Stevie G: An opportunity to jazz up Cork Jazz fest!

Cork was set to host the Cork Jazz Festival this weekend. In his weekly Downtown column, Stevie G says in future there's an opportunity to reboot festivals and shows, to offer more value and creativity
Stevie G: An opportunity to jazz up Cork Jazz fest!

Kamasi Washington would be a better fit for the jazz weekend than some artists who have recently participated.

It’s normally the busiest weekend of the year here, but it’s a very different October weekend without not only the jazz festival but pretty much without any live shows in the country.

We normally have a huge jazz weekend pull out, and the writers here struggle to fit in the amount of shows happening in bars, clubs and theatres. What a difference a year makes!

I’m struggling to be optimistic regarding the immediate future of live gigs but when the dust settles it will be an opportunity to reboot such festivals into something even more vibrant.

Sadly it might take a couple of years and sadly for the many venues, musicians, sound engineers, promoters and others involved in the industry, it might be too late by then.

It will be a very different world that does emerge, and many of those artists will try and find other work in the meantime. Some might never get back to the music. Most are rightfully resenting some of the flippant suggestions that they should simply just re-train and do something else. Work is gonna be slow. The government have offered some support in the recent budget, but it remains to be seen how it will all trickle down, and many artists won’t benefit from any changes

The uncertainty looks set to continue for some time yet and it’s not only music that’s under threat.

In some attempt to inject some degree of optimism into the proceedings, I do think that we have the opportunity to reboot some of the music scenes excesses in the long run.

Today I’m gonna use the example of the jazz weekend, and as I dream of a better future for what is usually Cork’s busiest weekend of the year. The jazz weekend is a commercial juggernaut that has a huge knock-on effect for the Cork economy. It’s not just music venues or music people who benefit from Cork city thriving on the October weekend. Even a cursory look at the festival over the last few years outlines that we can do much better.

I have it on good authority that this year there were gonna be significant changes to the festival anyway, but for music fans and fans of jazz, the festival was sometimes a bit of an insult to our artistic intelligence. Sure there was genuine jazz in venues such as the Everyman and the Triskel, and sure there was other good music that complimented the ethos of the festival, but musically we could have done so much better in the last few years. I guess this is an argument that’s been with us since the festival began, and originally the aim was economic as much as musical, but it’s still an opportunity to do much more.

We live in a pretty hot period for not just jazz but for much of the music informed by it, and artists such as Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu, Terrace Martin, Madlib, Esperanza Spalding would be far more befitting the festival than the likes of Aslan or whoever.

Anyway, if we are back in action next year, I think it’s a good opportunity to reboot the musical aim of a festival which can still be very financially successful while being artistically relevant too. 

Cork is a music city and artists and visitors love coming here, so we’ve got the potential to host an amazing jazz festival that’s gonna be enticing to jazz fans and non fans alike. But obviously, as I write this, I’m aware that gigs may not be back properly for quite some time.

It’s difficult for not only artists and fans but for those who are trying to book and organise things, and though the big hitters are continuing to announce some shows for 2021, even the most optimistic will quietly admit there will be lots more postponements as we go forward. We are nearing the time when next summer’s festivals usually start trying to get money in the bank, but I’d imagine there won’t be too many announcements coming.

Even at the best of times it’s hard to make money on festivals and shows, so in this current environment I think less and less people will start taking the risks going forward. When and if we do come back, it will be an opportunity for festivals and shows to reboot and offer more value and creativity, but for now, we’ll have to continue to see how we can make it work online.

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