Albany-based DJ Hollyw8d, known more mundanely as Mario Johnson, started More Music Less Violence in the midst of the pandemic in 2020. Back then, music and art venues were few and far between, and gun violence sidestepped the general isolation to begin its own outbreak in the Capital Region.
“I just wanted to bring back the unity and use music to basically provide a sense of healing and togetherness for the community,” said Johnson. “It’s one of the most impactful things that we have among us that brings us all together.”
Fast forward to today, and the organization will be jumpstarting its fourth concert campaign this Sunday at Saratoga Springs’ Caffè Lena.
“I’m definitely excited for them to open the doors for me and let in More Music Less Violence to be the next stop in our community concert series,” said Johnson.
The organization serves a multitude of purposes, including showcasing local artists and giving them the opportunity to network with other individuals.
But perhaps its most significant goal is in bringing the community together to combat the growing issue of gun violence in the Capital Region.
“We can all come together and have a good time and be in a peaceful environment and not have any negativity stem from it,” said Johnson. “I just want to push the message ‘more music, less violence’ — it’s pretty self-explanatory.”
This will be the first time More Music Less Violence has ventured into Saratoga Springs but its location at Caffè Lena, the historic not-for-profit cafe and music school whose mission is “to provide music, connection and learning from a legendary venue,” is undoubtedly fitting.
“It fits totally with the mission of Caffè Lena of continuing a legacy of music being a community-oriented activity and one that promotes better relationships and shared experience which goes a long way toward communication,” said Vivian Nesbitt, the School of Music coordinator at Caffè Lena.
Sunday’s venue will feature a diverse lineup of performers, including singer MIkayla Mclean, Quaudy Rouse, and spoken word artist The Young Optimist. Local artist Oscar Bográn, who designed the butterfly mural for the Kids Arts Festival in Schenectady earlier this month, will also be in attendance, creating a live art piece as the singers and speakers perform.
“It’s almost like a sensory overload but in the best way possible where you’re hearing some talented music but you’re also seeing a talented artist,” said Johnson. At the end of the show, Johnson says he will give the artist the freedom to do what they want with the finished product, so they can sell it, give it away to an audience member, or do whatever else they choose.
Attendees will also be able to enter in a raffle in which they will have the chance to win goods or services from a number of local Saratoga businesses, including Ben & Jerry’s and Complexions Spa for Beauty & Wellness.
But raffles aside, DJ Hollyw8d and the other artists are excited to be able to share their works with the community and hopefully inspire connection and compassion.
“Music is a medium in which you can, obviously, express feelings but you can level with people with music,” said Kris Baldani or Precedence, who will be performing at the venue Sunday. “It’s another language and if you speak music, interaction is going to be better, it’s going to be more understanding, and it’s just a great way to bring people together for many reasons.”
The event is slated to take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. It is open to all ages and those interested can attend in-person or through Caffè Lena’s live-stream. In-person tickets cost $20, and the entrance fee for the live-stream is $5.