Recently, a new demographic has been attending Denver’s long running City Park Jazz series. Now in its twenty-first year, the concert program’s family-friendly showcase of bland, congenially inoffensive music has suddenly attracted the attention of the metro area’s troubled youths.
On June 3rd, the season’s opening concert, several gang members were reportedly roaming the park wearing their colors, at one point even walking in front of the stage, likely obstructing the view of another awesomely self-congratulatory jam session by On the Fly, Off the Cuff, About the Town, or some other like-named troupe sonically indistinguishable from every other act performing.
Since walking in the park while wearing things is not in itself cause for alarm, we can only assume these actions were done in such a way that fisticuffs and the wanton encroachment of picnicking coveys seemed imminent, for the normally mild basking urban yuppies were very upset. Who likes to be reminded of the city’s at-risk and underprivileged when there’s a jazz concert to be appreciated?
The following weekend, a fight broke out on the west side of the park, and while no one from the event was harmed, it riled the community enough for them to hold an emergency meeting. Complaints were voiced, solutions were argued, podiums were struck for emphasis. Plans of action ranged from the courteously fascist (blatant police profiling) to the decidedly quaint (wearing white as a sign of unity. Who picked white, I’m not sure, but they apparently wanted to emphasize the racial element of the situation as loudly as possible). And what got implemented last Sunday? Well, a little from column A and a little from column B.
Now, amongst all the heightened security and impassioned but ultimately fruitless community spirit, I think we should take a second and approach this issue rationally.
We have to examine these kids’ intentions and whether they had more in mind than the simple, wholesome fun of harassing child-toting suburbanites (which, be honest, who among us hasn’t dabbled in from time to time?). Perhaps this wasn’t a mere feat of cocksure delinquency; perhaps, this was a selfless act of social conscience.
Worth noting is that these kids weren’t in the parking lot, defacing unguarded hybrids and mini-vans, prying loose schools of Jesus-fish and peeling resentful Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers. They were in the park, right in front of the stage. They didn’t want people stuck there, they wanted them to leave.
Jazz -a more commonly known as the answer to the question “What is this crap?” – has long been regarded as the bottom level, or chum, of the music world. Once on the forefront of aural artistry and experimentation, the genre is now well past its heyday of innovation and social relevance, having stumbled into disrepair following the early eighties passing of The Cool.
Today, jazz is the background noise of choice for the William-Sonoma crowd, those too cowed to listen to anything that broke ground post-1970, but not emotionally imbalanced enough to enjoy light rock.
Clearly what occurred in Denver is that these young men, unburdened by the financial freedom and high standard of living enjoyed by most in attendance, recognized the aesthetic danger posed by the fest and decided to save the audience from its own crappy taste in music. Like the brave soldier that heroically throws themselves unto the grenade, the gang members acted as human shields against the din, enduring countless unnecessary saxophone flourishes, endless fifteen-minute trumpet solo after endless fifteen minute trumpet solo, and no less than three white guys sporting dreadlocks. Such horrors would prove too taxing for the average person, and musicians everywhere are agape at this stunning act of heroism.
“You’re an idiot,” says Jackie Fortier, 1st chair trombonist for the CSU Jazz band and entirely unhelpful interviewee. “Jazz is the root of all modern music styles. You wouldn’t have rock, punk, blues, rap, anything, without jazz. It was the first genre to bridge the gap between high and low culture, helped tear down a lot of ingrained racial and gender barriers, and still influences a lot of the people on the Top 40 today.”
That’s not the case in the park, though, as one unnamed metro area street tough insisted: “City Park Jazz is ****ing ****, cuzz ****kas up in that **** don’t know **** ’bout ****ing modern infusive trends that destabilize traditional genre contexts, *****.”
Though there may never be a consensus, there will always be those of us who will remember those brave Denver youths who, in-between drug deals and random beatings, took a stand against the forces of Adult Contemporary and, for one glorious afternoon, scared the crap out of a bunch of white people.
Ryan Nowell is a junior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the summer Collegian edition. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.