When people think of Black music, or set out to define it, they tend to lean towards hip-hop and R&B, and perhaps the blues, if you’re a little bit older. But to look at Black music with such a narrow lens would be a disservice to the enormous contributions Black musicians have made to all music, no matter the genre.
Doing his part is Cameron Lavi-Jones of the alternative rock group King Youngblood. The band has received enormous praise for their genre-defying sound featured on their latest full-length Big Thank, which was released this past May. Predominantly an alternative rock record, the sophomore outing also has a real punk rock intensity. Aside from being the group’s frontman, Lavi-Jones is also a filmmaker, graphic designer, executive director of his own non-profit, Hold Your Crown, and a festival organizer.
As devout fans of the history of Black music and culture, Lavi-Jones and his associate Anthony Briscoe, lead singer of Down North, founded the Black & Loud Fest. The festival aims to commemorate and honour Black artists and the integral role they had in the evolution of rock music. It’s a way for Black musicians to reclaim their influence within rock music and honour the legacy of artists such as Chuck Berry, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix.
Taking place this Saturday, September 10th, this year’s lineup includes Down North, King Youngblood, The Black Ends, Jaiden Grayson, Miles Harris & The Deep Cuts, Payge Turner, Earnie Ashwood, and more. Today, Lavi-Jones joins us for a special guest blog in which he discusses his motivation for starting Black & Loud Fest and the vital role Black artists have played in the development of rock n’ roll and heavier music.
“Black & Loud Fest – Why the hell we’re doing this.” by Cameron Lavi-Jones
“The other day, I got asked on our Instagram stories, ‘What made you want to put together Black & Loud Fest?’ And I was thinking, that’s a great question. I should answer that.
I think there’s always been a resistance to Black creatives making any kind of indie, alternative, or abrasive art. In particular heavier music: rock music, punk music, metal, and all of its subgenres. I cannot tell you how many times when I was growing up, people were not only surprised that I was interested in rock music, but actually playing it.
To this day, King Youngblood is still working to shatter the misconception that heavier music is a white realm of art. That misconception impacts everybody because it makes it a lot more challenging to create community, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. For most Black creatives that choose to go into heavy music or anything alternative, anything like that, when you follow the route of a career in those spaces, it typically comes with a lot of invalidation and isolation.
I have been to so many hardcore shows, rock shows, punk shows, all in the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve been the only Black person in the room. Don’t get it twisted, I still had a blast, but it’s not difficult to recognize when you’re isolated in a music community, especially one that you really care about and want to be a part of.
So fuck that. Black folks and everyone in those musical spaces deserve better.
Black kids deserve to see themselves represented in heavier music. Black folks deserve to create heavier music without being compared to whiteness. That means if they want to be alternative, abrasive, as long as they’re taking up space and being loud as fuck, they should be able to do that without any scrutiny. That’s been a huge part of King Youngblood’s mission, to remind people that Black people did not only invent these genres, but fucking destroy at them too.
If you ain’t been knowing either, Black women have been at the dawn of these genres. Namely, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Seattle’s own Tina Bell are not credited enough for their defining artistry that created what we now know as rock n’ roll and grunge, respectively. That STILL barely scratches the surface of the known and credited historic contributions Black women have made to music. We have to make sure folks get their flowers, especially the folks changing the landscape of what is possible, being intentionally different, trying something different.
Black & Loud Fest is centered around creatives going against the grain. The festival is about reminding the Pacific Northwest that the Black community not only here existing in those spaces, but they’re talented in all realms, including the white-dominated ones. So pull up on September 10th for Black & Loud Fest. It’s free, sponsored by Jack Daniels (shoutout), and runs from 3 pm to 10 pm. It’s over at LTD Bar & Grill in Fremont and includes an incredible lineup of talented Black creatives like SUSU, Down North, Black Ends, King Youngblood (hey, that’s us!) Payge Turner, Jaiden Grayson, and so many more. Come support Black artists in the Pacific Northwest getting loud.
Thanks for reading, friend. Hopefully, I’ll see you around.”