Photo by Meghan Ralston
Local folk-rock collective Saintseneca recently announced it was canceling its forthcoming appearance at the Fashion Meets Music Festival, citing the newborn event’s selection of controversial R&B singer R. Kelly as headliner.
In a blog posted Tuesday evening, the band pointed to Kelly’s history of sexual violence as the primary reason for its decision, writing, “We feel it is an affront to all survivors, who are already often overlooked and forgotten in our society.”
The band is the second act to remove itself from the FMMF lineup in the wake of Kelly’s headlining announcement, following Damn the Witch Siren, which posted “An open letter to Columbus, R. Kelly, Fashion Meets Music Festival, and all women” in late June and removed itself from the lineup in early July.
The blowback is rooted in Kelly’s extensive history of legal trouble, which was documented extensively in a lengthy Village Voice piece that went viral after posting in late in 2013 and now sits at over 5 million pageviews. In 2008, the singer was tried (and acquitted) for making child pornography, and he’s paid off dozens of lawsuits filed by underage girls who charged statutory rape.
Festival organizers acknowledged the controversy in a Facebook message posted shortly after Saintseneca’s announcement.
“In continuing our mission to provide our community with the first collaborative music and fashion fusion festival, we feel it's important to address some of the recent controversy surrounding one of our headlining acts, ultimately leading to the withdrawal of two bands from our line-up,” they wrote. “While we regret they will not be joining us this year, we whole-heartedly respect their decision. We value art as a platform for open dialogue on important issues and we respect all opinions, regardless of whether they reflect our own.”
In addition, local radio station WCBE 90.5 FM, an early sponsor of FMMF, recently started soliciting feedback via its Facebook site, writing, “We'd been talking with FMMF before the R. Kelly announcement, sponsoring a smaller stage as a way of supporting local musicians ... one of our core missions. So, what do we do now? Can we use this as the spark to do good for Columbus?”
It’s a line of thinking echoed by Saintseneca, which announced its intention to follow the cancelation with further action.
“We would like to offer the opportunity to channel this energy into something positive, so we plan to host an alternative concert,” the band wrote. “It will be a benefit that we hope will help in some way to support victims of sexual assault, as well as keep our minds on the issues at hand. Final details on that will be forthcoming.”