5 Questions about the Anti-Inaugural Ball

On Friday, January 20, musicians from across the NYC experimental and jazz community will come together to counter cynicism with sound through the Anti-Inaugural Ball. We asked 5 questions to the co-curators and co-producers: Jason Eckardt, Lainie Fefferman, and Jascha Narveson.

What is the idea behind the Anti-Inaugural Ball?

The day after the election, we felt confused and broken-hearted – all the folks we met on Wednesday, November 9th, were living their day in a haze of disbelief and apprehension. That Thursday, however, we woke up to see the new front page of the ACLU website: a photo of the president-elect captioned: “See you in court.”  We weren’t confused anymore – our political work, now more than ever, is a re-investment in the institutions that have for decades been fighting the injustices and iniquities perpetrated by the government on its people.  The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Lambda Legal, Planned Parenthood, Hollaback!, The Reproductive Health Access Project – these tireless folks make us proud to be American.  What skills do the four of us have to help these organizations?  We can throw a kickass concert!  We are so lucky to have the resources and friends to let us put on a show that will aim to give comfort through sound and community while helping those institutions who know where and how the political work of our future needs to be done.

What was the response in the community when you decided to make this happen?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Every musician we approached who was available said yes and is donating their time. The only people who are making money off of this event are the nonprofits the Ball is supporting! When we went public with the event we got dozens of messages of support and offers to volunteer for and promote the event. The only regret that people have expressed is not being able to be present due to location or other protest commitments.

Can you tell me more about the lineup?

Our aim was to give a broad range of artists from the experimental and jazz communities of NYC.  We believe these groups are often not presented in the same forum, even though the work they do and the sounds they explore are often quite similar. It is thrilling to have Darius Jones sharing the same night with JACK Quartet, for example. The goal of “countering cynicism through sound” meant creating a joyful environment where the audience is inspired to listen deeply, a skill set which has been under-used in the recent political landscape. Each of these artists is contributing a moment which we believe will inspire that.

Do you think that this is a possible model (free with instant donations to selected causes) for other musical events in the U.S.?

Absolutely, and we’re sure we’re not the first to implement this model. Anyone with something to share and a space to do it in — real or virtual — can help raise money and awareness for things that matter.

We will have laptop stations that directly link to donation and membership pages of the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, LAMBDA Legal, Hollaback! and the Reproductive Health Access Project. Representatives from the latter two organizations will be on hand to talk about the vital work their organizations do. We’ll also have QR codes around the space so people can donate directly from their smartphones.

Are you building momentum? Is there a next step to the Anti-Inaugural Ball?

There are already loose conversations around how this could be extended into a repeating model—a platform artists could access to put on an event to raise money for an organization that they care about. However, there isn’t anything firm yet that we can talk about.