Today the injustices being faced by people of color run so much deeper than ‘Someone shut down my party…’ or ‘They forgot how good our band is, please book us…’ People of color are being profiled, mistreated, beaten, and murdered, and we believe this injustice needs to stop. But for us to make a difference, given our limited scope of resources, the best that HUSHconcerts can do is to educate on what we know: music, arts, food, books, links and experiences. To share resources that help our fans, friends, and followers get wiser and make a difference themselves.

We deeply appreciate your continued support for the past 20+ years and hope you will take some time to support the people in the links below.

And if you have the time, please read on past these links to hear a bit about what we have learned from those decades of working to present the music of the African Diaspora.

Had the music industry done better by black artists , no-one would have needed SunsetSF. Alas, the legacy of exploitation in our industry is sad, sordid, and six miles long. However, due to the direct nature of music support (less middle-men), you can buy some music from a black musician and have more faith that they will see your money. We recommend avoiding streaming services, and going to BANDCAMP, since they pay the best royalties.

How you can be a supporter and ally:



Bay Area Black Market is an excellent resource for finding them.

Here is SF Eater’s list.

From 7×7 Magazine

What does the world care about what a company owned by white people says about the Black Lives Matter movement? It’s a valid question and the main reason HUSHconcerts (as a company) has not spoken out yet about recent events. We felt that these issues were best discussed by people more astute and more directly involved than we. And even bringing up our history with the music of the African diaspora would sound disingenuous, self-promoting, and pandering. How does any of our experiences give us any right to speak on the larger issues around racial equality?

North Beach Jazz Fest - a clear threat to the sanctity of... nothing

North Beach Jazz Fest – a clear threat to the sanctity of… nothing

So, we followed our long-held and collectively agreed rule of, ‘speak your heart on your personal pages…’ while HUSHconcerts is only political about artistic matters. Thus, we, like the rest of the music industry, so far spoke up only in support of Blackout Tuesday.

In the past week, many of our closest friends, fans, and followers have reached out with a different perspectives. They convinced us that our unique experience gives us a perspective worth sharing.  Some have argued that white people who spent careers championing afro-centric music might have an insight or two, and  now would be the time to share what what we have learned.

First we will say that it was the music of the African diaspora (Funk, Soul, Hip Hop, Blues, Jazz, African, Latin, and Brazilian) that inspired us to form our company. John and Robbie’s deep experiences working and living in New Orleans specifically showed them a place where the music scene was color-blind, even in the midst of institutional racism in the surrounding job market, schools, and institutions. We carried New Orleans’ artistic ideals to the founding of Sunset Promotions in 1997, and our work on North Beach Jazz, SF Funk Fest and of course, HUSHconcerts. We launched the company with SF Mardi Gras Ball in 1997, and set out to bring New Orleans music to the Bay. Although our primary business has changed, we have been doing so ever since.

Foggfest 2007 (clockwise from Top Left) Brian Setzer, James Brown & Fred Thomas, Leela James, Dr John

Foggfest 2007 (clockwise from Top Left) Brian Setzer, James Brown & Fred Thomas, Leela James, Dr John

Over the years, the artists we risked our own money, (to both profit and lose), would include the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic, The Family Stone, Carlos Santana, Mandrill, The JBs, Roy Ayers, Morris Day & the Time, Janelle Monae, Jurassic 5, Spearhead, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Goapale, Ledisi, Rebirth Brass Band,  Leela James, The Wild Magnolias, Zigaboo Modeliste, The Headhunters, The Last Poets, Lee Fields, The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, Daara J, Rachid Taha, Antibalas, Santigold, Fishbone, and dozens of others. Then add hundreds of local and regional bands we booked in support – most of them playing music  predominately from the African diaspora. We also worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for our brothers and sisters in New Orleans who were displaced by Katrina.

Along the way, we had soul-searing experiences that demonstrated the maltreatment many of these artists had become accustomed to from promoters less scrupulous than we. Some demanded payment in cash before hitting the stage, and some refused to take a photos with white promoters after coming off. Some demanded we send photos of the hotel rooms before booking them. We even had one instance where an intern had used the wrong press photo on a draft flyer after an erroneous google search. The mistook this innocent carelessness for intentional racism and exclaimed ‘Motherfucker, do you think all black people look alike?’

And early on, before some people acknowledged our commitment, there were even some in our own community who questioned our motives and right to present this music at all. A few of the more ignorant ones characterized us essentially as ‘White Trust-Funder Marin-Types culturally appropriating black music to get over’. The truth was that we loved the music, were willing to risk deeply to present it, and that we breathed that New Orleans value of ‘Ain’t no color on the dancefloor’.

George Clinton with HUSHconcerts founders Robbie Kowal (left) and John Miles (right) at SF Funk Fest 2002

There were also the many artists who, upon meeting us at the airport, would say something akin to ‘I thought you would be black.’ Which, given our deep love of the genres in question, we took as the best kind of compliment.

There have been unforgettable positive experiences that we will take to the grave. So many of these artists gave us indelible performances, and more importantly, trust and friendship. We got the Family Stone back together, put Janelle Monae on a little stage on Green Street, put Carlos Santana on Coit Tower, helped Mandrill, The JB’s, Cymande and Sugar Hill Gang do their first SF shows in decades, and James Brown his last. Our 20+ year friendship with Rebirth Brass Band is something we dear to our hearts. No matter what, we have always done our best to support funk, soul, hip hop, african, brazilian and latin music artists because it is what we love most and what we do best.

In time, as the Bay Area’s demographics evolved and the promotion game became riskier, we had to dial back on the concerts. North Beach Jazz and SF Funk fell victim to the politics of gentrification. We shifted our attention to the job of ensuring that public events could happen at all. HUSHconcerts now uses technology and knowhow to ensure that concerts, parties, and get togethers of all kinds can happen without the scrutiny of angry neighbors or insensitive officials. And although this business is more stable and deeply rewarding in its own way, we dearly miss the days when we could take a shot on a band we loved and see the colors of the rainbow on the dance floor.

So our business is different, but our hearts are still in it, so we hoped that sharing some of these links and experiences would be part of the solution.

Robbie Kowal
CEO HUSHconcerts