Unofficial Orientation Series 2015: Wes Music Scene

This is my update of Q’s post from last year, which was an update of his post from 2013. Some things have changed, but  the scene here is still ‘unique, zealous, and sweaty.’

titus andronicus

New Jersey punkers Titus Andronicus at Eclectic, 5/1/2015

The more I talk to college kids at other schools, the more I realize how much the music scene at Wesleyan sets itself apart. Though we have them, we are not confined to house parties and bars — there’s music nearly every day, all week. Often, there’s so much music that you can’t possibly go to it all, but you try anyway.

Once things get going, there are 3-5 concerts every weekend, sometimes even multiple shows a night. I’ve seen more bands than I have the energy to count with more variety than I can quantify simply  by wandering around at Wesleyan on a given weekend. The folks who book shows at Wesleyan work very hard to bring in all kinds of groups, well-known or just emerging, from punk to dance, and usually put one or two solid student bands on the list.

Many student bands have gone on to greater things, like Henry Hall ‘14 of Grand Cousin (RIP), the Rooks (who are playing The Mash this year, fyi), Novelty Daughter, Overcoats, Heems of Das Racist, AND MORE. Wesleyan is also home to a unique brand of jazz/hip-hop fusion, as showcased by bands like Sky Bars and junior band Chef.

Seriously. It’s very special. What’s even better is that 95% of this stuff is totally free.

Concert news usually spreads by word of mouth, through Facebook, or through Aural Wes, the campus music blog. It’s The Place to find out what’s going on each weekend and the home of artist interviews, a list of on-campus and alumni bands, and a very helpful weekly concert preview.

First, here’s my personal rundown of where you can go to catch shows at Wesleyan on the weekends (and the occasional Wednesday) and what you’ll be able to find there:

Eclectic (200 High St.)
I’ve probably seen more shows at Eclectic than I have anywhere else on campus. Recently it’s been a very hardcore place, featuring concerts from acts like Titus Andronicus, Pile, and Cymbals Eat Guitars. It also seems to be where most off-campus bands perform. Eclectic is also the home of the yearly Battle of the Bands, whose winner opens at Spring Fling. (More on Spring Fling later.)

Buddhist House (BuHo) (356 Washington St.)
BuHo is hard to categorize as a concert venue — it’s been home to concerts from shoegazey rock band Delicate Steve, alt cellist Mel Hsu, indie darling Mount Eerie, and North Carolina jam band Midnight Snack. Generally, the acts are all pretty out there, all extremely unique, and worth the trek to their far corner of campus.

200 Church
Church is kind of an ‘anything goes’ type of space — it holds musicals, DJ sets, a cappella concerts, student bands, spoken-word acts like Darkmatter, shows by the student-run story collective The Sloth.. seriously anything.

Alpha Delt (185 High St.)
They don’t throw concert parties that often, but the Alpha Delta Phi society really knows how to do so. Last year, I saw alumni band The Rooks, student band MFDP (it stands for ‘Music for Drunk People’), Asian-American rap extraordinaire Awkwafina, and the inimitable Sky Bars. They put on a concert on Halloween last year that I only vaguely remember, but it was fun.

Art/Music House (230 Washington St.)
Art House and Music House have been partners in crime at 230 Wash since the beginning of last year. Since then, it’s become a great spot for punk groups like Girlpool, the Murdertones (they do punk covers of Beatles songs), and Faceplant as well as some pretty out-there experimental rock groups like VAX. Anybody But The Cops and Juan Wauters also performed there last year. Art/MuHo was the home of a lot of good Thursday night shows last year. Hopefully that trend continues.

WestCo Café (underneath WestCo 3)
Since the Café has a lot of space, it’s usually the home of weird musicals like Tragikingdom, a musical set in the Middle Ages and written around the songs of No Doubt, as well as a bunch of smaller concerts. Bands like Sun Parade and Cuddle Magic have performed here. Sometimes there are also raves there? I’m not sure. It’s also home to an open mic night, and occasionally people get to play sad acoustic music in a graveyard.

Earth House (159 High St.)
Earth House is generally a pretty chill space. From the mouth of Q: “Almost any band can come through here as long as they’re down for a comfy tight space, warm lights, and dope atmosphere. Earth house always provides fresh concerts that vary widely in genre but stay consistent in quality.” Last year, Earth House was home to concerts from badass rocker Mitski, pop-rock band Happyness, Latin-inspired jazz band Don Froot, and “Providence techno weirdos” Container.

Senior Houses/Junior Village
A lot of student bands end up playing in someone’s living room just for fun. In various places around Senior Village, High Rise, and Lo Rise, I’ve seen a Strokes cover band, a cappella groups, and student DJs. In the words of Q, “No real point in saying much except that there are parties and concerts there, so why not go?”

 

However, these eight spots aren’t the only places to find music at Wesleyan. The Center for the Arts brings a lot of unique music, dance, and other performing arts groups from across the country and even internationally. They brought the Vijay Iyer Trio and held a lot of interesting artist talks last year, among many, many other things. You can find a lot of jazz and classical stuff in Crowell Concert Hall, theater in the CFA Hall, world music in the World Music Hall. CFA events are usually ticketed and not always free, so it’s best to keep your eyes peeled on this here blog for CFA event posts or bookmark the CFA events calendar so you’re always a step ahead.

Wesleyan is home to a dozen or so a cappella groups which perform all around campus — in Olin Library, in the Memorial Chapel, wherever. The Memorial Chapel also hosts a lot of concerts. My favorite musical event BY FAR that happened in there was the yearly Organ Romp, the end-of-semester concert for the organ class. Two guys who wore tin foil hats performed “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats in onesies. On the organ.

The infamous Zonker Harris Day happens every April, usually around 4/20. Along with the, uh, recreations is a day-long music festival in the WestCo courtyard with around ten campus bands playing their tunes for you.

There’s also Spring Fling every May, for which a committee of students brings in a hip-hop headliner, a supporting indie band, a DJ, and whatever student band wins the Battle of the Bands that year. Then they all play at the foot of Foss Hill and everyone gets drunk. It’s a good time.

The next of many outdoor concerts is The Mash, in which the CFA sets up three or four different stages around campus and at which bands play each day. This year, the Mash will be on Sept. 11, and you can even watch President Michael Roth’s band, Smokin Lillies, at a stage near you.

Another personal interjection: mosh pits are great. They’re terrifying as a smaller person, but I love them. And I’ve found the ubiquitous mosh pits at Wes to be much safer and less annoying than the ones in my hometown’s punk scene. That being said, I’d still like to volunteer ztevenz’s post “‘______ Fall Back’: On Concert Culture, Moshing and (Un)Safe Spaces” from last year as recommended reading.

Although the dawn of a frat-free Wes means that High Street is going to look a lot emptier, I don’t think the music scene is going to suffer that much. Expect anything. Expect everything.