The site of ]AMZ FEST I.
Tony Toni Tone headlined, a ticket cost a buck and three cents, the original George H.W. Bush was president, and Michael Jordan was wearing only one championship ring.
May 2000. Hampton Coliseum.
Ticket prices in general have skyrocketed, George’s offspring is running for President, and the only way Jordan could get all of his title rings on one hand is if he had six fingers.
For local hip-hop and R&B fans, ]AMZ FEST has been a stalwart for several years. Organized by urban radio station WOWI (102.9 FM), the annual music festival has become an institution in and of itself.
Friday marks the festivals 10th anniversary, and with a lineup that boasts industry heavyweights like Jay-Z, Da Brat, Method Man & Redman, Destiny’s Child and local geniuses Missy Elliott and Timbaland, the festival is being billed as “the phattest JAMZ FEST ever.”
Between sets, “turntablists” – or deejays – will be laying down beats to make sure the crowd doesn’t lose its energy.
“It‘s amazing how you can just feed off the crowd,” said deejay joe Supa. “The more hyper they get, the more you do. There’s something to be said for spinning to 10,000 people up close and personal.”
The show grew out of whats described as a “collective concept” but was initially spearheaded by Ernie Jackson, the station’s former vice president and general manager.
What was once a work in progress has blossomed into quite an operation, however.
“For something so lmge, so complex, it‘s amazing how smoothly it runs each year,” said Dj Heart Attack, assistant program director for 103 JAMZ and deejay of the “Mid-Day Mini—Mix.” “We get our curveballs thrown atus, but it’s never anything we can’t handle, except for weather issues. Those we can’t do much about.”
“It amazes me how 103 is always able to lock down the biggest names in hip-hop” said james Colston, music editor for VeRVe magazine in Virginia Beach. “Before hip-hop took off, Virginia was kind of a black hole musically, but 103 and JAMZ FEST have helped to put V.A. on the map for everyone else to see.”
All of this doesn’t come off without a lot of work. WOWI, owned by Clear Channel Communications, puts a tremendous amount of effort into the event. From the on-air personalities to the technical support personnel and the marketing/ promotions crew, no one is excluded.
Commercials are made, record companies have to be negotiated with and artists need to be accommodated.
And, oh yeah, there‘s still a station that airs 24 hours a day. On the day of the show, don’t even think about anything other than JAMZ FEST.
“The actual day, we shut down the promotions office,” said Toni Bailey jones, Clear Channels promotions manager. “We set up shop, so to speak, at the Coliseum. We have our own dedicated phone lines and let our customers know that if it doesn’t pertain to JAMZ FEST it
has to wait until the following Tuesday.”
Tuesday? Why Tuesday?
Jones smiles. The festival “takes a little out of my people,” so she gives them an extra day off.
As rap and hip~hop have exploded in popularity in the last decade, so has the cost of putting on an event like this.
“It’s a little tougher to put the show together financially, but we are still able to make it happen,” ]ones said. She added that record labels use their promotional budgets to help bring acts into town.
Still, music industry insiders say such mu1ti·act festivals are dying.
“Concert events like this one are getting to be few and far between,” said Jazmin Perez, assistant to the music editor at Vibe magazine. “The larger market areas like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago don‘t have any problem keeping them going, but we are seeing other shows slowly
“lt’s just not a financially viable option for many stations in today’s economics” she said. “If you have one that is able to make something like this happen year in and year out, then you’ve got something special on your hands”