Almost exactly one year ago, Fort Reno organizer Amanda MacKaye announced that she was canceling the summer’s free concerts due to new security bills from the National Park Service. Lovers of the annual outdoor show series got huffy, prematurely eulogized the D.C. institution, wrote angry letters to their councilmembers, and eventually convinced MacKaye to put her pride aside and fundraise the $2,640 she needed to cover the costs. The shows went on as planned.
Just a few weeks before this season’s concerts should start (last year, the first was on July 7), MacKaye’s back at it. This morning, she posted a plea for donations on the Fort Reno website:
“Last year’s change in procedure from the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police EMPTIED (and then some) our piggy bank. NPS and [the U.S. Park Police] have informed me that once again we will have to pay for police presence. I shudder at having to write that because it makes the concert series appear like an unsafe environment—something it definitely is not. I had hoped that our peaceful series in 2014 would have changed minds, or that I could—but alas, here we are. This all being said, please GIVE WHAT YOU CAN to help us have another summer of music in the park.”
Other organizations that host public events on land managed by the NPS view permitting and security fees as a regular part of working with the federal government. The NPS is not St. Stephen’s; it seems uncharacteristically naive that MacKaye would assume that agents of the U.S. government would change their minds on a matter of bureaucratic policy after witnessing a series of nonviolent punk shows. (MacKaye did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Last year’s kerfuffle turned out to be, at least in part, a publicity stunt. Rather than being upfront about the new fees and fundraising to cover them, MacKaye told the public that she was taking the extreme route and straight-up canceling the concerts. In an email to the bands she’d scheduled, she told a different story:
“i hope that if we can get NPS and USPP to come to a different resolution, you will still be willing to go on with the show! I was careful in my timing hoping that we could still open on schedule when NPS and USPP hear the outcry. (and seems like they have been getting earfuls from all sorts of directions!)” She continued: “i haven’t cancelled the porta-potties or the sound man so fingers crossed everyone!”
In her online ask, MacKaye didn’t reveal the amount of money she’ll need to keep the lights on this year, but especially after the freak-out she put Fort Reno supporters through last year, it might have been prudent to start raising money more than a couple of weeks before the first concerts. Bands were notified more than a month ago that they were on this summer’s bill, and (update, 4:11 p.m.) according to an NPS statement, the agency met with MacKaye in February to plan for this year’s shows. In a scene where nearly every other concert is a benefit for some cause or another, surely she could have raised a couple grand between last August and now.
Whether it’s because of pride or poor financial planning, we’re in for another season of #SaveFortReno emoting.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery