Lori and I were amped to see Kid Sister and Konono Nº1 perform tonight at Millennium Park. The heat and humidity had subsided, the show was free and it would be our first concert of the summer. We even packed a little picnic of veggies, chips, dip and root beers. But as I walked east up Randolph to meet Lori, I couldn’t help but notice a long line of unmarked squad cars all the way up the street. And there were cops on foot everywhere too; patrolling the entire northern perimeter of Millennium Park. As Lori and I started to walk up one of the Randolph Street entrances to the Pritzker Pavilion, we were accosted by a Parks & Rec officer who told us no one could enter the park unless they used the Michigan Avenue entrance. Seriously? I have to walk a block away to enter the park and walk another block to get back to the stage? Why? No answer.
As we make our way around, we see all these people camped outside the gates to the seating bowl and the Great Lawn but not going in—even though the show is well underway. As it turns out there’s a huge sign by the entrance that reads:
NOTE: Alcohol, glass bottles and metal cans will not be allowed into the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for today’s concert. Bags, coolers and packages will be screened.
Wait. What? I don’t even drink but this seems really weird. I’ve been to plenty of free summer shows at Millennium Park and they never search bags or ban bottles. What gives? Lots of people are grumbling about the posting but finishing up their beers so they can enter hassle-free. Then all these Park & Rec officers come through telling everyone their not allowed to drink in the park. Huh? “What about all the people who drink wine during the CSO concerts?” one girl asks. “Today’s different.” the officer declares.
As Lori and I debate whether chugging our root beers is worth it, I point out our dip is in a contraband glass jar. “No way”, Lori groans. Sure enough, the security guard at the gate gives us the thumbs down and that pretty much decided the night for us. As we walk along the west wall of the concert hall, we pass no less than a dozen cops, arms folded talking shit about how terrible rap music is and that’s when it hits me. All this beefed-up police presence, heightened security, banned containers and all-around boner-killer vibe is because Kid Sister was billed as a hip hop show. And you and I both know who comes out to hip hop shows… hip hop fans.
But seriously, can someone please offer a better explanation than straight-up racism as to why the only Millennium Park concert banning alcohol, glass bottles and metal cans is a Congolese punk-electro band and a hip hop juke emcee? Neither group promotes any type of violence or has even the slightest thug listenership. Both artists create fun, positive party music that makes people dance and puts them in a good mood—unless those people are in Millennium Park (in a police choke hold).