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Tierra Whack and Moses Sumney to headline new music festival

Tierra Whack and Moses Sumney to headline new music festival

Tierra Whack and Moses Sumney to headline new music festival

For the past few years, Gino Nuzzolillo has been packing up his car and hitting the road to help organize town hall meetings across the state. Nuzzolillo, 26, works with the nonprofit Common Cause North Carolina; the town hall meetings, which were held in 25 different counties, got their start when Moore vs. HarperA case over state redistricting has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

At town halls stretching from Greenville to Sylva, Nuzzolillo and his Common Cause colleagues regularly raised challenges to the gerrymandered electoral maps drawn by the Republican legislature. People came into the rooms with folding chairs and talked and listened — an encouraging demonstration of democracy in action. But not many represented a vital new voting bloc: Generation Z.

And who can blame them?

“People who looked like me… weren’t going to go to a town hall at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night,” Nuzzolillo explains on a Zoom call. “We wanted to put together something that could accommodate young people like us in our current situation; that recognized and took seriously that no one under the age of 35 is even remotely excited about what they have to vote on this year, and that’s especially true after last week.”

Enter CAROLINADAZE, a new series of music and arts festivals that Common Cause North Carolina just launched. The events, which include a mix of local and national talent, will take place this fall across the state; today, the nonpartisan organization announced the first installation of the series: Set for Sept. 12 at Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheatre, this first-ever concert will feature appearances by Tar Heel heavyweights Tierra Whack, Lute, Moses Sumney, and Helado Negro.

Tickets go on sale Monday, July 11, for $35-$40; access to $25 presale tickets will be available July 8-10. That’s a remarkably low price for a multi-artist lineup. Hopscotch, which will take place in Raleigh a few days earlier, is selling passes for the three-day festival for $159; single-night tickets for Sylvan Esso’s recent GoodMoon concerts in Durham started at $73.

A festival in Asheville will be announced later this month, with more locations and dates to be announced soon.

“I’ve worked in the music industry for decades and CAROLINADAZE stands out,” Raleigh musician Tift Merritt, an advisor to the concert series, wrote in the press release. “Every decision, from the artist lineup to the branding to the vendors to the organizations that will benefit this concert series, has been made with care, not only with youth in mind, but also with leadership.”

The September concert, which will be characterized as a “movement-building” event, will also feature remarks from community leaders and presentations from local nonprofits and art vendors. The goal, Nuzzolillo says, is to further Common Cause’s mission of driving voter turnout, but also to politically mobilize Gen Z beyond the election.

“We want to give young people like me the opportunity to have a vision of what democracy can look like in North Carolina that goes beyond a slogan, that goes beyond just going to the polls.”

“We want to give young people like me the opportunity to see a vision of what democracy can look like in North Carolina that goes beyond a slogan, that goes beyond just going to the polls, (where) we can actually hear from people who are organizing in different parts of the state and see the diversity of people coming together to want more,” he says.

A new vision of democracy may be welcomed by young voters, whose optimism about the future and the Democratic Party, as reflected in polls, is not particularly bright. While protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, on and off college campuses and now approaching ten months, speak to renewed political energy, President Biden’s hardline stance on the issue has proven unpopular with young voters. Polls from April, before Biden’s lackluster debate, show the president holding a narrow lead among younger voters by just two points.

In contrast, in 2020, exit polls indicated Biden had a 24 percentage point lead among voters aged 18 to 29.

But a lot can change between now and November, and as Nuzzolillo emphasizes, Common Cause North Carolina hopes to encourage voters to participate in elections for lower offices as well, especially with a high-stakes gubernatorial race between Josh Stein and ultra-conservative Mark Robinson on the ballot.

Sailor Jones, associate director of Common Cause North Carolina and a longtime activist in the region, links the organization’s focus on young voters to previous political fights in the state.

“Anybody between the ages of 20 and 50 in North Carolina is looking for something to fight for and something to fight against,” Jones says. “The main rallying cries we’ve had in the state of North Carolina have been Amendment One, HB 2, and the Moral Monday movement. They were all defensive efforts against a repressive legislature and executive branch in a state where we were turning red in a way that was hurting everyone. This is an effort to give us something to fight for, for once, an affirmative vision that goes way beyond 2024.”

A portion of the proceeds from the Sept. 12 concert will benefit Southern grassroots groups including the Carolina Abortion Fund, Campaign for Southern Equality, Carolina Migrant Network and HBCU Student Action Alliance.

“What motivates a lot of young people is taking care of the people they love,” Nuzzollilo says. “We see that because that’s the work we do every day and we just want thousands more people to be able to see and hear it too.”

Follow culture editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or email [email protected]. Comment on this story at [email protected].