Better late than never: Pitchfork invites advocates to balance Odd Future

July 7, 2011

More than two months after this blog first asked the owners of the Pitchfork Music Festival if they were planning to any way balance the message of violence against women and gays prevalent to such extremes in the lyrics of rappers Odd Future, the most controversial booking in the history of the community-oriented concert, the promoters have reached out to several advocacy groups that already had been planning consciousness-raising actions next weekend in Union Park, with or without the festival’s blessing.

Pitchfork publicist Jessica Linker released the following statement this afternoon, making no mention of Odd Future’s role in all of this.

PITCHFORK PARTNERS WITH ADVOCACY GROUPS TO RAISE AWARENESS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND LGBTQ PEOPLE

Pitchfork is pleased to announce that we have partnered with Chicago-based advocacy groups to raise awareness about issues of violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people during our festival next week.

Rape Victim Advocates, Between Friends and other sexual assault, domestic violence and LGBTQ organizations will have an onsite presence at the festival. The groups will co-host a booth on the festival grounds, and distribute hand fans presenting their important message at the festival's main entrance. In addition, Pitchfork has offered complimentary ad space to Between Friends on both its primary and festival websites.

Between Friends and Rape Victim Advocates are appreciative of the Pitchfork Music Festival's openness in partnering with organizations to raise awareness and propel discussion about these critical issues.

Pitchfork Media and the Pitchfork Music Festival unequivocally condemn violence against women and LGBTQ people and is committed to providing a safe environment for our music community.  Through these partnerships, we hope to encourage a larger dialogue about violence against women and the LGBTQ community.

In the lengthy interview about Odd Future with the driving forces behind the Pitchfork Website posted here on May 2nd, CEO Ryan Schreiber and president Chris Kaskie were twice asked about balancing the group’s often hateful messages with a counterpoint onsite at the concert.

J.D.: Is there any way to balance it? Is there a way to have this discussion at the festival and not just let it happen onstage in a vacuum? Women are raped in Chicago. [The Chicago Police index of crime statistics for 2010 lists 1,359 cases of sexual assault.] Women are raped at the colleges many of your readers attend, and President Obama has launched an initiative for more effort to prevent sexual assaults on campus. …

Schreiber: For one thing, look, they’ve been covered by virtually every single music publication out there. The majority of those writers said what we say: There’s more to these guys than just the fact that a few of their songs contain offensive lyrics. Even NPR ran a piece called “Why You Should Listen to the Rap Group Odd Future, Even Though It’s Hard.” We very carefully considered how and when to start covering them, even though it became clear to us immediately that the music itself—their production, their voices, and their songs—warranted coverage, we held off to discuss and debate all of these topics internally, and to look at these issues from every possible angle. And those conversations are ongoing as they continue to release more music. We’ve addressed it in every feature that we’ve run. And I feel that like every other music publication, we’re taking it on a case-by-case basis.

J.D.: But is there a way to have those conversations at the festival?

Schreiber: Well, look, there’s also a lot of enthusiasm that Odd Future is playing the festival. I guess I don’t believe in the idea that song lyrics have a hypnotic effect on people. I think this is a larger chicken-or-egg conversation, but it’s one that’s come up over and over again, as you said, throughout history, whenever pop music or movies or video games or books or any type of art appears to be glorifying despicable actions, especially when they push into new extremes. To me, it was a big talking point around Eminem, Body Count, N.W.A, Ozzy, Alice Cooper—this list goes on. It’s good to have these discussions, which is why we’ve addressed that aspect of it so frequently. But at the same time, unsavory or ugly topics don’t to me inherently strip a piece of work of its artistic worth.

Mike Reed is the independent Chicago promoter who books the festival, which he co-owns with the owners of the Pitchfork Website, and he oversees the dozens of local music-scene mainstays who do all of the hard work of actually making it happen. He had not been in favor of booking Odd Future and had earlier deferred comment on the crew’s presence on the bill to Schreiber and Kaskie.

“We met and this statement is one that RVA, Between Friends, Pitchfork and myself as festival producer represents a collective voice on the issue as well as our attention to respecting the requests and viewpoints of all people that the festival can affect,” Reed said when asked for additional comment about this afternoon’s statement. “All parties were consulted on the issuing of this statement and as additional support the festival contributed funds to the production of more hand fans that will be distributed on site.”

This blog has contacted about half of the main-stage acts at the festival for comment about sharing a stage with Odd Future, but none have responded.

To date, Pitchfork the Webzine has not written a word about the controversy over Odd Future playing its festival or the activist groups seeking to present a counterpoint--though its news section includes three pages of stories about the group--despite Pitchfork the Festival now having released two press releases stemming from the debate.

EARLIER REPORTS IN THIS BLOG ON PITCHFORK AND ODD FUTURE

June 30: Pitchfork promoters to meet with rape and domestic violence groups

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?