The MASH Preview: Words From Harrison Nir ’19 and Jess Best ’13

“It’s not one sound, not one performance, not one identity, but a community of styles and backgrounds. I want the MASH to stand for all that converges or has the potential to at Wes.”

The MASH at Wesleyan University, Sept. 9. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

Since its inception in 2013, the MASH has approached each autumn with a student coordinator who works in tandem with CFA administrators to plan the event. This year, the student mastermind is Harrison Nir ’19, who worked overtime this summer on reimagining the structure of the festival – and generated prolific amounts of informative Facebook hype in the process. We talk to Harrison and alumna headliner Jess Best ’13 after the jump.

Reflecting on his summer-long development process, Harrison remarked “I’m trying to approach the main MASH problem, which is underrepresentation of people on campus – as it can be with the broader live music scene at Wesleyan.  My attempted solution – not total solution – is to make it more of an arts fair, and to invite avenues for other modes of creative expression. This year’s MASH keeps the music at the forefront, but uses music as a vessel for all these other forms of creation as well. It’s not one sound, not one performance, not one identity, but a community of styles and backgrounds. I want the MASH to stand for all that converges or has the potential to at Wes.”

The MASH places three stages around the campus center, each with its own, simultaneous programming – a packed and talent-filled schedule which requires careful planning to make sure you can see all of the acts you’re interested in. All of the stages are outfitted with rented sound gear and professional engineers, so student Sound Co-op workers get to take the day off. As if that weren’t enough stimulation, Harrison has invited other campus artists to join in the proceedings in order to complement and augment the distinct musical vibes of each stage.

The stage outside of Olin Library plays host to a pensive mix of solo singer-songwriters, instrumentalists, and a cappella groups, and its transitions between acts will be filled with short sets by members of WeSlam and other campus poets. The stage just east of North College typically features a more sprawling lineup of jam bands and noise manipulators, and a selection of visual artists will take longer shifts there, drawing synesthetic connections from the sonic stimuli. The largest stage, at the base of Foss Hill, will present a radio-ready assortment of rock, pop, and hip-hop, accompanied by improvising dancers.

Though the music and poetry slots are all filled, do email hnir@wesleyan.edu if you’re a dancer or visual artist interested in doing some spontaneous creation. See a breakdown of the full schedule below.

Harrison was inspired a lot by Alex Lee ‘17’s Greyscale, a beautiful online publication which solicited multimedia responses to one specific album per edition.  “I wanted the different forms of art to be in communication in some way. So it’s more than just poetry and music coexisting; they’re somehow intertwined.”

Filling out what is already a panoply of on-campus associations, the MASH will also partner with Reverberations, another digital outlet for arts criticism. Reverberations’ two head editors will be the emcees on the Olin stage, so they’ll be present to talk about their work and accept publishable submissions in response to the festival. Harrison adds that “This is a great opportunity, particularly for freshmen! I want audience members to feel like they have a voice and a way to participate in the MASH.”

After the tri-stage excitement of the afternoon, the lineup will condense into the final two acts at the Foss stage. (Or in Crowell Concert Hall, in case of inclement weather.) Sets include the faculty outfit The Smokin’ Lilies, featuring President Michael Roth on keys, and Wesleyan alumna Jess Best ’13. The festivities will conclude with the Prometheus fire-dancing team.

Jess, a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/bandleader, is fresh off the heels of her latest album release, Saturday. She has brought groups of various configurations back to her alma mater a number of times since she graduated, including a show/workshop at Alpha Delt last fall and a sensitive trio set at Russell House this past winter. As part of her headlining set at the MASH, the band will reprise their songwriting workshop at the Buttonwood Tree at 12:30pm as part of the Main Street Stroll, a Middletown-centric smorgasbord also on the day of the festival.

This performance will bring Jess’s own MASH experience full circle, as she performed with the inimitable Sky Bars at the festival’s first-ever incarnation as a soon-to-be December grad in the fall of 2013. She recalls:

“I’m not even sure if there was a headliner or whatever, but it was so cool because that year it was very informal. So we had these stages with amazing sound set up all over campus, and I just remember us running around jamming on like every stage. It wasn’t booked –  it wasn’t like they had lineups on each stage as much as they do this year. It was way less structured. But it’s been cool to watch it take shape from afar over the last few years. It’s a sweet event!”

When asked what “MASH” could mean or stand for, Jess and her collaborator, Connor Schultze, came up with “Monsters Are Super Hairy.”

Here’s the full lineup:

FOSS HILL (Rain Site: Crowell Concert Hall)
2:00pm-2:20pm: Bonanza
2:30pm-2:50pm: Good Morning CT
3:00pm-3:20pm: McCleary McCleary
3:30pm-3:50pm: MEG
4:00pm-4:20pm: Saint Something
4:30pm-4:50pm: Jal

FOSS MAIN STAGE (Rain site: Crowell)
5:30pm-5:50pm: The Basukes
6:00pm-6:20pm: Smokin Lilies
6:30pm-7:30pm: Jess Best
7:40pm-8:00pm: Prometheus

OLIN STAGE (Rain Site: Usdan)
2:10pm-2:30pm: New Group
2:40pm-3:00pm: Gabe & Brien
3:10pm-3:30pm: Savannah Jeffreys
3:40pm-4:00pm: Johnny Gilmore
4:10pm-4:30pm: Anna Savage
4:40pm-5:00pm: Quasimodal

NORTH COLLEGE LAWN (Rain Site: ’92 Theater)
2:20pm-2:40pm: Sloane Peterson
2:50pm-3:10pm: ethereal whoosing
3:20pm-3:40pm: The Purple Windsounds
3:50pm-4:10pm: LAZ
4:20pm-4:40pm: Cicero Presley
4:50pm-5:10pm: Tasty Desert Creatures

(Schedule subject to change.)