Put the Chevy to the levy

The Live on Penn street concert series was a great idea. On Saturday nights during the summer, the organizers cordoned off a section of Pennsylvania Avenue, and erected a stage with the Capitol in the background. You could get in for $7 at the gate and drink $5 beers, so a decent enough price. If you were really a cheapskate, you could hang around just oustide the fence and still hear the band.

I had a lot of fun at the Live on Penn concert I went to; I got to see They Might Be Giants play, drink some beers, and even meet Captain Morgan (really!).

So, naturally, in the grand tradition of Things James Likes, Live on Penn has been completely and utterly cancelled. According to the organizers, "the series is no longer viable."

No longer viable? What kinds of crowds were they expecting to get? The first-string lineup consisted primarily of alterna-rock has-beens who haven't had a hit in five-plus years: Eve 6, Tonic, Sister Hazel, Cowboy Mouth. Plus, every weekend it's either rained or been on the verge of rain. That may have kept some people away.

Meanwhile, a short stagger down the street at the Reagan building, a relatively new outdoor club called Air operates during the summer. Apparently, it had managed to crack the segregation of D.C.'s club scene, thanks in part to "black Web-based promoter Flow Entertainment Group, which helped the crowd tilt slightly toward black professionals on Fridays." The musical lineup those nights featured a range of genres with wide, multiracial appeal: "calypso, soca, salsa -- blended with the hottest R&B, hip-hop, Chicago house."

Wait a minute... multi-racial appeal? At the Reagan building? Clearly, that had to stop. And so it did, as Air suddenly laideth the smack down and sacked Flow, choosing instead to play just house and techno on Fridays. Uh-oh, you know what that means... Whites Only! As one patron said:

"I was ticked," says Sy Penn, a 29-year-old advertising executive who wrote Flow to say she would no longer patronize Air. "To be honest with you, it's quite obvious. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are being bused to the other part of town. Slowly but surely, they are just moving us out."
OUCH. I have to say, this would never happen at Club One-Tweazy.

Meanwhile, the man in charge of Air is... G. Giles Beeker? Vice President of Trade Center Management Associates? Oh yeah, I'll bet he's really up on the local R&B and club scene. That Trade Center Management Associates has just truckloads of street cred. Trade Center Management Associates rep-ruh-SENT! Guuhhhh.

Anyway... once again, those pesky, enigmatic "economic reasons" mess up a good thing:

Giles Beeker, a vice president at Trade Center Management Associates, says the changes had nothing to do with racism. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he says, explaining that the new format was instituted mostly for economic reasons. While Friday and Saturday nights drew the same number of people, the bar and food receipts generated by the Friday crowd were less than those on Saturday, he says. He declined to provide exact figures, saying Trade Center Management Associates is a private company.
Which makes this other statement all the more odd:

Diversity, Beeker says, is part of the mandate coming from the federal government, which owns the property and agreed to allow the Air parties, and a now-defunct concert series [I believe that would be Live on Penn], as part of a push to breathe new life into downtown.
So the federal government has been mandating diversity downtown, but it's up to the ultra-hip, totally with-it Trade Center Management Associates to decide what that means?

Oh well. That effort to "breathe new life into downtown" seems to have been a total failure; no more concert series and no more multi-ethnic demographic at Air, now that they've been shooed away. Pennsylvania Ave. can now revert to its traditional Saturday night status as "ghost town." Status quo... maintained.

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