George Clinton, founder of Parliament/Funkadelic, is the big ticket at this weekend’s Art of Cool Festival — and the Rev. William Barber.
“The main one for me is George Clinton,” said Carl Locus, who works in Durham but lives in Fayetteville, when asked which artists he was looking forward to hearing. Locus was one of the visitors who came to pick up their festival passes Friday from the tent in front of the Carolina Theatre. Clinton will perform at the Carolina Theatre Saturday, April 29. Other artists who will perform Saturday, the second full day of the festival, are Common, Kenneth Whalum, Niya Wells, Nao and more.
Locus came to a previous festival to hear vibraphone player Roy Ayers. “When they said he was coming here, I bought my ticket,” Locus said.
Darian Hager, who is in charge of transportation for the artists, also said he was looking forward to hearing Clinton, along with Matthew Stevens and other artists. “This is the kind of festival where you’ll go to see somebody you like, and it will introduce you to somebody else,” Hager said.
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The other “star” of this festival is Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, leader of the “Moral Monday” movement, and the subject of a recent article in Esquire magazine. Barber will be discussing House Bill 2 when he introduces Common at the Durham Performing Arts Center Saturday.
Roland Staton Jr., president of the Durham branch of the NAACP, was setting up a tent in front of the Civic Center that will be open during the festival. The tent will make available membership forms and information about proposed General Assembly bills. Staton said the NAACP information will tell visitors “what [the bills] actually do,” as opposed to what legislators claim.
Barber will likely make the case that the national and state NAACP “do not acknowledge that this co-called compromise HB2 legislation should stand.” The bill represents micromanagement of local government, with its moratorium barring local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances, Staton said. Staton wants to encourage “people who have ideas or complaints to join us.”
Lenette Holland of Charlotte is spending her second year as a festival volunteer. She went to N.C. Central University, and graduated when downtown Durham’s growth began and more venues opened for music and cultural events. Downtown redevelopment was “a great way to close” her NCCU career, she said.
The Art of Cool Festival grew out of the Art of Cool Project, founded by trumpeter Al Strong and Cicely Mitchell. The non-profit organization was formed to give audiences venues where they could sit and hear jazz and related styles. In addition to the annual festival, the organization continues to present monthly concerts.