The Sign Language Interpreter Is the New Hero of Music Festival Season


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Put the lineups for recent music festivals side by side, and you'll see the truth: that the organizers (of the better-known ones, at least) all seem to be booking the same few artists. Not a bad thing when the pickup-stick stars align and you get everybody who's got new albums out on the same bill, but it does leave one wanting a bit more variety. So where can you catch the hottest underground act this season? Just a bit to the left of the mainstage.

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Though Holly Maniatty—the sign language interpreter stealing Snoop's thunder in the video below—has been working the circuit for a decade now, she and her colleagues are only starting to get the recognition they deserve on YouTube, your Insta Stories, and beyond. And as of Wednesday, in a move meant to open the musical experience to the deaf and hard of hearing, Chance the Rapper is bringing ASL interpreters on tour. It's about time concertgoers come to the realization that no, that's not a fan who's somehow jumped the barrier and started grooving onstage without attracting security's attention.

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Their names won't appear on posters anytime soon, but sign language interpreters are nonetheless being seen—by those who need their services, by members of the audience who can appreciate their skills (that speed! that rhythm!), and by the artists whose work they help share. At the end of Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals' set in Napa earlier this month, the frontman even crossed to the side of the stage to bow to the interpreter—who'd clearly had the time of her life—in a gesture of respect. And so too did throngs of enthusiastic festival-goers when they ran into her in the field later, almost as if she were a rockstar herself.

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