The news that FreakNik – the infamous Atlanta spring break party synonymous with the city in the ‘80s and ‘90s – would return this summer elicited immediate reaction from those who experienced the scene.
Most wondered why anyone would resurrect the FreakNik moniker, considering that the event devolved into a hedonistic binge of drinking, partying and public nudity in its later years.
Others scoffed at the promoters’ intention to present the new version of FreakNik as a family-friendly event.
Carlos Neal is one of the partners in After 9, the Atlanta-based promotion company that is bringing FreakNik back on June 22 at Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood, and he wants to clarify a few things.
Yes, the 2019 FreakNik is endorsing inclusiveness and a safe environment – and families are welcome, as long as everyone is 18 and older.
But, he said, “The whole aspect of family-friendly, you have brothers and sisters and maybe even their daughters who are 21. This is what we meant when we said ‘family fun.’ I look at it this way – when people think of FreakNik, they think of the exploitation of women. If people choose to dance and party and that’s how they express themselves, that’s fine. But I want to use this (event) as a platform to discuss women’s empowerment. We want to talk about safe sex and Planned Parenthood . We’re going to have a voter registration drive and martial arts instruction – a free self-defense course for women – earlier in the day.” And, Neal added, “Besides, all family isn’t blood.”
Performers announced so far for the all-day concert include Project Pat, Uncle Luke, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, Kilo Ali, Bun B. and Pastor Troy. Neal says he has at least three more “big name” acts booked who will be unveiled “strategically” in the upcoming two months.
Neal chose a primarily hip-hop lineup because, he said, “That’s the genre that excites me. Every person currently on this show are people whose albums I listened to growing up. I’m an Atlanta native, I came from a single-parent-assisted-living home. Now I’m a leader in my company and my community and am a husband and a father. These are all (artists) I identify with.”
Neal said that more than 4,500 tickets have already been sold for the event, which was announced on Monday. He envisions a full house at Lakewood – which holds about 18,000 – by show time.
His primary goal, though, is to reinvent FreakNik, especially for those who enjoyed it before it expanded into unbridled debauchery. (Incidentally, Neal applied for the FreakNik copyright after the Cartoon Network - the last entity to hold it - allowed it to expire.)
“FreakNik didn’t start off (the way people remember it). It was students in college going to have a great weekend with their friends,” Neal said. “The way I look at it is this: a fire is so amazing, you can use it to heat your home, cook your food, all kinds of great uses. But if you do not control that fire, it becomes dangerous. That’s like anything in life. If you create something and lose control of it, it can be dangerous. Think about the (April 4-5) B2K concerts (at State Farm Arena) and the nostalgia it creates. It evokes feelings. The feeling that is evoked by the name of this – people are already jumping on it.”
Some who have publicly commented on the return of FreakNik have noted that the sassy logo for the event – silhouettes of curvy women positioned around the FreakNik name – seems contradictory to a respectful approach.
Neal has heard the reaction.
“Let’s be honest – we know FreakNik was about women expressing themselves. For those women who are conservative, this probably isn’t the event for you. Our goal is not to offend anyone, but that’s a subjective thing.”
The long-term ambition of reviving FreakNik is to turn it into an annual event that could also be staged nationwide.
But for now, Neal wants to emphasize that his first priority is everyone’s safety.
Then, he said, “Second is that everyone will have a great time. Third, I’d like to break even! And then I want to educate and empower.”
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