Sunday, May 8, 2011

Whose Party is This?

All week Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has made it a point to remind all Capital Regionites that the Tulip Fest is a family affair. On the heels of the St. Pat’s Day Massacre on Hudson Ave., Jennings decided to kill the open-drinking allowance at the Fest, and force all drinkers to a Beer Garden, SPAC style. He made it known that he didn’t want this park party spilling out into nearby neighborhoods, where residential damage could be done. He said all this with a firm tone and no-nonsense expression. He made sure we knew this event was for the families. This was a FAMILY AFFAIR.

You really believed the mayor was serious about stopping these college-aged drinkers in their tracks, and letting it be known that what happened on St. Pat’s Saturday will not be allowed. You almost believed him, until you found out the city booked a California-based band called the Cold War Kids to headline the Tulip Fest’s Saturday showcase. If you don’t know anything about the Cold War Kids, it's OK, you’re probably over 25years old and/or not in college. I hear they are good and I'm sure that's true. But my question is a simple one: Who is Jennings pandering to by booking this band to play Tulip Fest? Because it looks to me like he’s pandering to the same age group that he’s spoken so harshly about curbing this entire week, the same age group that blew up Hudson Ave. in March. If you haven’t seen any photos of this past Saturday’s show, let me summarize: Three thousand drunk college kids getting down to the music. Further back all the family men sitting in their parade chairs with a look on their face that says, “What the heck is this music?”

You may remember I recently wrote about the curious choice of Cold War Kids for an event in Albany. I thought it was all wrong, because it clashed with the personality of the Tulip Fest and the city. Albany, to me, is a blue-collar city, filled with guys who drink Coors Light and smoke Marb reds. Albany likes Eddie Money, and Edgar Winters, and Marshall Tucker. College kids from Long Island and NYC like the Cold War Kids, almost as much as they like destroying city property when drunk, so it seems.

There are two truths here. 1) The Tulip Fest isn’t a family event on Saturday, it’s a rip-roaring party. Period. Jennings doesn’t care as much about curbing drunken behavior as he does about filling the bars and restaurants on Lark Street after the concert. You're talking about a mayor whose plan to kick start the Albany economy was begun by pumping up the downtown drinking scene. 2) This city’s economy is so dependent on the college crowd. So, on days like this, that group must be a large part of the target audience. Additionally, Albany is in a never-ending tug of war to keep local graduates in the area. Add all that together and you get a Washington Park filled with drunken 22 year olds, rocking out to music that nobody born before 1984 has ever heard of. For all that anger about what those U Albany kids did in March, not a single kid has been tossed off campus and all this tough-guy conviction talk has “kind of” dried up. Albany needs U Albany, and Sage, and etc, etc. A family affair. What a joke. Why can't Jennings just say, "It's going to be a party on Saturday. Keep your kids home, mom." It's kind of a lie to say that Saturday is a family day at the Tulip Fest.

Maybe my vision of Albany isn’t Albany anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old and bitter. My favorite TV show went off the air four years ago. My favorite sports coach is 65 years old, and my favorite pro athlete just got blown out of the NBA playoffs for being too slow and too old. Maybe the things that I know and love are beginning to go by. Maybe I don't accept change too well. But I don’t see this as an age issue. I see it as a double-edged message. You don’t want college kids getting wasted at Washington Park and ripping up neighborhoods, but you book music that only college kids and people in their twenties have heard of. Isn’t that like tossing a raw steak into a crate of foaming-mouthed dogs then telling them not to tear after it? If you don’t want the dogs to chomp, toss them cooked broccoli. Or in this case: Eddie Money or Marshall Tucker. The party is just as fun, and the balance is better.

See that biker-looking guy smoking the Marb red and sucking the Coors Light by the row of Porta-Potties, having no idea what this music is? That guy grew up in Albany, never left. He’s been to every Tulip Fest. Today he realizes something for the first time: He’s an outsider at his own party. This isn’t for him anymore. This is for that kid from LI with the funny sunglasses and the Hollister shirt. And an hour later, Hollister will be dropping a c-note at Lionheart. And that’s what Jennings wants. Let’s just hope Hollister leaves the city’s streets alone in his drunken stupor. And if he doesn’t . . . well, nothing will happen anyway.

Tulip Fest Photos:

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Brian Huba

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