Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest Draws Protests For Booking R. Kelly

Two years ago, R. Kelly headlined Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, over the objections of Chicago music journalist and vocal Kelly foe Jim DeRogatis. The show went off without much protest. But since then — largely because a Village Voice conversation between Jessica Hopper and DeRogatis went viral — there’s been a new wave of public scrutiny and outrage over all the evidence that Kelly is a sexual predator. Last year, Columbus, Ohio’s Fashion Meet Music festival booked Kelly as a headliner and then canceled his appearance after locals objected. In June, Kelly is booked to headline Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest, alongside Skrillex and Weezer, but now that appearance might not happen either.

As DeRogatis himself reports, some local Summer Fest sponsors, led by Girls Rock Camp Houston, started a Facebook campaign to get the festival to drop Kelly. And the festival seems to be taking their concerns into account, though they haven’t issued a public ruling yet. Yesterday, Omar Afra, publisher of the alt-weekly Free Press, told Houstonia, “We’re pretty much in the listening stage right now. We never preclude dialogue. If somebody’s got a concern, we’re here to hear that.” And on that Facebook page, representatives of Girls Rock Camp Houston report that they met with the Free Press and promoter Pegstar yesterday: “We had a good meeting and the lines of dialog are open and ongoing. Everyone is working towards a resolution. We continue to hope that Free Press Houston and Pegstar will pull R. Kelly from Summerfest.”