Pitchfork promoters to meet with rape and domestic violence groups

July 1, 2011

Odd Future leader Tyler the Creator in Detroit.

The promoters of the Pitchfork Music Festival said yesterday that they did not know before Wednesday that a coalition of Chicago groups opposed to violence against women is planning to show up at the concert. These groups hope to raise awareness and provide a counterpoint to the shock-tactics misogyny and homophobia in the lyrics of one of the headliners, bad-boy rappers Odd Future.

Pitchfork promoter Mike Reed said the organization first heard about the groups’ plans when they were reported in this blog (“Domestic violence groups to protest Odd Future at Pitchfork”).

One of those groups, Rape Victims Advocates, had months earlier applied for space inside the festival to distribute its literature, but its application was rejected because all of the slots allotted to non-profit groups already had been assigned, according to that group and the promoters. The promoters said yesterday that the group had not specified that it wanted to offer a counterpoint to Odd Future, however, and Reed said he now will meet with all of the activist groups to see if their views can somehow be incorporated into the events inside Union Park.

“In response to your article about the Pitchfork Music Festival yesterday, we are issuing the below statement and we’d appreciate you recognizing it,” festival spokeswoman Jessica Linker emailed me on Thursday afternoon. Here is that statement in its entirety:

We’d like to clarify that no organization has approached us with the direct intent of speaking against any of the artists on our lineup, but simply to acquire a platform that comes with Not For Profit incentives provided to groups that are part of our volunteer program. The Pitchfork Music Festival provides representation for not-for-profit agencies in exchange for volunteers whose roles are to help the festival run smoothly and safely. Sign-up for this initiative begins in the very early stages of organizing, and as such, these quotas are quickly met. Our needs for NFP volunteers were unfortunately full up upon any request from the mentioned groups in the article. We were and are very sympathetic to their causes, and had already made arrangements with Between Friends for free ad space on our website to help promote their message, which will begin running on Friday, July 1. We have also been in talks with Between Friends Programs Director Yesenia Maldonado, and are planning to meet and discuss how we can represent their organization on the grounds. Additionally, the Illinois Choice Action Team does a lot to advocate around these issues and will be present at Pitchfork again this year, as they have been in years past. 

We'll soon make more information available about participating organizations and their involvement at the event.

Additionally, Between Friends wanted to point out this updated statement they put on their IndieGoGo Initiative. You can find it under “updates.”

Note: Thanks for all of the media attention regarding this campaign! However, we just want to reiterate that this is an awareness raising activity to get people talking about the issue and to provide resources. We DO NOT plan to protest or picket at the festival or any bands.

Between Friends is a local nonprofit agency with a 25-year history “dedicated to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and building a community free of abuse.” They are reluctant to use the word “protest” for their planned actions at Pitchfork in part, one of the leaders said, because they don’t want to expose their members to potentially violent responses from Odd Future fans.

Protest obviously is a loaded word in a city where, 43 years ago this summer, the skulls of social activists were cracked open in Lincoln Park and on Michigan Avenue. Yet it remains an apt description for volunteers taking to the streets—or the festival grounds, if Pitchfork promoters decide to grant them admittance—in an attempt to spread a message in opposition to the one that will be heard at much louder volume coming from the stage.

Thanks for your interview with the Pitchfork folks regarding Odd Future,” Between Friends prevention and education manager Colleen Norton wrote in her first email to me on Tuesday announcing the group’s plans. “We’re planning this as a counterpoint.” (The link is to the group’s Web site describing its plans and its campaign to raise the funds to pay for them. Its goal of $1,500 has since been exceeded.)

On Thursday, Norton reiterated that Between Friends’ desire to have a presence at Pitchfork is in response to Pitchfork booking Odd Future. “We’re going to be there because Odd Future is on the bill,” she said. “Would we be there if Odd Future wasn’t on the bill? Probably not. On the other hand, we’re not trying to say that [Pitchfork’s promoters] don’t have the right to do what they want to do, and we’re not calling it a protest because people have a vision in their heads about what a protest is.”

However you classify the groups’ actions, Odd Future leader Tyler “the Creator” Okonma has lashed out in response. After a fan forwarded to the musician a link to this blog’s story on Wednesday, Okonma responded via his Twitter account, referencing the cast on his broken foot and his recent solo album “Goblin.”

F---, I Wish I Didn't have This Cast So I Could Throw S--- At Them. Like Dildos And Cheeseburgers And Copies Of GOBLIN.

Wait, It Just Hit Me. A F---ing 'Group' Of People Will Be Protesting Against Me. F---ING AWESOME.

Pitchfork promoter Reed also said that the festival is being “singled out” for criticism for profiting from booking Odd Future. He noted that the collective recently performed at the Coachella Music Festival in California, and that Pitchfork is not the only entity on the Chicago music scene working with the group: It is booked by the Chicago-based Windish Agency. (Odd Future DJ Syd the Kid—the only woman in the group and a proud lesbian—also will spin at an after party at the Beauty Bar, which is booked and run by the team at the Empty Bottle.)

Agency owner Tom Windish deferred comment to the agent who works with the act at his firm, Carter Adams. Disclosure: Until recently, I was represented by another agent at the Windish Agency for speaking engagements, but I was unaware that the firm booked Odd Future, and the split was unrelated.

“I can’t really speak as to why or why not Odd Future was booked for Pitchfork, but I will say they reached out to us really, really early,” Adams said.

“Odd Future is a hugely successful group in the past year, this story is incredible, and there are numerous people making money off them, first and foremost the band. But beyond that, promoters nationwide like AEG and Live Nation want to work with the band. I do understand that there are a lot of objections with the band and their content, but I have never worked with a band that is more concerned about their fans—treating them right, keeping ticket prices down, all of that. There is some questionable content, which I would say is due to a young man’s overactive imagination who perhaps does not edit himself. But from my perspective as a booking agent, I’m really impressed with how they treat their fans.”

Adams was unaware of Tyler the Creator’s Tweets about the protest at Pitchfork. As for the planned actions, “I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the end,” he said. “But as their booking agent, I wouldn’t try to stifle that conversation, and I don’t think the band would, either.”

UPDATE: So far, this blog has contacted about half of the acts on the Pitchfork bill seeking their opinions on sharing the stage with Odd Future and the planned actions at the fest in protest. None have yet responded, but any responses will be posted.

EARLIER REPORTS IN THIS BLOG ON PITCHFORK AND ODD FUTURE

June 29: Domestic violence groups to protest Odd Future at Pitchfork

May 8: Odd Future/Pitchfork fallout

May 2: Pitchfork & Odd Future: Endorsing rape or showcasing art?