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Today, Mayor Vince Gray announced the first set of I.M.P.-booked shows at the Lincoln Theatre. It may be the first and last time D.C.’s mayor announces anything having to do with Scottish wuss-rock band Travis.
Sept. 4: Laura Marling Sept. 20: Travis Sept. 29: KT Tunstall Oct. 29: Matt Nathanson Oct. 30: Neko Case
Before the city brought on I.M.P. to run the Lincoln Theatre, the Bethesda-based company—-which also books the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion—-rented the historic venue from time to time, usually reserving the seated venue for acts on the intimate alt-folk/country end of the spectrum, like Jeff Tweedy. This lineup suggests that the company doesn’t have any immediate plans to change course.
But let’s look at the bigger picture here: The Lincoln Theatre is a historically black theater, and these acts are largely white singer-songwriters with—-I’m assuming—-mostly white, middle-class fans. Anyone concerned about the Lincoln Theatre maintaining any shred of its legacy might be a bit concerned about the appearance of an encroaching acoustic-guitar takeover.
At a Lincoln Theatre press event I attended in 2011, a reporter with the Afro-American asked the mayor point-blank whether the then-transitioning Lincoln Theatre would be turned into a white venue. (The mayor responded diplomatically that the theater would be available to all who choose to patronize it.) An alarmist question, perhaps, given the theater’s long history of booking black performers, but when new management takes over and announces a lineup as Anglo as the line outside an L.L. Bean liquidation sale, eyebrows could begin to creep skyward.
Though, this is just the first set of shows, and I.M.P. still books one of the country’s most beloved venues, the 9:30 Club, which could hardly be accused of catering to an exclusively white audience. Whether this slate represents a dramatic turn for the Lincoln Theatre remains to be seen. But let’s hope it doesn’t.
Update, 7 p.m.: I.M.P. Chairman Seth Hurwitz responds via a spokesperson: “This is just a start. We are going to try all kinds of things. We are not afraid to take chances…in fact, we enjoy doing so, and that’s what makes it exciting for us. But, ultimately, the audience for the Lincoln will be determined by what does well.”
Photo by Flickr user AndreaMann used under a Creative Commons license.