Saturday, May 16, 2009

Urban Nights: Almost Getting It

It’s getting close. Urban Nights is finally getting close to meeting its promise of an urban festival.

Yer humble host attended some of the early Urban Nights and was usually disappointed. Usually the most action was at Front Street (not a player this year) and even a lot of at Wright-Dunbar (which is sort of the “black Urban Nights”, since things there are somewhat themed around black culture).

But downtown was always cold coffee. Things were too spread out. Activities inside of buildings, not well attended…or not attended enough to liven up the streets. So one saw knots of people wandering the empty acres of downtown from place to place. Sort of sad and pathetic as this visual mocked the entire concept.

Concentrating Urban Nights

Yesterdays Urban Nights still had that, example being that stage over at the Litehouse, well away from anything. But this seemed the exception. Instead the planners this year concentrated things in the heart of downtown. Particularly on Jefferson Street.

There was an entire series of events and venues set up on this street.

The Circus was a very key player here, taking the old bar at the corner of Jefferson and 3rd and adjacent restaurant space for a gallery/installation thing and a live music stage. The entire block between the Century and the corner was activated. Probably the best move was the drumming outside right on the corner, which created a knot of people and some interest/. Crowds draw crowds and this is exactly what went on here.

Across from this and complementing it was a stage (“Community Stage?”) in the parking lot next to the bar and pawnshop on Jefferson. So even more music. Up the street from this stage that was C-Space, with yet another music space.

And then follow the alley to Courthouse Square to hear yet another band, this time with a beer truck and food kiosks and tables and chairs. And, on 2nd, there was a stage next to the Kettering Tower (and the music and gallery things inside). This wasn’t so successful because it crowded the sidewalk. Time for some orange cones to temporarily narrow the street, opening space for the audience and pedestrians.

So this programming of things in close proximity, some with an “on-the-street” presence, created enough of a critical mass of people in a part of downtown to where this felt like more of a city festival, creating enough foot traffic and people on the street to make things interesting.

The question is how to do more of this. One thinks of the big parking on the NW corner of Jefferson & Third as a possible space...for something. More along the alley to make that a corridor from the Jefferson Street action to Courthouse Square.

Joint Programming

Urban Nights was jointly programmed with the Film Dayton film festival and A World Affair food thing. These were in the Neon and the Convention Center. In theory this is good as it brings more people into downtown at the same time. But not sure how much synergy was here as these were indoor events. Maybe different joint programming would be to do this in conjunction with an outdoor festival of some sort, like Taste of Dayton happening at Riverscape during the same time Urban Nights was going on.

Yet, in the final analyses, Jefferson Street was the highlight, along with Courthouse Square. It's time to bring back those Affairs on the Square (anyone remember those?)


Bruce Kettelle said...

Talking to a friend who does security at the Nutter he pointed out that they had over 10,000 people to see a comedian on Friday night and the 'Night at the Air Force Museum' had even higher attendance figures. I find it interesting that we as a region can support all of these diverse offerings simultaneously.

Jefferey said...

Sure, this isn't Hooterville. There are enough people in the area to support all this.

Stan Hirtle said...

This was an enjoyable event. I wish there were more connecting the Northwest venues (churches and the peace museum) with the others.
This was definitely "urban nights" with an urban crowd. It did not appear to be suburban nights. The downtown venues looked like Dayton, in its mix of race, class and age. The Wright Dunbar venue looked like West Dayton as when I was there caucasians were relatively few. But after all the publicity of murders in the black community and all the fear of downtown that you hear about, the amount of racial diversity for this event was pretty impressive. It is also amazing that you can meet the mayor of Dayton just walking on the street without an entourage or bodyguards. She gets some flack on these blogs for not being a high powered political leader for our economically troubled city, but there is something nice about that level of accessibility. Anyway lets hope Urban Nights continues to grow and thrive.

Jefferey said...

From what Bruce said it sounds like "Suburban Nights" was at the Museum, and one wonders if that was on purpose, to give people an alternative event to go to.

Ive been to twwo of the Wrigh-Dunbar Urban Nights and it was interesting. On one occasion they had a funk review that was pretty cool.