Meet the 2023 Matter News Fest performers

The free, daylong celebration of music, arts and local journalism takes place outdoors at Franklinton's Secret Studio on Saturday, July 15. Get a first look at the schedule.
Jacoti Sommes
Jacoti SommesDanielle Petrosa

Matter News takes over Secret Studio on Saturday, July 15, for a free, outdoor celebration of music, arts and local news. Doors open at 3 p.m. and the action winds down by 9 p.m.

Here’s a first look at the full schedule, along with links to features about each performer. (Set times subject to change).

4:00 p.m. Opening and musician Paisha Thomas

“In September last year, I had a Streetlight Guild performance coming up … but in my own life I was going through absolute, unprecedented hell. … My life hurt really bad, and it was almost too much,” Paisha Thomas said. “But I knew we had this show coming, and I knew if I could just get to the Streetlight Guild, it would be so healing and restorative, because I’d get to tell my story and play with these people that I love in a building I adore. So, I started writing the song in that mindset: If I can just get to the streetlight. And then the rest of the song wrote itself.”

Thomas ended up performing the song a cappella during her September concert at the East Side arts space, describing the moment as transformative.

“I wrote the song that day, and my band members were like, ‘You can’t be throwing stuff at us at the last minute like that,’” Thomas said of the decision to perform the track unaccompanied. “And I just look back on it now in awe, because it was such an inspired moment. Even though it was like, ‘Girl, you’re not taking us with you,’ everyone still came along.”

5:00 p.m. Poet Sara Abou Rashed

“When I did [the spoken-word piece] ‘A Map of Myself,’ I was at an earlier stage in the U.S. than I am now, and I was still wrestling heavily with alienation, with how people looked at me, with how I existed in this country,” Sara Abou Rashed said. “I was asking, what does it mean to be new? To want to belong? But now I feel many of these issues are settled, and maybe there is a different set of issues. Now that I am here and do see myself as part of this country, I’m asking, what is my responsibility? How do I work in this society? How do I reach my potential?”

5:10 p.m. Musician Aloe Vera

“I wanted this clear through line where it’s like, unchecked trauma leads to you losing the things you really care about and love,” Aloe Vera said. “I look back at who I was, and I was just a really angry kid without a lot of nurturing energy or fostering energy to help me move forward. … There’s that air of ‘I could have done better, and I should have done better, but I didn’t know.’”

6:00 p.m. Comedian Christine Horvath

“So, eventually I had to shed that anger, and I had to soften, and I had to admit to myself that the way I was going about things was wrong,” Horvath said. “I wasn’t doing a good job of winning folks over to my team until I started looking at things differently. I thought, ‘Instead of being angry, maybe I could just be loving. And maybe I could give people what that young comedian in me needed: the welcoming, the fist bumps, the high fives. And maybe if I gave that out, I could feel better within.’ And lo and freaking behold. … Now, what had previously been expressed as anger, it’s being expressed as love.”

6:10 p.m. Panel Discussion

Matter News editor Andy Downing and Columbus Monthly senior editor Joel Oliphint in conversation with Columbus Dispatch features editor Erica Thompson. Downing and Oliphint will be discussing their collaborative feature on the disbanded Columbus police Vice Unit, which you can read here.

7:00 p.m. Musician Jacoti Sommes

“I’m very aware of a message that I want to present,” Jacoti Sommes said. “As I get older, I realize more it’s not about me. It’s not about me surviving or getting through life just coasting and being okay. The situation at-large is not okay, and that’s enough for me. I have nephews, I have young Black men in my life who are as lost as I was at one point, if not more. And I feel like I owe it to them to give them a better chance. And I’m willing to make those sacrifices now."

8:00 p.m. Poet Ruth Awad

“I started thinking about all of the light that my mom cast into my life, and all of the areas that would be dimmer with her not in the world with me,” Ruth Awad said. “And it started this grieving process and made me want to memorialize those moments when I loved her sharpest. … For me, writing poems is a way to hold fast to the ephemeral, the things you can’t keep. And when I write poems about some of these big loves, or big moments in my life, it makes it feel a bit more fixed, like maybe I can keep it. … Part of the ambition of these poems is to create a shared space where we can grieve together, and where she can feel my love and how much her love has shaped me.”

8:10 p.m. Musician Joe Camerlengo

“So, when people said your priorities shifted after becoming a parent, I always thought it meant, ‘Oh, well you’re going to cut down on your other pieces of the pie. And now the art pie is gone, and the time pie is gone, and you just have the baby pie. And that’s all it is, and they fill the whole chart,” Joe Camerlengo said. “Then we had Ozzy, and while I realize I don’t have infinite amounts of time ... a lot of what I had going before is very much still there. I’m more artistically inspired than ever, because I’ve never felt as positive or as strongly about anything as I do being with Ozzy and Courtney. Having that little family is the most incredible environment, and I’ve been creating like crazy.”

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