October 23, 2003

Ben Folds will headline concert in Mandel Hall, Ben Lee to open

Ben Folds will headline this year's fall concert featuring an opening act from Ben Lee, a longtime collaborator of Folds, the Major Activities Board (MAB) announced on Wednesday night.

The concert will be held Saturday, November 8 in Mandel Hall, with tickets going on sale in the Reynolds Club beginning Wednesday, October 29.

The contracts were finalized only a few weeks ago, but MAB began a selection process that lasted several months before placing a bid in mid-September.

"We get a list of possible acts from our agent, then we surveyed students both at the RSO fair and on our website," said Avishai Weiss, head of marketing for MAB. "We see which acts would be feasible with regards to scheduling and cost, then we vote and decide on the act."

While Folds was not the first choice in the student survey—Weiss cited bands like Radiohead among the more popular suggestions—such famous groups charge far more than MAB can afford. MAB's budget for one-night performances ranges from $30,000 to $60,000, according to MAB officials.

"These bands cost a lot of money," Weiss said. "Most people have no idea how expensive they are."

Student reaction has been mixed to the announcement that Folds will perform the fall concert.

"[Ben Folds] is really cool, I'll definitely go see the show," said Nick Tramdack, a first-year in the College. "A lot of people like him apparently, and I hear he's a great showman who gets the audience involved in a good way, not a stupid one."

Paul Gibbs, a second-year in the college, disagreed. "Ben Folds is just a whiny suburbanite, and the last thing we need at the U of C is another whiny suburbanite," he said.

Although many students are excited for a popular group to perform on campus, others said they would have preferred either a lesser known or more college-oriented group. Booking smaller acts in economically unfeasible however, according to Weiss, reiterating that most students are unaware of the fiscal considerations involved when booking music performers.

"We can't book an act that will only fill up a quarter of Mandel Hall," Weiss said. "If we don't sell out every show we do, there's no point in doing what we do," Weiss said.

Still, the student body's opinion about the concert has been more positive than negative, and organizers expect that the show will be a success.

"It's awesome that [Ben Folds] is coming here," said Dominique Duncans, a first-year in the College. "It's great that the University can bring big names to campus."

A pianist by reputation, Folds gained notoriety while leading the band Ben Folds Five, which released four full-length albums before breaking up in March 2001. The band hit pop culture fame with their radio hit "Brick," launching their career into colleges and suburban neighborhoods across the country.

Folds's solo efforts have built off the fanbase he acquired with this group. His solo album, the 2002 album Ben Folds Live, a collection of live performances featuring both old and new material, garnered popular and critical success.

Opening act Ben Lee, perhaps most famous for dating actress Claire Danes, has worked previously with Folds on a 2001 album called The Bens. Lee released his first solo album in 1999, followed by a second album in 2002, and has toured with the likes of the Rage and Placid Lake.

Tickets are $15 for students and $25 for faculty, staff, and Lab school students with valid student ID.