USA Today on Wes Bands, Eclectic, Elmo Costumes

User comment of the year: “AWE SWEEETTTT! Music mucho bien. TRolOlOlololol”

Guys. We’re famous. Again.

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.

Meanwhile, Aural Wes usual suspect Sky Stallbaumer ’12 weighs in with what actually does make our concert scene tick, compared with peer institutions:

“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.

Go Wes!

[USA Today]


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12 thoughts on “USA Today on Wes Bands, Eclectic, Elmo Costumes

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  4. Senior '12

    This is the article I send to my family and friends to laugh about how pretentious and hipster-y some of my classmates are. We cannot stop laughing at how fluffed up this article is. I always hope that these kinds of articles don’t paint all of Wesleyan this way. Glorifying a bunch of drug-addled elitists. Oy. I’m just glad that when I graduate shortly it won’t matter to anyone around me who gets written up in Pitchfork or Vice Mag.

    1. Also Senior '12

      to be honest, i think that the article reflects poorly on the writer’s unwillingness to further explore the music scene on campus. It seems like he honed in on eclectic as “the place” on campus and pulled quotes to support it. i don’t think sky or casey said anything pretentious at all.

      1. The Hamburgler

        “[Eclectic] is literally the only space that can handle 250-person crowds and boasts a tolerable acoustic environment to enjoy these shows in.”Sky Stallbaumer
        I like Sky. I think Sky has done a fairly good job of managing Concert Committee, but this statement simply isn’t true.

  5. Fgserg

    this article makes it seem like eclectic is the coolest thing ever… it fails to acknowledge how we actually have an amazing variety of awesome venues on campus

      1. The Hamburgler

        You just outlined the entire problem. If we’re judging our music choices based on who has gotten a write-up on Pitchfork, then of course we’re going to be playing to a specific crowd. Open your fucking eyes. There are other ways of judging music.

  6. Chappaqua Jewish Center

    Yet, Zach. You’re in Eclectic Yet! This article and your left arm might just be your ticket in!

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