In the air there’s the scent of hoppy beer and a potential energy ready to turn kinetic, like just before a thunderstorm. Connections are rekindled, a cheerful but honest bartender polishes glasses in between pours, and Mr. PSA and DJ Slipwax prepare the stage for the night’s events.
I take my beer and wander into the lounge-type side room to review my verses over a final few games of pinball before the night gets going.
The location is the downstairs portion of Opus in Salem, MA, the Wednesday night home of Live from the Underground, the Hip Hop open mic put on by the Wreck Shop Movement. It is an energetic and inspiring scene, ever-changing but with a dedicated core of talented, like-minded, effusive performers who comprise the heart of WS. Amid this crowd that crosses all age, gender, and race lines, one man in a hoodie buzzes like a bee, in and out of doors, up and down stairs, talking to anyone and everyone before rushing off to his next task. That man is Justice Born, the 30-something Hip Hop head from Lynn usually found standing off to the side, vigilantly and proudly watching the movement he founded continue to grow. At the first event I attended, I asked the emcee Paranom who exactly was part of Wreck Shop, which of the numerous talented emcees around me were part of the collective. Looking across the room, he pointed at Justice and said,
“That man is Wreck Shop, he is this movement.”
Live from the Underground is one of the two weekly mainstay Wreck Shop events, along with The Subway Cypher (every Sunday 3-6pm inside the Downtown Crossing train station). They are the two tones of a Hip Hop heartbeat pumping strong from the North Shore, and connecting with artists all across a region in the midst of a powerful, rising wave.
But this weekend Justice and the Wreck Shop Movement present an event that precedes them both, The Bridgin’ GAPS music festival.
Now in its 7th year, Bridgin’ GAPS features 37 artists/groups over two days (August 5-6) at Salem Willows Park , showcasing some of the dynamic voices leading the local Hip Hop scene.
This s a FREE festival (shall I repeat that? I said it’s FREE) featuring some of the region’s most talented bands (Dis n Dat Band, Slam Kitchen), groups (Floor Lords, D.E.N.C.I.T.Y. Poets), solo acts (Estee Nack, Jazzmyn Red), and duos (STL GOLD, Dark Matter).
I forget, did I mention that the Bridgin’ GAPS festival is FREE??
There is, however, a GoFundMe drive that you should absolutely contribute to since a) you have a conscience, b) you’re now going to an awesome music festival this weekend, and c) you love nothing more than the cause of supporting your local artists. See how much I already know about you? See you this weekend!
Also participating at Bridgin’ GAPS are 20 non-profits and information resources such as voter registration, substance abuse counseling, and the coalition for Jobs Not Jails. This connection to the local community has been central to the festival since its inception. First conceived and executed during a trying time in its founder’s life, the festival’s very existence is a symbol of the power of togetherness over solitude, greed, and divisiveness. This can only be achieved, so goes the Wreck Shop philosophy, when we truly see the value and beauty in those around us, when we recognize the courage and responsibility in wanting to stand up and make your voice heard. It’s also a beacon of what Hip Hop is, can and should be, a language of and for the People.
Justice and Bridgin GAPS haven’t forgotten the difficult path that led to their origin. The festival employs the local homeless community to spread promotional flyers, paid for through their GoFundMe campaign. And the nonprofits are brought together to do just what the festival’s name describes, connect people with resources to improve their own lives and the community around them. This includes groups like The Haven Project, specifically focused on the local young homeless population.
Especially in times so mired in political divisiveness and turmoil, the ability to enact social change on a local level, to be an active force for progress in one’s own community, stands as a beaming light forward in the darkness.
If you’re looking for Justice Born at Salem Willows this weekend, he’ll be the guy with the quiet demeanor, seemingly tending to everything. He knows everyone, talks to anyone, with the presence and smile of a young city councilman. And if you know him to any degree, have ever been part of his Movement, or even spoken to him for more than four minutes, it’s difficult not to wonder if that might be exactly the right next role in the journey of this tireless and dedicated servant of his community. Always looking to improve, ever pondering the mysteries and injustices of his city and our world, there seems no end to Justice’s aspirations of social progress. I, for one, am just glad that we have him in Hip Hop.
See you at the festival.