AAHH! Fest promised peace, love, and unity but that wasn’t the case when it came to its staff.
Day 2 of AAHH! Fest kicked off with more than a couple rocky starts. With no explanation of why, most of the schedule was switched around at the last minute. It was all out of whack. To keep the Chicago crowd calm and awake, WGCI’s Tone Kapone, Frankie Robinson, and Leon Rogers took the stage to crack jokes and gave shout outs. This act would grow stale as the crowd grew tiresome of waiting close to 30 minutes for the next artist.
It should be noted that AAHH! Fest only had one stage, so there was no other option for patrons to leave and go see another artist at another stage. Everything was showcased on the “Main Stage”.
Jeremih was scheduled to hit the stage at 6pm, but a change was made and instead took the stage at 5pm. As Jeremih was nearing the end of his set, closing with his 2009 breakout hit Birthday Sex – suddenly Jeremih’s mic and along with his DJ’s deck was abruptly cut. You could hear hundreds of gasps from the crowd. Jeremih stood on stage looking confused as his DJ belted out “they really cut us off”. The crowd began to boo. Chicago comedian Damon Williams took the mic and informed the angry audience that Jeremih was late and that’s why he set was cut short. This was said while Jeremih was still on stage. After figuring out what he said, Williams tried to make good with the Late Nights singer and asked him to finish his song. Jeremih made his exit.
The disrespect didn’t stop there. As members of the press/photographers waited in the photo pit for the next act, a female AAHH! Fest staff member made her way into the pit yelling and calling the photo pit security over to her. This staff member (while pointing at all the photographers) informed security that “When five minutes is over, I want you to get all these motherfuckers out of here!” Not all press, but some (including myself) heard this. As The Roots took the stage, we were hurried out the photo pit by security instead of being able to shoot. It made no sense and that was my cue to leave the festival. What this proves is when you give certain people a little bit of control and authority, they lose their minds and forget how to properly conduct themselves.
Due to AAHH! Fest’s lack of professionalism and horrible staff, most photographers weren’t allowed to shoot The Roots, Deon Cole, Ice Cube, Bilal, surprise guest R Kelly, J. Cole and the creator of the festival himself, Common! How does that make any sense? So you’re telling me, the man who created this festival didn’t want photographers, Chicago photographers at that, to capture the amazing moments happening on stage? Doesn’t seem right. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and the correct thing for festival officials to do is to inform the press (before the festival) which artists you CAN NOT photograph. Almost all festivals include a list of artists and instructions of what is and what’s not permitted.
By not doing this, AAHH! Fest may have caused some reporters and photographers losing the option of being paid due to having nothing to show to their editor. The officials may also have not realized this, but photography is actually a job. Shocking isn’t it? No one is doing this just for fun, this is a person’s livelihood.
As a journalist and photographer, I have never been spoken to or treated in such a nasty and vulgar way at any event I have ever covered. The staff at this festival were very unprofessional and rude. No disrespect to Common, I understand what he is trying to do for the city of Chicago, but I feel more research has be done when it comes to hiring people to work your festival. If there is another AAHH! Fest next year or the year after, a lot must change, and it starts with the people (and their attitudes) that are employed to make the festival run smoothly.
If the festival officials need help planning for the next one or media assistance, look no further.
There was one redeeming factor from AAHH! Fest: the artists. Before being cut completely cut off, Jeremih had Chicago vibing with hit after hit. Vic Mensa of course had the crowd rocking with him on 16 Shots. During his four song set, Vic even went and joined the crowd when performing U Mad. Crucial Conflict‘s Coldhard even made a showing and performed half of Hay.
Check out my shots from AAHH Fest! 2016
– Journalist Without A Beat… Out!
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