The Emerge lineup of musicians, artists and revolutionaries is by no means a random assortment. The festival has carefully arranged its speakers and performers within four overarching themes, or “experiences”: Protest, Self, Brave and Sex. “These are themes that are meaningful to everybody, regardless of perspective,” says festival founder Rehan Choudhry.
The Weekly asked Choudhry to unpack each theme a bit.
“The biggest community gatherings of the last decade weren’t actually festivals. They turned out to be protests and rallies: The Women’s March, March for Our Lives, etcetera. … What we’re trying to dive into is, what does the future of protest movements actually look like? We’re doing that by bringing in the people who are leading the movements right now [and] try to figure out: How do they evolve from what’s worked in the past into a new era where we’re connected universally under large-scale social platforms, but [at the same time] feel more divided and isolated than ever.”
“What’s been really incredible over the last few years has been how aware we are of the not just mental illness, but the various degrees of it. Historically, mental illness has been stigmatized and buried, in a lot of cases and a lot of familial environments. Now, we’re striving to understand the way we tick, why we tick, why we feel the way we feel, why we make decisions the way we do, and more importantly, once we can identify some of the issues that we’re struggling with, how we can solve them.”
“It’s funny, Brave was originally called Fear. The idea was to understand how fear is a good thing, and it’s not something that we should bury or shy away from. ... But we ended up flipping it and calling it Brave, because rather than going down the rabbit hole of negativity, we wanted to celebrate the people who were able to identify the root causes of their fear and work through them.”
“[The rules of sex] have not necessarily changed, but they’ve become more defined and more universally relevant. … We want to show the baseline of understanding the rules of consent, because while awareness [of consent] has been generated through #MeToo, the response from mainstream male America is that our freedoms are getting taken away from us, that we live in a more restrictive era. The reality is, if you just understand and operate under the basic rules of consent, we’re actually living in one of the most progressive times in history, sexually.”
Those “experiences” aren’t the only way to experience Emerge, however. “The key is being able to approach it in whatever way you’re comfortable,” Choudhry says. “We still very much have our roots in emerging perspectives, so if you strip away the themes and topics, we’ve got an incredible lineup of emerging thought leaders and emerging musicians coming together to celebrate the things that matter most to them.”
EMERGE May 31 & June 1, times vary, $199/weekend, $130/day, $25-$55/show. Hard Rock Hotel, emergelv.com.