Aural Wes on the Decline of the Wes Music Scene

Aural Wes, Wesleyan’s unofficial but well-pedigreed music blog,  has a very pointed editorial by senior contributor “O)))”, a.k.a. Max Lavine ’10, who is pissed about Public Safety’s enforcement of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct in shutting down a show last weekend, and generally disappointed in a perceived decline in both the administration’s attitude and students’ enthusiasm towards student-organized music events on campus lately.

Last weekend, WESU’s 70th Anniversary show in WestCo Cafe was shut down by Public Safety after only one act played out of three scheduled punk/hardcore bands, for reasons unspecified by the author. Apparently people present thought this was a major overreaction to the offense, and the author is upset that the bands’ and student organizers’ time and energy in putting the show together were wasted.

bottle up and goThe editorial finds this incident symptomatic of an administration increasingly hostile towards the independent music scene at Wes:

[…] the point I want to make here is greater. I’ve been organizing shows regularly on this campus for a good while now and it has become increasingly clear to me that Wesleyan has rapidly made itself into an environment that is extremely inhospitable to any sort of independent music scene. The bureaucratic requirements for booking shows are as myriad as they are constantly shifting and dysfunctional; most of the time when bookers have succeeded in jumping through each flaming hoop provided by the multiple organizations (who don’t really communicate with each other) necessary to deal with in booking, something tends to go awry anyway. When you’re dealing with bands whose primary income is not their music (e.g. 99% of working musicians), its terrible for them and embarassing for us when they get paid late or don’t get to play their set because someone was in a meeting, anonymous noise complaints get called in, or PSafe decides to arbitrarily exercise their power to end a perfectly well-mannered show.

I don’t want to make this out to simply be some kind of administrative conspiracy though. It is pretty obvious at this point that, relative to my freshman year, the administration has sought to regulate and normalize ever greater swathes of campus and has tended to turn autonomous student community like that found at student-run concerts into a liability to be controlled instead of something to be fostered and celebrated. And surprise, surprise the number of concerts that go on here has STEEPLY declined since my freshman year. But that’s only half the story.

That’s nothing new – people have feeling this for awhile now (most vocally so in recent memory when Eclectic was banned from hosting shows last semester), and complaints  about the administration homogenizing Wes have been around forever.

This author also blames this year’s WestCo residents for being apathetic/lame, and implicitly wonders whether the WestCo we (at least, current upperclassmen and recent alumni) have always known is on its way out:

As a former 2-year Westco resident, the fact that Westco students complained about the FNU Ronnies/Homostupids show last week is pathetic and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a direct result in PSafe’s unprecedented heavy handedness in shutting down the Drunkdriver show a week later. For one thing, each show in the Cafe is voted on by guidance; if you don’t want a punk show going til 2am in your basement then go vote it down and if that doesn’t work then FUCKING DEAL WITH IT. Your immature whining may have gotten real people with real lives fucked over, not to mention your fellow students. I remember a Westco where people were psyched because there was a show in the Cafe, any show, whether it was our personal “thing” or not, because it made it a more fun, exciting place to live, made it feel more like a creative community than just another college dorm. And yet it seems like at this point Westco residents want just the opposite.

But the larger problem is student apathy towards independent shows, which may not bode well for the future of the Wes music scene:

There have been too many times where I’ve sat quietly at shows watching people show up and then leave after 15 minutes, or disruptively blow through a room with a big crew on the way to the next party. The point is this: if we keep treating having a music scene on this campus like a product to be passively consumed instead of the basis for an fun, subversive and unpredictable community in which we can all participate, then there won’t BE a fucking music scene at Wesleyan.

From my point of view that would be a real fucking shame; being exposed to the diversity, strangeness, and energy surrounding music at this school, especially weird and DiY shit that it’s hard to find without previous knowledge/guidance, has been one of the few most valuable things I’ve gotten from going here.

And a call to action:

It’s sad to think that’s something that may not be around in a year or two, but then again it seems like alot fewer kids at this school WANT that to be a part of their experience anyway. But if that’s not you, if looking at the upcoming events sidebar and seeing a mere 2 concerts for the upcoming weekend makes you anxious, then DO SOMETHING. I’m working on my thesis now and I’m gonna be gone next year, but if you want there to be a vital, challenging and participatory music scene here then it’s something that needs to be fought for.

