Everyone knows about Spring Concert, but few of us actually know the process behind picking the bands. Somehow a few bands are mysteriously picked, and although everyone on campus is talking about and has an opinion on the selection, we rarely get to hear the reasons behind the selection. So, The Carletonian thought it would be interesting to interview Spring Concert Committee members senior Mary Dahlman Begley (American Studies) and junior Sam Keyes (Chemistry) and ask them how they chose these bands. We also asked them to profile some of the bands that will be playing at Spring Concert: St. Lucia, Run the Jewels, Sonny Knight and the Lakers, and Frankie Teardrop.
MB: The first step is shouting out ideas of bands we like. We got a ton of ideas from the student survey, as well as our own personal tastes and the suggestions of our friends. Then we check around with booking agencies we have worked with in the past for their availabilities. We also seek out the agents responsible for the suggested bands, and get quotes. We try very hard to represent a wide variety of genres, as well as high-energy acts that many people will enjoy. We also think a lot about the “flow” of the event; which acts follow which, and take into account the other activities at Spring Concert. Something that is very commonly misunderstood about booking bands is this: what we want is not always available, or in our price range. Since the date of Spring Concert was set ahead of time, we have to find bands that are available on that date and within our price range. The prices of bands varies greatly depending not only on popularity, but on the size of their booking agency, their current releases, whether or not reviews of their latest works are favorable, and general things like size of band and distance from the performance. We have to strike a balance of availability, affordability, and the act itself. The acts we chose for this year hit the sweet spot of genre variety, accessibility to students (they will like this music, if not one band, then another), price, and availability.
SK: We went with a two-headliner approach this year - different from years’ past. Our aim was to provide a variety of bigger-budget music so that everyone can love at least one of the two headliners. Between hip-hop and synthpop, we expect that most of the students can really get hooked to one of these groups. Both Run The Jewels and St Lucia are very big in each of their genres, but it’s definitely a consideration that - for example - some students who are not fans of indie-dance music may not have heard of St Lucia. In terms of the bands performing through the afternoon and early evening, the committee has received feedback from previous Spring Concerts that students would generally prefer a concert in which most of the money is set toward bigger acts. With that in mind, the rest of the line-up is supplemented by great local groups and student bands. We make sure to gather student opinion to help support our band selection process. But in general, it’s a pretty bumpy road. Bands’ availability is often hard to predict, and can change very quickly. As Mary mentioned, the committee left the campus to vote on a headliner two years ago. There were about 6 options. It sounds ideal in theory, but what it leads to is everybody counting on their choice to be the right pick. Only one of these groups was able to come to Spring Concert. So when one of these groups ends up on top of the vote, 5/6 of campus is frustrated that nobody agreed with their choice. In addition, bands often pursue other offers at the same time. Negotiating with several agents that “you might be our band” for any length of time is hard on the committee, the agents, and the student activities office. It’s a fast-moving business.
MB: St. Lucia is considered “indie” (although their label has an upstream deal with Columbia Records), an electronic/synthpop band from Brooklyn. The singer, Jean-Philip Grobler, is originally from South Africa. They have a great sound akin to CHRVCHES or Purity Ring, that I think a lot of people will find danceable and relatable. I first heard of them from a remix that Grobler did of the band Charli XCX.
MB: Run the Jewels is El-P and Killer Mike, two well-known rappers who have been on the scene for nearly 15 years. I especially like Killer Mike, as he worked with OutKast on several of their albums. I first heard of them with the release of their 2013 album and consequent critically acclaimed show at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.
SK: Sonny Knight and The Lakers are a funk/soul group from Minneapolis. Sonny, who has been a part of the Minneapolis music scene periodically since the ‘60s, was approached by Secret Stash Records while they were putting together their Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation two years ago because he was a part of this group called The Valdons. Even now, he has such a great voice that they wanted to build a band around him. No older than a year, this group is probably already one of the strongest funk organizations in the Twin Cities.
MB: Frankie Teardrop is a pop/rock band from Minneapolis with a punk edge and a little bit of goofy style. They played at the Cave, and are friends of mine. They are a really fun band, as everyone who saw them at the Cave can attest. I really love these guys, and they were named City Pages’ best new band of 2013!