User comment of the year: “AWE SWEEETTTT! Music mucho bien. TRolOlOlololol”
Remember that time Wesleyan became the “epicenter of surrealist Brooklyn pop”? The Village Voice cast an approving eye on Wesleyan’s music scene in August 2009—the dawn of my freshman year—back when MGMT was a fresh success story and Das Racist, Boy Crisis, and Bear Hands were all up-and-coming reference points. That article bears mention for a number of reason: it replaced the Hollywood “Wesleyan Mafia” with a slightly more bearded Brooklyn contingent; it brought VanWyngarden and friends to the mainstream of Wesleyan’s admissions information sessions and applicant pool (remember this?); and it contained this extraordinary sentence:
Thus did the young scholar soon find himself at a nearby co-ed fraternity called the Eclectic Society, rocking indeed with one Will Berman, now the drummer for Wesleyan-bred, quasi-hippie, semi-famous electro-rockers MGMT.
It’s been two-and-a-half years, so we’re well overdue for another gushing Wesleyan music feature in a mainstream news source.
This time it’s USA Today’s College page; headlined “Student and alumni musicians bring ‘Wesleyan Wave’ to the national scene,” the article comes complete with a “Wesleyan Playlist” of Soundcloud embeds that runs the gamut from Das Racist and and Santigold to C¥BERGIGA and Lioness. Anyone smell hype? I smell hype.
What I like about this article—at least compared with the 2009 Voice piece—is that it extends its scope well beyond a few high-profile alumni. So yeah, it begins by pointing out that “MGMT, Das Racist, Santigold, Amazing Baby, Bear Hands and Fort Lean all boast [Wesleyan] diplomas” (no dice, Amanda Palmer ’98, who both performed this fall and has written music about Wesleyan), but soon refocuses on current student activity, which includes both concert-booking (a smorgasbord of examples from the last three semesters) and student bands (Peace Museum, Lioness, and Awesomefest all get shout-outs).
“Once MGMT broke out, the school attracted people who saw it as a place where students could be creative, which is true. The great thing about it in my opinion is it really comes from the students themselves,” said Casey Feldman [’12], Wesleyan film major and member of the band Peace Museum.
“We […] have a pretty incredible infrastructure available to us that lets students book their own shows for the year, with a student-controlled budget and an endless supply of divergent musical tastes and preferences, reflected pretty accurately by this year’s concert calendar,” Stallbaumer said.
The article mentions recent No Age, Purity Ring, Wye Oak, and Dodos shows, among others, but seems less concerned with the upcoming month, which may be one of the insanest yet. (Here ya go, USA Today: Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Cloud Nothings, Future Islands, Big Freedia, Edan, Tanlines, Battle of the Bands, Spring Fling.) (There’s no mention of recent totally-nuts guerrilla performances by Lightning Bolt or Amanda Palmer either, but what can you do?)
I could stop there—yes, our music scene is stupidly vibrant; yes, it feels good to get recognition—but the article does somewhat of a disservice (in real life and on the ACB) by suggesting that
- (a) music activity at Wesleyan is entirely inseparable from Eclectic;
- (b) Eclectic is the only significant venue for music happenings on campus (there is no mention of WestCo, Beckham, BuHo, MuHo, Earth House, The Chapel, or the Center for the Arts, which seems ridiculous to me);
- (a) you have to be in Eclectic to book or approve shows in the space (disclosure: I’ve organized shows mentioned in the article; I’m not in Eclectic):
For a taste of the article’s wave speed:
Students can complete an application process to live in the house and approve the concerts that are booked there.
“Most of the more successful musicians that have come out of Wesleyan recently have been a part of [Eclectic.] It’s a really unique and incredible place,” Feldman said.
Stallbaumer acknowledges Eclectic as the most popular venue on campus.
Well, yeah, so it goes, Eclectic is the most popular venue for shows on campus, but sometimes breaks from the norm are just as refreshing. Remember that time Už Jsme Doma freaked out in the Chapel? Remember that time Harry and the Potters fucked up some horcruxes in Alpha Delt’s living room? Remember Skabridge!??
In conclusion, the article falls far short of encompassing the breadth of music happenings and venues at Wes, but it’s all worth it for this series of sentences:
Wesleyan is a place where students dare to do music differently. Some perform in partial Elmo costumes and others watch as touring bands jump in a trashcan, roll down the stairs of Eclectic and light the drum kit on fire.