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.
The 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.