Ok, that’s enough bully pulpit action for one day. Sorry for repeatedly pulling the “back in my day” card; it’s an incredibly obnoxious senior trope but in this case I think it’s justified because I think it’s pretty clearly accurate to anyone who has given a shit about music here during the last four years.

So how bleak is this? Is the administration cracking down too hard on student-organized shows? Is the independent music scene hopelessly oppressed on all fronts? Is Wes getting too mainstream/boring? Is that as facile a question as ever? BUT REALLY THOUGH. Does WestCo have a future as WestCo? Are concerts your destinations on weekends, or one of many places to see and be seen? Do you like music? You gonna do something about it, punk?

Pressing questions indeed. I’m graduating this year. What do you think, future of Wesleyan?

Read the whole thing on Aural Wes.

[via Blargus]

28 thoughts on “Aural Wes on the Decline of the Wes Music Scene

  1. Pingback: Aural Wes seeks content/contributors – Wesleying

  2. Hunter

    I think he’s more bemoaning the fact that the school makes it a monstrous pain to arrange and maintain the shows than the fact that they aren’t appreciated. That applies all shows of all genres.

  3. Hunter

    I think he’s more bemoaning the fact that the school makes it a monstrous pain to arrange and maintain the shows than the fact that they aren’t appreciated. That applies all shows of all genres.

  4. anon

    maybe this is just not the kind of music that the student body is interested in hearing. I think that there are lots of other shows that are always packed, and yet when this sort of noise punk/hardcore show happens and is almost empty people claim that the music scene is dying? maybe its just that people don’t really like that kind of music.

  5. anon

    maybe this is just not the kind of music that the student body is interested in hearing. I think that there are lots of other shows that are always packed, and yet when this sort of noise punk/hardcore show happens and is almost empty people claim that the music scene is dying? maybe its just that people don’t really like that kind of music.

  6. old timer

    Really, Max Lavine? “one of the few most valuable things I’ve gotten from going here” is watching a bunch of hipsters play noise rock in a dorm basement?

    Cultural memory at Wesleyan is very short. When I lived in Westco in the early-mid 2000’s I regretted how westco (and wesleyan in general) was losing the hippie/activist/gender politics vibe that was still hanging on from the late 90’s, and turning into a cool kids/mini-eclectic kind of place (as Wesleyan itself was hipster-ifying). Now it seems like you guys are up in arms because it’s de-hipster-ifying.

    whatever. it’s just entertainment. as long as everyone graduates and works for non-profits rather than joining i-banks and management consulting firms like your friends at Ivy’s and “peer” schools, Wesleyan will still be Wesleyan. When you get into the real world, you will appreciate the truly unique and enduring aspects of Wes culture, as opposed to the passing fads.

  7. old timer

    Really, Max Lavine? “one of the few most valuable things I’ve gotten from going here” is watching a bunch of hipsters play noise rock in a dorm basement?

    Cultural memory at Wesleyan is very short. When I lived in Westco in the early-mid 2000’s I regretted how westco (and wesleyan in general) was losing the hippie/activist/gender politics vibe that was still hanging on from the late 90’s, and turning into a cool kids/mini-eclectic kind of place (as Wesleyan itself was hipster-ifying). Now it seems like you guys are up in arms because it’s de-hipster-ifying.

    whatever. it’s just entertainment. as long as everyone graduates and works for non-profits rather than joining i-banks and management consulting firms like your friends at Ivy’s and “peer” schools, Wesleyan will still be Wesleyan. When you get into the real world, you will appreciate the truly unique and enduring aspects of Wes culture, as opposed to the passing fads.

  8. Howie

    Ambient shows in the Clark lounge are particularly sweet. And 0% of such shows have been broken up.

  9. Howie

    Ambient shows in the Clark lounge are particularly sweet. And 0% of such shows have been broken up.

  10. Hunter

    this sucks but the problem is you don’t have a solution. I was trying to think of any excuse for you to march in to Roth’s office with marshall stacks, a guitar and a pit, but unless you have a plan for what you want I’d say this:

    Move it out of Wesleyan. Collaborate folks like Manic Productions, red scroll records, Brian Frenette, find spaces in Middletown (think outside the box, I bet a lot of small places will try anything for Wesleyan students), pool money and take it all away from student activities. And obviously, keep bitching and don’t let a single incoming student think that things are going to be good.

