Denver Direct: A PARK THAT IS A ZOO by PHIL GOODSTEIN – NAYSAYER, SEPTEMBER 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
|Steel Panther, Chive Fest, Denver City Park|
Since the 1960s, the Zoo has swallowed massive acreage in City Park as part of never-ending expansion programs. In the process, it has added massive slabs of asphalt for its ever encroaching parking lots. Additionally, it has essentially sealed the facility from the park, eliminating entries between the two.
Despite such devastation, in 2008 the Zoo was the foremost defender of City Park when it vetoed the highly controversial Mile High Music & Arts Fest. This was a proposed private, money-making venture of heavily amplified noise (supposed music). The racket, the Zoo explained, would be extremely painful for the animals.
The Zoo’s action was a stopgap. It has mostly been invisible against continued city policies. Far from treasuring City Park as a gem of open space, peace, dignity, and an escape from urban tensions,the department of parks and recreation has repeatedly sought to remodel the greenery as a commercial venture.
Noise has been a keynote of many City Park events. None have been worse than “ecology” festivals. While sponsors present themselves as most concerned about the earth, they think nothing about generating noise pollution. Nor do they reflect on the ecological costs of the noise-generating sound systems.
The promoters of virtually all outdoor events cannot conceive of them without heavy amplification. Illustrative is Big Wonderful. This is a trendy event on Saturday afternoons at Sustainability Park near 27th and Arapahoe streets. Primarily geared to people in their 20s and 30s, who are overwhelmingly white in an area that was long a bastion of black and Latino Denver, it projects itself as a “sustainable green event.” While stressing how committed it is to recycling, it sees no irony in draining electricity for noise pollution that is supposed to be music.
Most musicians have amazingly little understanding of their instruments and such a poor ability to sing and play that they cannot get on stage without an ear-blasting sound system. The result is anything but the beauty of their instruments and voices. On the contrary, it is a thoroughly debased experience embraced only by those who do not know the difference between noise and music. For that matter, it also assures there will be no interaction between the audience and performers. The latter simply spew out their product to passive consumers. This has been concomitant with ever greater musical illiteracy among performers, including a glaring lack of knowledge of the powerful protest anthems central to drives for labor recognition, civil rights, and the crusade for peace.
Precisely preventing any grasping of such music was at the heart of the Chive Fest in mid-August. It was the city’s great achievement in fencing off parts of City Park for a private promoter, complete with a sound system that could be heard nearly a mile away. The Michael Hancock administration justified it, pointing to the decisions of a hand-picked committee on admission-based events in parks. The body never considered that city parks must be oases against the chaos of everyday living. As such, they are not expected to turn a profit or reflect the crassness of corporate America. Opposed to this perspective, Chive Fest was the epitome of the worst of the music machine with eight bands producing an endless drone over the course of 10 hours.
The noise levels of Chive Fest were especially noticeable because of the sparseness of the crowds. This was obvious in the ready availability of street parking by the park, unlike the shortage of it as is often the case with free Sunday evening jazz concerts at the park pavilion. Particularly visible were the few cars in the overflow lots at East High School. But there is no connection between the public staying away from Chive Fest and city hall policies. By permitting the event, the department of parks and recreation showed it has a thorough contempt for residents who treasure the city parks. For that matter, as Mayor Hancock has made clear, city hall is nothing but an annex of the business community, complete with a willingness to rent out the police department and virtually all of its other services. Most of all, Chive Fest was a lot like the mayor: all flash and noise; zero substance, the ultimate result of a politician subservient to 17th Street while his administration endlessly treats all within listening distance with thorough disrespect.
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