I'm still recovering from a long (but very good!) weekend, so today's post is made up of a lot of littles. No sprawling essays until Thursday.
Hip hop profiling as a movement
It's no secret to anyone paying attention that hip hop music has faced an inordinate amount of scrutiny over the past several years in Madison. Certain people have blamed the genre for all manner of violent outbursts at clubs - even though fights and the like break out at all sorts of shows.
But that stigma, earned or not, has taken root enough that it's become standard practice for any venue owner applying for a liquor or entertainment license to vehemently declare to the issuing committee that no hip hop acts will be booked.
It's a sad state of affairs, and one well illustrated by a recent Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC) meeting wherein the new owners of The Pub on State St. were applying for a new entertainment license.
Tom DeQuattro and Korey Bannerman want to expand the bar's offerings to include live music two or three nights a week starting late this summer. The two have significant experience running that kind of club and apparently put together a fine presentation for the application. They fell wildly short, however, when Bannerman explained why The Pub would not be a hip hop club, saying "Hip hop is just not something that we like to do. On a normal basis, that may bring in some different elements that we don't want to deal with." (Interesting to note, then, that a recent press release of upcoming shows from The Pub included acts that were described as being at least partially hip hop oriented.)
His comments have, rightfully I think, drawn some sharp criticism both from the community and even Committee Chair David Hart, who insisted that a club including hip hop or not was not necessarily grounds for having their application rejected. That may technically be true, but for anyone who's been paying attention to the issue for the last couple of years will have seen a clear bias against hip hop shows and DJs. The problem got to the point where a list of best practices for promoters doing hip hop shows was compiled and presented to the committee.
That list could and should apply to all live shows in town, frankly, because the point so many people seem to miss is that the music is not the problem. Certain bad apples who attend shows, how a promoter operates, and how the venue handles security and other crucial issues are what's really at issue here. If we'd all focus a little more on that and less on the wildly misguided notion that hip hop music is the cause of the trouble, we might actually be able to create a more open and nurturing environment for all types of artists in this city.
As a side note to this, the annual Hip Hop As A Movement Week at the UW is holding a lecture on "Hip Hop Profiling" this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the On Wisconsin room at the Red Gym for those interested in discussing the issue at greater length.
When city committees only get it half right, they get it all wrong
At a recent meeting of the ALRC, popular Williamson St. nightclub Plan B applied for permission to create an enclosed outdoor smoking area. The proposal was part of an effort on their part to address complaints from the neighbors of noise late at night, most of it coming from patrons stepping outside to smoke.
It's a good-faith effort on the part of the owners, who, as far as I can tell, have been about as proactive and helpful as you could want since the place opened last year. Unfortunately, their reward for their efforts was a double-edged sword. While the new outdoor space was approved by the ALRC, the Plan Commission just nixed their request to allow patrons to bring their drinks out to the enclosed space with them.
The concerns voiced about allowing drinks outdoors mostly had to do with a fear of increased noise levels, but I honestly don't see how that one added factor would add anything. The smoking area, after all, will be enclosed by a wall specifically so as to decrease noise levels. And the whole point of allowing those patrons to take their drinks outside while smoking is so that they don't have to leave them unattended inside while they go. It's a safety issue, and one that has apparently been completely overlooked by those who voted against the idea.
Oddly enough, one of those no votes, commission member Michael Basford, even noted that "all but one other tavern on Williamson Street is permitted to serve drinks outside." So why not Plan B? It strikes me as a poorly thought-out move, but one sadly indicative of the slap-dash manner in which Madison goes about regulated alcohol.
© 2010 Mike McDowell
Saving the Warner Park geese from the cooker
I mentioned in my last post the current controversy over a proposal to kill off a bunch of geese at Warner Park in order to help keep the air safe for planes taking off and landing at the nearby airport. Happily, it looks like cooler heads have prevailed and a different approach, one involving less cooked goose, will likely be taken.
Instead, "individuals at both USDA-APHIS and the Dane County Regional Airport have agreed that their needs would be satisfied in the short term by an egg depredation order at Warner Park, until long term deterrent and habitat modification efforts can take place or until the pending wildlife management study can be completed."
It'll take final approval from the Parks Department for the egg oiling to take place, but that's supposedly a fairly simple process. It's still not ideal, of course, but even the USDA and airport agree on that point. "Both Airport and USDA have also stated that they would prefer not to have to resort to lethal means, but that the Parks Department has been remiss in their management techniques at Warner Park."
So it comes back to the need for better management of our big parks, things like letting the grass along the water to grow tall (which discourages geese nesting) instead of mowing it. I'm hopeful that this incident will prompt greater discussion of the issue and pressure on the Parks Department to make positive changes to their strategies for dealing with geese overpopulation.
Another word on the Tea Party
This blog post by Tim Wise has been getting passed around the ol' net quite a lot recently, and I think it's well-worth a read. It definitely puts some elements of the Tea Party, and certain other recent movements, into stark perspective: "Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black."