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Davis, California

Monday, June 17, 2024

Column: Don’t please them all

The Entertainment Council worked hard this year to successfully bring multiple bands to Freeborn Hall. Whether or not you liked the performances, their efforts to diversify our big shows shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Many have duly expressed that they want bigger shows on campus with bigger names next year. The sentiment that concert choices this year were esoteric, uninviting and “too indie” is a popular one.

The EC surely understands the concern. The proposed ASUCD budget for the 2010-2011 school year will increase the EC’s allocation for large show sponsorship from $20,907 to $44,000, giving EC more ability to promote larger performances or co-sponsor them with outside promoters – potentially leading to more shows per quarter. The new director has also expressed interest in exploring the possibility of larger shows, and resources are clearly headed in an expansive direction.

The debate, then, centers around whether the new school year and the increase in funding should be spent on several smaller performances or a few big performances. The former would likely mean more of what we’ve seen this year. The latter would mean, for example, Kid Cudi at the ARC Pavilion. And little to nothing else.

It’s not hard to see why bringing more big name concerts would benefit the larger Davis community more than a big concert at the Pavilion. A more mainstream performance will still alienate a large portion of the Davis community, and the chances for more revenue are matched with an equal chance that the show will flop.

Some go further to argue that smaller performances at Freeborn lose money when ticket prices are steep. Band of Horses suffered a loss after failing to sell out its tickets, but since the show was co-sponsored by the EC and independent concert promoter Goldenvoice, the loss solely fell on Goldenvoice.

After all, the cost of putting a show on at Freeborn is considerably higher and more complicated than a concert in a private venue in Sacramento or San Francisco. Promoters don’t want to undercut themselves by dropping prices for a college venue while maintaining an otherwise fairly reasonable cost for their city shows.

The number of performances this year itself benefited the Davis show scene. This year’s shows were a dramatic improvement from last year’s big name shows – which often didn’t even reach the stage. An E-40 show at the Theta Xi house was cancelled last year, leaving most students unable to get refunds for their tickets. Gym Class Heroes, after a planned concert at the Pavilion, never came to campus. Bloc Party went home sick on the day of their performance.

These flops aren’t just laughable – they made a precarious situation for courting promoters, even when the cancelled shows had nothing to do with the EC. Davis alumni Dallas Imbimbo, one of the masterminds behind the failed E-40 and Gym Class Heroes concerts, the neglected refunds and nude self-photographs, could have likely harmed Davis’ reputation for large-scale concerts with these cancellations.

Freeborn Hall, which will reach its 50th anniversary next year, has a history of booking bands at the peak of their emergence. I recently talked to Stephanie Eich, associate director of Event Services for Campus Unions, who noted the tendency for Freeborn to feature artists on their rise to global fame. Jason Mraz, who played last year, was booked right before his rise to glory and the “I’m Yours” feeding frenzy. Muse, Tegan and Sara and Death Cab for Cutie also played on campus at the height of their rise in popularity.

In a way, this tendency mirrors the venue itself. Freeborn Hall is a perfect medium between small Davis venues like the Sophia’s deck or Delta of Venus and enormous venues like the Pavilion or ARCO Arena.

So really, it’s hard to find any credibility in the indie shrug-off. Passion Pit might be called “indie” on Wikipedia, but they’re hardly an esoteric, obscure act. Neither is Band of Horses, whose recent album Infinite Arms was released on Columbia Records and is on sale at the U-Mall Starbucks.

If one big concert at the Pavilion is your thing, complain all you want. Just know you are supporting the same kind of situation that alienated you in the first place – a concert that many students won’t want to attend.

JUSTIN T. HO appreciates the EC’s work in bringing several well-known artists to campus this year, especially as a follow up last year’s dismal failure by certain other local bro-moters. E-mail him at arts@theaggie.org.


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