    Wesleyan students like to know that things like a good music scene exist, but they’re much more content to write wesleying comments about it than have a hand in it. If the well is dry, find another watering hole

  11. Hunter

    this sucks but the problem is you don’t have a solution. I was trying to think of any excuse for you to march in to Roth’s office with marshall stacks, a guitar and a pit, but unless you have a plan for what you want I’d say this:

    Move it out of Wesleyan. Collaborate folks like Manic Productions, red scroll records, Brian Frenette, find spaces in Middletown (think outside the box, I bet a lot of small places will try anything for Wesleyan students), pool money and take it all away from student activities. And obviously, keep bitching and don’t let a single incoming student think that things are going to be good.

    Wesleyan students like to know that things like a good music scene exist, but they’re much more content to write wesleying comments about it than have a hand in it. If the well is dry, find another watering hole

  12. anon

    this occurance has absolutely nothing to do with westco. The westco community contributes to the music scene and certainly does not take away from it. The cafe is a venue that is not only connected to Westco but the whole community, so to point fingers and blame just the residents who may live upstairs is stupid. P-Safe makes rounds…. if they find someone doing something stupid in the cafe they do something about it. The same way that if they catch you drinking in the hallway of Hewitt they will do something about it.

  13. anon

    this occurance has absolutely nothing to do with westco. The westco community contributes to the music scene and certainly does not take away from it. The cafe is a venue that is not only connected to Westco but the whole community, so to point fingers and blame just the residents who may live upstairs is stupid. P-Safe makes rounds…. if they find someone doing something stupid in the cafe they do something about it. The same way that if they catch you drinking in the hallway of Hewitt they will do something about it.

  14. anonymous

    people call p-safe more and more, which is a symptom of the success of the administration’s attempt to homogenize the campus and in so doing destroy student solidarity. why talk to each other when we can call daddy roth’s shock troops? clearly thats a facetious way of putting it, but the more we rely on public safety the less we communicate, the farther we get from forming a community of adults and not just a mass of children. this goes doubly for westco kids who have doubly made a commitment to community and not just cohabitation.

  15. anonymous

    people call p-safe more and more, which is a symptom of the success of the administration’s attempt to homogenize the campus and in so doing destroy student solidarity. why talk to each other when we can call daddy roth’s shock troops? clearly thats a facetious way of putting it, but the more we rely on public safety the less we communicate, the farther we get from forming a community of adults and not just a mass of children. this goes doubly for westco kids who have doubly made a commitment to community and not just cohabitation.

  16. Nick Marshall

    O)))’s point is also that this show was almost empty when PSafe broke it up, and that we’re doing a terrible job of sustaining our music scene. This isn’t just about PSafe.

  17. Nick Marshall

    O)))’s point is also that this show was almost empty when PSafe broke it up, and that we’re doing a terrible job of sustaining our music scene. This isn’t just about PSafe.

  18. logical

    Why can’t people just not drink/smoke at events where you aren’t supposed to drink/smoke if they don’t want them shut down? Psafe enforces the rules, but honestly, these rules aren’t that hard to follow – just walk 20 feet out of doors.

  19. logical

    Why can’t people just not drink/smoke at events where you aren’t supposed to drink/smoke if they don’t want them shut down? Psafe enforces the rules, but honestly, these rules aren’t that hard to follow – just walk 20 feet out of doors.

  20. Anon

    while some of hir points are valid, I’m pretty sure PSafe just came around and caught people drinking/smoking. not really westco’s fault.

  21. Anon

    while some of hir points are valid, I’m pretty sure PSafe just came around and caught people drinking/smoking. not really westco’s fault.

  22. Braille

    w/ 0))) on this one mostly. I find the position of the University vis a vis its ASSETS to be simultaneously self-serving and self-defeating. Presumably MGMT is the best thing to happen to admissions EVER, but the projection of an image of W as a hip ‘hotbed’ of artistic ferment WHILE forcing any and all student events through a sieve wherein any reasonably well attended show runs the everpresent risk of early shutdown is frustrating. It implies that this is somehow a conducive environment. The best show’s I’ve been to this year have been relatively-in-control but still obviously unpermitted shows in woodframes. There’s something to be said for ‘underground’ venues, but I don’t think this is it. guh.

  23. Westco supporter

    Come to the cafe on Saturday for the underpants dance to feel the WestCo community in its true form!

  24. Westco supporter

    Come to the cafe on Saturday for the underpants dance to feel the WestCo community in its true form!

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