May 16 - 23, 1 9 9 6

Chicago '96

["E-mail So here's the latest scoop on this summer's Hatch Shell live-music concerts: your city and state politicians, along with some very vocal members of the Beacon Hill and Back Bay civic associations, have decided that, with the exception of the famous Fourth of July Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade, having no live concerts (or "large-scale events") in this public space would suit them just fine.

But as a gesture to those who may disagree with that very limited use of state property, these folks have determined that if you like jazz on Sunday afternoons and oldies music on Saturday nights, you're most likely citizens above the age of 35, most likely "mainstream" -- and therefore you will most likely behave in a civilized manner and thus be tolerated as you walk through Back Bay and Beacon Hill on your way to and from live concerts.

However, if you're between the ages of 18 and 34 and you like newer rock music (the kind that is played on WFNX-FM, WBOS-FM, WAAF-FM, among others; the kind that has been regularly presented on the Esplanade throughout much of the last decade by WFNX and the Boston Phoenix), you will undoubtedly behave in an uncivilized manner as you travel to and from the Hatch Shell. And since you are most likely not straight-vanilla "mainstream," you are thus deemed intolerable. So in order to discourage your presence in the neighborhoods abutting the Esplanade, the new-music concerts have been stricken from the list of acceptable content for the Hatch. This conclusion was reached by agreement among your governor; his Secretary of Environmental Affairs (and the watchdog of decibel levels), Trudy Coxe; State Representative Paul Demakis (e-mail:; City Councilor Tom Keane (e-mail:; MDC Commissioner David Balfour; and the civic associations of Beacon Hill and Back Bay.

The claim of the local pols is that they received so many calls and letters from the residents of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay urging the cancellation of these concerts that they had no choice but to act on their constituents' wishes. (Representative Demakis stated that "the tidal wave" of his constituents' calls and letters, all in opposition, was somewhere between 50 and 100.) Of course, to the extent that they heard from anyone, it was due to the well-organized campaign of the civic associations.

Well, now it's time for the rest of us to speak out. It's time to make phone calls and write letters to these same politicians and civic-association members. We need to express our outrage at their censorship, their discrimination, and their message that our public space is to be used by only a select number of citizens as determined by a few residents and politicians. Just because these people live in the heart of the city does not mean they can treat it as a gated community, as their private domain, and dictate what music is acceptable to be played and who shall be encouraged to attend and listen.

We at the Phoenix and WFNX should have acted sooner to call for your voices to be heard. But since late March, the very beginning of the organized campaign to limit the number and nature of this summer's Hatch Shell concerts, we believed that the commitment of nine dates (eight "New Music" concerts and a post-summer "Welcome Back" concert) made to us last February by MDC Commissioner Balfour through his recreation czar Mike Testa (who had been dismissed from a similar position in the Menino Administration) would be honored, especially since it was they who solicited and urged us to present more concerts this year than in previous years. We had no doubt that our long-term involvement with the MDC, a role that went far beyond presenting concerts, would be valued. Little did we know what lay ahead. (Little did we know -- nor do we even now know -- what vested interest Mike Testa had in sacrificing the Phoenix/WFNX concerts and long-term relationship with the MDC in order to bring the WODS concerts to the Hatch. One almost wonders if he's on the WODS payroll.) We were duped even as recently as two days ago. We were led to believe by Testa that our new agreement with the MDC (reached only the day before), to do a total of just four concerts, would be honored -- only to hear from Globe and Herald reporters, and not from either Testa or Balfour, that they had reneged once again.

So we were lied to, and, ultimately, along with all of you who enjoy this kind of music, we have been relegated to second-class citizens. In fact, in an April 17 Beacon Hill Paper column reporting to his constituents on his campaign to eliminate concerts on the Esplanade, Representative Demakis referred to his April 4 meeting with Commissioner Balfour: "I believe the elimination of eight of the nine WFNX concerts is a major victory." (We, of course, were still being told by Mike Testa that nothing had yet been decided.)

Indeed, in a meeting with Representative Demakis and Councilor Keane just this past Monday, when we asked Demakis which of the new bands he found problematic, he responded brazenly, even proudly, that he didn't have a notion of who any of them were -- except Green Day. He said that Green Day's reputation was enough to make him not want any of the other bands on the Esplanade.

When further pressed to consider the musical tastes of possibly thousands of constituents from whom he had not yet heard, he responded by saying it didn't matter what those other people thought: "I am satisfied that the sentiment of my district has been fully expressed. And the fact that you get people to call or write, that you put pressure on them, doesn't mean anything. I don't like being threatened, and you're threatening me." One wonders if the elected representative felt threatened by those who called and wrote to oppose the concerts.

City Councilor Keane took a slightly different position. By his own admission, he's a WFNX listener -- although, as he expressed in the Globe and Herald, he feels that having the opposition mobilized by this newspaper and WFNX represents a threat and misuse of our two media outlets. (Remember: Keane is the man who tried to get a city ordinance passed eliminating or limiting newspaper boxes. Unhappily for him, the measure was vetoed by Mayor Menino.)

In addition, Councilor Keane has publicly asserted that our position is a purely selfish one designed only to further our making "a large profit off of these concerts."

This, like using the one Green Day concert as the example of what happens at all new-music shows, is a red herring and an attempt to obfuscate the real agenda: limiting access to the Esplanade.

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