BAMS Fest returns for a second year with new twists and attractions
In its sophomore year, the Boston Arts and Music Soul Festival is returning with the same core mission as last summer: to celebrate the rich culture of black artists and arts in our community. Some of the general info is also familiar—for starters, it will go down at historic Franklin Park.
Start digging through the details, though, and you will find a seriously unique experience, one that builds on 2018’s breakout and then some.
This year’s BAMS Fest takes place on Saturday, June 22, and runs from noon to dusk, which provides plenty of time to experience the visual and musical showcases offered, as well as other experiences like workshop on Afro-Brazilian and African dance. As a main attraction, an all-minority lineup of 19 artists and musicians, hailing largely from Boston but also from around the country, will hold down two stages. Headlining is Grammy-nominated R&B singer Eric Roberson, while rising hip-hop talents such as Cliff Notez, Red Shaydez, and Luke Bar$ will show out alongside vocalist Aleecya and others. Bringing a dance vibe, Brazilian dance group SambaViva will perform, as will a variety of afrobeat, funk, jazz, and soul artists.
Earlier this year, BAMS announced its partnership with Berklee College of Music after the school shuttered its annual Beantown Jazz Festival after 12 years. Terri Lyne Carrington, the artistic director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, came on as a co-curator for BAMS Fest, and played a key role in selecting artists from in excess of 2,000 applications.
“It’s one thing to play at a club, but it’s different to have a festival experience,” said Carrington, “It’s competitive. … It makes you step up your game when you’ve been chosen.”
Beyond the music, BAMS will bring a “social justice, art themed” exhibition featuring upcoming New England painters and graffiti artists arranged by Rob “Problak” Gibbs, a coordinator of art and dance for BAMS Fest. Furthermore, the vast affair has added a BYOG space, as in Bring Your Own Game. Attendees will be able to not only enjoy entertainment all around them but can also make their sister draw four in a more organized setup than last year.
“People wanted to bring their own dominos, spades, and Connect Four games and just sit and watch the festival,” said Catherine Morris, founder and executive director of BAMS Fest. “So we just created a whole area where they could do that.”
In addition to the festival itself, which is free and open to the public, there will be a vendor market full of food trucks and creative entrepreneurs. Local minority-owned businesses of various types will be there for visitors to spend their cash, making for a marketplace aimed to aid the growth of businessmen and women in the community.
In speaking with the Dig, Morris emphasized the importance of including these minority-owned enterprises. BAMS Fest, she said, will “give them an opportunity to benefit from visitor traffic.” “A lot of those dollars are concentrated downtown,” she said, “so a lot of people don’t … notice or acknowledge that there are people of color here.”
After attracting a crowd of more than 2,000 in the rain last year, this year it’s projected that between 6,000 and 10,000 heads will rally to the cultural mecca on Saturday.
“I think that [BAMS Fest is] another statement amongst a lot of the statements that are being made, and collectively showing Boston is deserving of a lot more respect than it has gotten musically for marginalized voices and people of color,” Cliff Notez said.
BAMS FEST. SAT 6.22 AT FRANKLIN PARK, NOON TO DUSK. FREE. MORE INFO AT BAMSFEST.ORG.