WATERTOWN — A local concert producer hosted a 12-hour show Saturday to spread messages of camaraderie and nonviolence.
James P. “J. P.” Voytko’s fourth concert, billed as “The Only Antiviolence and Stop the Hate Show in America,” held at Maggie’s on the River, 500 Newell St., featured about 20 local performers including the Moonshine River Band, Mykel Quince Myrick, Lake Effect Mud, The Northmen, Showing Signs and Extended Play.
“It’s about stopping the nonsense around the country,” Mr. Voytko said. “It’s to bring all those genres and a group of people together. … I want a rap fan to see a country band and become a fan. Just as much as I want peace on earth.”
In 2015, Mr. Voytko’s friend Eric Eppie was working at a concert by the band Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan theater in Paris when terrorists stormed the building, killing 89 and wounding hundreds, including Mr. Eppie.
A year later, Mr. Voytko, the host and owner of Black Shoe Productions, Henderson, began hosting his nonviolence-themed concerts.
After hearing about the attack, Mr. Voytko said, he wanted to bring people together through music, shun cruelty and show that concerts could still provide safety from brutality. Later tragedies like the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, and the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, both last year, pushed Mr. Voytko to continue hosting the shows and sharing his message.
“This is an amazing message for the community,” said concertgoer John P. King III. “Positivity is key.”
Some performers and attendees had their own stories about them or someone they knew suffering from bullying and attacks, violence they hope will end someday.
Guitarist Ryan R. Hardy said his father assaulted his mother while he was growing up, almost to the point of hospitalization. Jasyn M. Griffin, the guitarist for the band Kickstand, said his cousin, Jessica Pyatte, was shot and killed a couple of years ago in her home in North Carolina. The musician still wears her bracelet in honor of her memory.
“I’d just like to see people come to their senses,” Mr. Griffin said. “Just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t get along.”
A few volunteers from the House of the Good Shepherd helped Mr. Voytko and his company set up the stages and perform other tasks.
Allison M. London, who works for the nonprofit, said she brought volunteers from the nonprofit to the event to help share Mr. Voytko’s message about nonviolence. A few members of the House of the Good Shepherd are regular victims of bullying, she said.
“Violence and bullying aren’t the answers to anything,” she said.
Mr. Voytko said his concerts have grown in attendance over the years. His company sold about 400 tickets for the Saturday show, a big jump from his first concert, when he sold 120.
“(I’m) very proud,”said his mother, Colleen Voytko. “He’s made it a family affair, which makes it even more important. Three generations are working now.”