On Saturday, June 8, 2009, a concert performance in the “Living Room” of the Power & Light District by DJ Jazzy Jeff was cut short when Jeff refused to continue the performance. At issue is what occurred to precipitate Jeff cutting his performance short? Jeff has stated that he stopped his performance because he was told not to play rap. P & L District officials contend that the volume of the sound was damaging the sound system.
In order to determine what happened, HRD conducted interviews and reviewed statements from those directly involved. We have sought to conduct other interviews with those who were directly involved but have not been successful. Darren Zarter was interviewed. Zarter is the Event Production Coordinator for the P & L District. He was on the scene and in charge during the event. Zarter said that he was the person directly in contact with the performers during Jeff’s shortened set.
Zarter said that during the sound check before the show there were no problems. He said that shortly into Jeff’s set he began getting text messages about the sound. One of the messages was from Tad Kuhl, the P & L District’s AV person. He was being told that the sound was distorted. He said that Kuhl came in and told him that the sound had to be fixed “now.” He said that the system was “red lining,” meaning that the volume was getting to the level that could damage the system. Zarter said that the way the system was set up Jeff had control of the sound such that they could not override his controls. He said that Jeff’s master control volume level was on 10. Normally it should run around 7 or 8. He said that the MC microphone volume was all the way up. He said that even though the system had limiters – devices that help control extreme volume – they can only do so much in a situation such as this one where the DJ has some individual control. He said that he called Jeff’s stage manager Darnell (LNU) over. He told him that the volume was too loud and asked if he could have the volume turned down. He said that he called Darnell over a couple more times complaining about the sound but the problem persisted. He said that the final time he called Darnell over he told him that either they adjusted the sound or he would have to shut down the system. He said that Darnell stated, “How am I supposed to tell an artist to turn his music down.” He said that Darnell then went on stage and said something to Jeff. Jeff then said to the crowd, “I guess they don’t want our type of music here.” Zarter said that he never told Darnell or anyone else not to play rap. He said that he never spoke directly to Jeff or Skillz, Jeff’s front man. He only talked to Darnell. He said that to his knowledge no one else from the P & L District spoke directly to Jeff or Skillz.
Zarter said that when he first saw Skillz on the stage he did not know who he was or why he was there. He said that as he understood the contract only Jeff was supposed to be on stage. He said that he didn’t think that Skillz should have been on stage. He said that he asked Darnell who Skillz was and why he was there. He said that he never talked directly to Skillz. Zarter said that he did talk briefly to Z-Trip, the artist who preceded Jeff on stage. He said that he told Z-Trip not to play any vulgar music. He said that he never told Z-Trip not to play rap. Zarter said that the system was damaged. He said that 9 of the 12 high end drivers were damaged. He estimated the damage at $3,000. He said that two events were scheduled for the next day. They both went on using the damaged speakers.
Zarter is responsible for booking acts in the P & L District. He said that he had no problem with the music that Jeff was playing. He said that he knew pretty much what type of music Jeff played when he booked him. He said that this was not the first time they had problems with volume. He said usually the acts that pose problems are rock bands. For the most part they cooperate when asked to adjust the volume. He said that there was one band – Lights & Sirens – that they actually had to pull the plug on because they did not want to cooperate. Tad Kuhl was interviewed. He works for Entertainment Concepts Investors (ECI). He is a Technologist Specialist. He said that he is very familiar with the sound system in the “Living Room” of the P & L District because he helped design it. He said that he came on the property at around 11:30 p.m. He said that as soon as he heard the sound he could tell that the system was in “major distress.” He said that he could hear the distortion. He surmised that the source was being overpowered.
Kuhl said that the amplifier went into “clip” status. He said that about 30 seconds later the music stopped. He assumed this is when Jazzy Jeff left the stage. He said that he would not have allowed the performance to go on much longer because of potential damage to the equipment. He said that the only performer that he talked to directly was Masterkraft, who came on stage after Jeff. He said that he told him how to adjust the sound beforehand. Masterkraft followed the plan and had no problem. Kuhl said that six high end drivers were completely blown and 3 others were damaged. All nine had to be replaced. He said that the concerts that were done in the days immediately following had no high end.
