Three music groups with keenly devoted followings but modest mainstream exposure will headline this year's Summer Breeze concert in Hutchinson Courtyard. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Talib Kweli, and OK Go--an eclectic selection of performers appealing to the diverse tastes of U of C's student body--will mount the stage for the University's popular Summer Breeze festival on May 17. The headliners were announced yesterday afternoon by the Major Activities Board (MAB).
MAB, the student group that produces and secures the acts for Summer Breeze as well as other concerts throughout the year, hunts specifically for artists rising in popularity. Such groups tend to be cheaper than more mainstream artists, though MAB also seeks to secure performers that show up repeatedly in the thousand or so student surveys the organization conducts every year. The most notable example of MAB's success in the recent past was Eminem's presence at Summer Breeze three years ago, just weeks before the popularity of the LP Marshall Mathers catapulted him to mainstream recognition.
"We're always trying to find artists before they break, right when they're on that upswing part of the curve," said Donour Sizemore, chair of MAB and fourth-year in the College.
Though Bela Fleck and the Flecktones have been performing for more than a decade and have attracted a sizeable core of ardent devotees, Chicago-based OK Go is building on the success of their self-titled debut album last summer, and Talib Kweli is expanding on a solo career after collaborating with Mos Def and Hi-Tek in the widely acclaimed group Black Star in the mid-'90s.
"We're pretty proud, because Bela Fleck has been requested very strongly by many students," Sizemore said. The group was one of the most highly demanded in student surveys, appearing hundreds of times according to Sizemore.
The Flecktones feature banjoist Bela Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, and Future Man, who plays an instrument of his own creation--the drumitar--that simulates the sounds of a complete drum set. Fleck began mixing musical styles early in his career, experimenting with bebop and classical, though he experienced wide success as a bluegrass musician before forming the Flecktones. He recently released what might be the first classical banjo album in recording history.
Though some students were, in fact, turned off by the Flecktones, and many others had not even heard of the group, its popularity cited by MAB can clearly be detected on campus.
"I'm one of the biggest Flecktones fans," said second-year in the College Justin Wagner, who has attended the group's concerts three times. "Their live shows are really incredible.... Whenever I stare up there, I'm completely entranced.... And they come out and meet whoever wants to talk. It's really cool."
Talib Kweli, who has released two quite successful albums in the last few years, also received a very favorable response among students familiar with his career. Some students cited his performance as reason enough to attend Summer Breeze, though many also had not heard of him.
"I just like [Talib Kweli] because his message is very positive. He's not particularly influenced by mainstream rap--very creative," said first-year in the College Bianca Kemp. "He's just a great representative of rap...I'll be out there."
Other students were excited about seeing OK Go, most widely known for the hit single "Get Over it"--pervasive on the radio last summer--and the introductory music for the show Odyssey on Chicago Public Radio.
Second-year in the College Hajnalka Nemeth was enticed by the opportunity to hear OK Go. "I like alternative punky kind of music," she said, adding that this would make the show more pleasurable for her than last year's concert.
Most students, however, declined to comment on the lineup, either because they had no intention of going to Summer Breeze or because they had never heard of the three groups. One girl simply laughed and walked away on hearing the names of the performers.
"It sounds like an all right lineup," said third-year in the College CristellaValdez, who displayed very modest interest in the show. "I don't usually go to Summer Breeze."
Other performers pursued by MAB, such as Ben Folds and Cake, could not fit an appearance into their schedules or the geographical progression of their tours.
Tickets, which are $10 for students and $20 for faculty, staff, and lab school students, will go on sale on in the Reynolds Club on Wednesday, May 7. Doors will open on May 17 at 5:00 P.M., and the show will begin at 6:00 P.M.