Fashion Meets Music Festival’s inclusion of R. Kelly raising objections – Columbus Dispatch

Concerns are spreading over the selection of R&B singer R. Kelly as a headliner at the
upcoming Fashion Meets Music Festival, prompting two of the other musical acts to bow out of the
lineup and a sponsor to re-evaluate its involvement.

The Columbus folk-rock quartet Saintseneca, whose music in recent months has gained a national
profile, mentioned Kelly on Tuesday night in announcing its departure.

“We feel his selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence
and assault,” the group said in an online statement, referring to his 2008 acquittal on 14
child-pornography charges tied to a graphic sex tape allegedly depicting him with an underage
girl.

The festival, a first-year event scheduled for Aug. 29-31 in and near the Arena District, is
intended to blend the talents of bands and clothing designers.

The withdrawal of Saintseneca this week follows the July 3 departure of Damn the Witch
Siren.

The central Ohio electro-pop duo, which criticized the June 25 announcement of Kelly’s
inclusion, met with festival organizers but ultimately opted to break its contract.

“We had a lot of deliberation,” said vocalist Krista Kathleen Botjer, who has since been reached
by other bands and designers considering an exit.

“Do we want to go and support local artists and represent Columbus, or do we bail because we
disagree with their choice?”

On the sponsorship side, Columbus public station WCBE (90.5 FM) — which signed on before Kelly
came aboard — is unsure where it might go from here.

Dan Mushalko, general manager of the station, would like to see a sexual-assault-prevention
component with public dialogue added to the program, he said yesterday.

Yet such efforts would matter little, Mushalko said, with Kelly still on the bill: “It just won’t
fly.”

Although he declined to comment yesterday, festival co-founder Bret Adams recently defended the
performer.

“R. Kelly may not be a good person, but he is a national artist people want to hear,” Adams said
in a June 30 interview with
Columbus Alive.

“You should respect the art, not the artist.”

Adams also told
Alive that festival organizers would continue to listen to any concerns “in a thoughtful
manner.”

Elsewhere, the status of Kelly, 47, hasn’t waned.

The
Bump n’ Grind singer last year headlined both the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in
rural Tennessee and the Pitchfork festival in Chicago.

The latter event drew criticism from music critic Jim DeRogatis, who broke the story of the
alleged sex tape at the
Chicago Sun-Times, for celebrating the singer and ignoring his past.

With much of the Columbus festival free, the Kelly show — set for Aug. 29 at Nationwide Arena —
requires tickets.

A select-your-seat option, priced at $48 to $78, via
www.Ticketmaster.com shows that the majority of the space
remains unsold.

Other performers in the lineup include O.A.R., Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Cold War
Kids and Rusko.

kjoy@dispatch.com

@kevjoy

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