October 20, 2009

Major activities bored

MAB should learn from its mistakes and book a big-name Summer Breeze.

It was like a bad joke. After trudging around a slippery, cold, and gray Hyde Park for four months, spring was rumored to be finally approaching. With it would come boosted campus morale, a one-time floral infusion to the quads, and eventually, I’m told, summer. With spring would also come the inaptly titled Summer Breeze—the University’s flagship cash-dumping bonanza. In addition to unlimited moonbouncing and bushels of complimentary cotton candy, the annual event brings in first-rate musical acts, which have included the likes of Eminem, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nas, and U2. How generous of President Zimmer. After paying to spend the year grinding out papers, problem sets, and readings, we are rewarded with one day in May when our collective tuition is diverted toward some famous people singing for us outside the Einstein Bros. Bagels in Hutch Commons.

Since the 2008 fall show was played by the umbrella-toting, fedora-wearing Decemberists, I figured the spring offering was due for a high-profile hip-hop act. I secretly harbored hopes of a performance from Chicago’s own Lupe Fiasco—a talented, yet likely affordable, artist who embodies all that is U of C in rap music. In practice, though, I’d settle for anything comparable to the hip-hop acts of recent Summer Breezes: The Roots, Talib Kweli, or the Cool Kids. Imagine my disappointment, then, when amidst blusters of snow, the 2009 Summer Breeze lineup was announced: Broken Social Scene, Voxtrot, and Santigold—a veritable hipster Woodstock.

It was an insulting offering. What about the percentage of the University that doesn’t spend their days rocking flannel, chain-smoking Parliaments, and hanging outside of Cobb? Who would they listen to? These, among others, were questions for the Major Activities Board (MAB), the student group charged with managing the concert portion of Summer Breeze, in addition to its fall and winter productions. MAB claimed, in an e-mail interview with the Maroon, that its attempts to lure a hip-hop act merely fell through that year. While that answer does little to explain where the group’s $100,000 talent budget actually went, I accepted it, and optimistically hoped for a fall 2009 show that would redeem MAB’s spring efforts.

Months later, after waking from nightmares of a Voxtrot encore, I rushed to the MAB Web site, hoping to find the announcement “Lupe Fiasco to Headline Fall Show.” There was no such declaration to be found, and instead just a cryptic message: “MAB might have the opportunity to bring a big-name comedian to campus, but if we pursue this, we will have to have a smaller Summer Breeze.” The message was followed by a poll asking if students would be in favor of said proposition.

I, for one, found its very suggestion comical, and emphatically cast my vote in opposition (alongside 57 percent of the poll’s respondents). “A smaller Summer Breeze”—was MAB serious? Last year’s Summer Breeze lineup boasted Billboard 200 album chart peaks of 74 (Santigold), 105 (Broken Social Scene), and “No Appearance” (Voxtrot). To put those less-than-gaudy numbers into perspective, the 75th slot is currently held by Lil’ Boosie’s recent offering SuperBad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz, which peaked at the lofty number-seven slot. As a general rule, when Lil’ Boosie would’ve been the clear headliner, you can classify that show as “small.” How much smaller is MAB thinking?

So, no, MAB—I don’t really care if you bring in Jerry Seinfeld, I want my senior-year spring concert to include bands I’ve heard on the radio, please. After all, you have to make up for last year’s disaster, something that will hopefully start when you announce your fall show in the coming weeks. And judging by the jokes that send my classmates into fits of hysterics, a “big-name comedian” isn’t necessary—just send over Allen Sanderson.

Steve Saltarelli is a fourth-year in the College majoring in Law, Letters, and Society.