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Spring Fling: Rock out or Blackout?

Arts & Culture | May 9, 2011

At around 11:45 on the morning of Spring Fling, I wandered into AEPi, dodged drunk girls stumbling around in matching t-shirts, and climbed the stairs to the roof. I looked out over the back end of the houses on Professor’s Row and took in the pounding bass coming from sound systems up and down the street. Spring Fling would be officially starting in 15 minutes, but I knew that the crowds of partiers clustered around the backyard beer pong games would not be leaving any time soon.

I already knew about Spring Fling’s contentious history with alcohol, the declaration that 2009 Spring Fling was a Mass Casualty Event, and the university’s controversial decision to make the event dry in 2010. This year the university struck again, shortening Spring Fling to just two acts and forcing Concert Board to drop rapper Biz Markie from the lineup.

I also knew that the lineup itself was a source of contention amongst the students, but I was slightly befuddled by the degree of rancor Concert Board’s choices seemed to incur. What I did not realize was that for many, Spring Fling is more about the alcohol than the music and what they want in a lineup is a Top 40 artist who will provide a pumping soundtrack for their debauchery.

My distress is not at my classmates’ taste, though it is drastically different from my own, but rather at their attitude. To approach a concert that way is to completely miss the point and power of live music. In fact, this year’s Spring Fling was a veritable exaltation of musical tradition. Consider the Roots’ joyous tribute to Fela Kuti, one of the strongest songs in their set. Rapper Black Thought appeared to want nothing more than to teach the listening crowd about the Nigerian revolutionary and afro-beat sensation. Their final song, a euphoric medley of the Roots’ own “You Got Me” with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Immigrant Song” was a stunning mélange of styles and a virtuosic display on the part of guitarist Captain Kirke.

Oddly, the Roots did not immediately retake the stage when the crowd called for an encore at the end of the set. Instead, percussionist F. Knuckles came on alone and laid down a beat while, out of the blue, Karmin—the Boston acoustic pop duo and recent YouTube sensation—appeared and performed a cover of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now.” The crowd’s reaction shifted palpably from confusion, to skepticism, to awe at singer and rapper Amy Heidemann’s toungue-twisting rap mastery. The duo left as quickly as it came, and when the Roots retook the stage, a mumble from drummer ?uestlove about YouTube was all the audience got by way of explanation. Not even Concert Board knew the duo would be coming, and I am hedging a guess that the Roots had seen the group’s videos on YouTube and simply invited them to come play a song, just for the love of music.

The fans assembled with me before the stage for the length of Spring Fling were there for the same reason. We weren’t partying to the music of the Roots; we were partying because of it.

Sophomore Hilary Ludlow argues that whether you come to Spring Fling for the concert or the party will always depend on whether you like the bands chosen. “So,” she said, “I went into it this year actively with the mindset that I wanted to appreciate it for the music.” But I argue that those who prefer an artist like Drake because he provides better raging music are going to rage just as hard whether Drake plays or not.

Let Concert Board plan Spring Fling for those who come for the love of music, and I guarantee everyone else will find a way to enjoy the party.