Jim Watry was interviewed. Watry is the Operations Manager for ECI. ECI owns and operates several bars in the P & L District. He said that he was in the District when Jeff’s set started. He said that he could hear the distortion and that the speakers were too loud. He said that he texted Zarter to see if everything was OK. He said that he went down front where Zarter was. He said that he was with Zarter during one of his conversations with Darnell. He said that Zarter asked that the volume on the DJ’s controls be turned down. He said that while he was there no discussion took place about the type of music that was being played.
HRD has not been able to locate Darnell, who was the person from Jeff’s crew who had direct contact with P & L District staff. We contacted Jenni Weinman from Jeff’s staff in San Francisco. She in turn put us in touch with Lawrence Vavra who she said was Jeff’s manager. Vavra did not respond to attempts to contact him. We reviewed statements from Jeff’s camp from people who were present during the show.
Jeff said that he was kicked off stage for playing hip-hop. He said that his road manager (presumably Darnell) came up to him and said that they were having problems with the music that he was playing. He said that after three more songs the road manager came back and said that he had to kick Skillz off the stage, change the format of the music or quit. He said that he was told to play Top 40. He said that at that point he stopped. He said that one of the P & L District officials asked him to go back on but without Skillz. He refused. Skillz was the MC for Jeff. He said that the sound was never an issue. He said that they were never told to turn the music down. He said that after he was told what was happening he announced to the crowd that they had to stop because they didn’t want rap played there. He said that after that he was escorted off the property.
Z-Trip, the performer who went on before Jeff issued a statement. He said that while doing his sound check, he was asked not to play any rap music. He said that hip-hop is prevalent in his repertoire and he proceeded with his set as planned. There were no problems during his set. He said that he watched Jeff go on stage immediately following him. He said that while he was standing on the stage, he saw Jeff’s tour manager talking to Jeff about what he assumed were complaints the District had about the music he was playing. To complete this investigation, HRD sought to talk to the people from the Barcardi Tour who had direct contact with the P & L District personnel. Specifically, we have tried to set up interviews with Darnell, Jeff’s road manager, and Z Trip, both of whom we know talked directly to District staff. We left messages for Juliana Plotkin of Ink Tank in Los Angeles, Z-Trip’s publicist, in efforts to contact him.
At this point in time HRD can not conclusively say what happened that caused DJ Jazzy Jeff to leave the stage during his show. Obviously the stories from the two sides are diametrically opposed. From the P & L District’s perspective, they have submitted invoices for repairs of the damage purportedly done to their speakers. The invoices total less than $3000. From the Barcardi Tour participants’ perspective, two things bear noting. Although Zarter stated that he did not talk directly to Skillz, he did state in his interview that he was not happy about him being on stage. He said that this was due to Skillz not being part of the agreement between the District and the Barcardi Tour. He said that he did question Jeff’s stage manager as to why Skillz was on stage. Keeping in mind that Skillz said that he was told that Jeff could go back on without him, there is a distinct possibility that Zarter’s displeasure with Skillz being on stage may have been conveyed to him. Z-Trip stated that he was told not to play rap by a P & L District official. Zarter noted that he did discuss what to play with Z Trip but stated that he only told Z-Trip not to play any vulgar music. Zarter stated that the District has a policy that no vulgar music is to be played at the outside venue. It is conceivable that the message that Z-Trip got from the conversation was that he was not to play any rap. It should be noted that Z-Trip went on with his set as he had originally planned, which included rap, and there were no incidents with him.
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Sunday, August 9, 2009
DJ Jazzy Jeff at Kansas City Power and Light District
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Nooooooo!! Not DJ Jazzy Jeff. You can't offend a name that big. Wow.
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