “boom boom boom” beat and waving their arms forward  together — Black and White and everything in between — hands doing a “cool” gesture to show they are “woke” or whatever today’s latest cliche might be.  It was a young artist — Bobby Sessions.


Bobby Sessions

It’s a little scary to think about … an almost military-like, blind, clone-ish uniformity and cadence in the crowd — with the only individual expression coming from the limited source on the stage.  Wow.  I bet it is not far from brainwashing technique, with the repetitive words and beat. (Ha … I needed earplugs like Odysseus’ posse:)

I digress …

There was a certain point where Session’s set took on a musical quality, as he invited the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to his mom … (Then he joked about the people of, shall we say, “less color” who stumbled over pronouncing a first name that they had never heard before in their lives. (Double standard, much?)

The music stopped there with Happy Birthday.  Then the show went all one-sided politics on me, even though one might expect lots of different viewpoints at a festival.  Bobby Sessions (DefJam Records) is a good showman and an entertaining performer … but he also played spokesman for a one-sided movement.  He turned his attention to what he sees as the wrongs of American society … the brave men and women of all colors who wear The Blue.

Sessions On DefJam


First off, I don’t know the details of the death to which he alluded … nor did anyone else in the crowd, I will wager.  Second, my heart pours out to anyone who loses a loved one, no matter the details.   So … Bobby lost a relative who was shot and killed by a police officer, he disclosed.  Terrible! Tragic!  No two ways about it.  But that raises many questions in the mind of many logically thinking, open-minded people.  “Did the shooting victim do anything suspicious at all?”  “Did the shooting victim comply — as most of us have been taught to do since we were six- or seven-years-old — and give the officer the old “yes sir, no sir” sign of respect?”

The crowd didn’t stop to wonder … (“We don’t need no stinkin’ details to pass judgement.”) They just held their hands up high in protest of the loss of a young man.  For that sincere grief and the perhaps peaceful solidarity stemming from a lost life, I salute the artist and the crowd … lamenting change for a better society.  But I just don’t know how people can think any such tragic incident doesn’t have a bigger back story.  They always do.


One, and only one, old White dude looked at his neighbor in the crowd and asked, “Did the kid comply with the officer?” 

Well there isn’t much in our lost society that trips my trigger like disrespect toward the law officers who face life-and-death situations every day with split-second opportunities to react. Yes.  There are good cops and bad cops — just like any other human genre … But I think the majority of officers in the U.S. are doing the right thing — exponentially — while trying to go home alive at the end of their shifts.  Peace officers … armed for a very valid reason, are the one thing protecting all of us in a non-military society.  

What would I have liked?  I would have liked for the artist to describe the horrible incident in detail if he chose to bring it up … to pledge his love for his relative … and to make a heart-felt plea to youths of all races … to stay out of suspicious situations …  to give the police the benefit of a doubt …  and the respect that almost all of them deserve … and damn it … even if it is a case of mistaken identity …  Would someone tell all kids to do what the officers tell them to do? … it is much more simple than the agitators would have us believe.

I digress ….

Things improved.  Another artist — Keite Young — joined Sessions on stage and added some actual melody to the songs … even some falsetto.

Medicine Man Revival


As I walked out, I learned that the cameo artist — Young — was the frontman for a seemingly bi-partisan Dallas outfit called Medicine Man Revival — a few long-haired dudes who looked like they could have hopped off a Southern Rock tour … fronted by the talented, soulful performer I had just seen on stage with Sessions.

Medicine Man Revival 6.1.17


Thank you!  This Dude!  The moves.  The style.  The threads! The stage presence and sensuality of a Marvin Gaye, with a funky group of stereo-type busters backing him.  I won’t lie … It made me think of Motown … the showmanship, the flashy outfit … the falsetto harmonies — with a total up-to-date delivery.  Now THAT is what I expected to see at a music festival.


By the way, I caught Fort Worth’s The Cush earlier — in the heat of the day — pretty interesting, despite their audience size.  A husband and wife team — Burrette and Gabrielle Douglas of Buck Jones band lineage — front the band … playing a nice assortment of “psych rock.”

The Cush

Up next … another “soulful man” … Fort Worth’s treasure Leon Bridges and his stripped down, rhythm/blues/soul/gospel approach to what many, like me, call music.

Know what I sayin?