Indie folk rock band Saintseneca announced on its website Tuesday that it will cancel its performance at Columbus’ inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival in August.
Citing that the headliner of a big music festival is the “symbolic figurehead,” Saintseneca expressed in a post on its website the members’ disappointment in the festival’s selection of R. Kelly to be on the top of FMMF’s bill.
“We feel his selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault,” the post read. “We feel it is an affront to all survivors, who are already often overlooked and forgotten in our society.”
FMMF announced Kelly as the headliner along with Columbus-based band O.A.R. June 25. Kelly is set to perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Nationwide Arena.
Saintseneca’s cancellation comes about a month after Columbus-based rock duo Damn the Witch Siren posted on Facebook a plea for FMMF to reconsider its choice of R. Kelly as the festival’s headliner.
“While we were (and still are) very honored to have been asked to play this event, we can not personally support the decision to have a serial rapist perform,” the June 26th post read. “We don’t want to withdraw ourselves from FMMF, but we are seriously considering it unless the powers that be give this booking decision a second thought.”
The duo announced its official withdrawal from the festival on July 3 via Facebook.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus radio station WCBE (90.5 FM) is reconsidering its sponsorship of the festival. The station’s general manager, Dan Mushalko, said he would like to see “public dialogue” about sexual assault prevention, but R. Kelly’s appearance at FMMF “just won’t fly,” he told The Dispatch.
In 2002, the R&B artist, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was indicted in Chicago on soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts of producing child pornography and seven counts of videotaping the acts. The case stemmed from a videotape, sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2001, of Kelly allegedly having sex and performing sexual acts with an underage girl. Kelly was arrested in Davenport, Fla. after the indictment was handed down and was released after paying the $75,000 bail.
The trial was delayed multiple times. On June 14, 2008, however, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty on all counts.
According to a 2013 piece by the “Village Voice,” though, Kelly holds an extensive history of legal trouble and has paid off dozens of lawsuits filed by underage girls claiming statutory rape.
In a June 30 interview with Columbus Alive, festival co-founder Bret Adams defended R. Kelly’s spot on the bill.
“R. Kelly may not be a good person, but he is a national artist people want to hear,” Adams said. “You should respect the art, not the artist.”
Melissa Dickson, communications director for FMMF, said in an email that the festival remains confident in its line-up.
“While we regret (Saintseneca and Damn the Witch Siren) will not be joining us this year, we whole-heartedly respect their decision. We value art as a platform for open dialogue on important issues and we respect all opinions, regardless of whether they reflect our own.”
Saintseneca wrote about its plans to host an “alternative concert” that will benefit support victims of sexual assault, although details have yet to be worked out.
“We are aware that this action does not erase sexual assault or perpetrators of sexual violence from the world, nor does it keep R. Kelly from selling out venues and getting a check,” the band wrote. “We are simply hoping that this will encourage dialogue, as well as challenge our society’s norm of ignoring upsetting things.”