The Editorial Board
Here at the Stony Brook Press, we are not critical of events, public figures or campus administration simply because we see it as our role to undercut everything around us. That is a sorry definition of “alternative,” and as the campus’ alternative paper, we would like to be trusted to go beyond the surface of sensational negativity just to be different, despite the fact that our campus’ primary publication seems content on never rising above licking the boots of the establishment.
That said, let it be known that our last issue featuring a comparison and accompanying editorial between the recent Bruno Mars concert and SUNY Purchase’s Culture Shock festival was not in any- way a feeble attempt to dig up a source of criticism just for the sake of being critical. It was meant to highlight not only differing view- points when it comes to future campus event planning, but also to make it very clear just how much money is being used for this cam- pus’ entertainment, to what end it is being used and how it could be improved. We stand by our decision to denounce the Bruno Mars concert on the grounds that he was a safe choice, one that does not represent a true college act and one whose success at Stony Brook on May 6 was, from the very start, to be measured by ticket sales and the demonstration of the organizers’ hard work, but not by how much the performance would represent a true and calculated desire of the campus body.
Now, we recognize that it is necessary to point out just how much of a success the concert was, and it’s also necessary to attribute that success to the determination and seemingly endless vision of Student Programming Agency Director Moiz Khan, the face pasted on the primary alien of the Mars Attacks! front cover of our last issue.
Yes, Khan made more enemies than he ever imagined by refusing to compromise, as he says in the graciously allotted opinion space of the Statesman in a piece title, “Tearing Red Tape and Breaking Down Silos.” When he took his position in USG last year, it was amid the controversial restructuring of SAB, but in only one year in the post, he brought numerous acts that performed to increasing crowds, with Bruno Mars marking the culmination of all his effort.
Khan wanted to change the university, and he most certainly did. However, the changes are not always completely positive, and not always cleanly and efficiently looking towards a better future for our school or its hugely expensive events, as we wanted to point out in the comparison. But this comparison, as it stands in our last issue, is noticeably lacking context. We would like to hold ourselves accountable for misleading any readers into thinking not only that we were advising that USG should attempt a Culture Shock, but also that it was even possible for USG to do so.
So first, let us give you said context. SUNY Purchase is a drastically different school encased in an equally different administration, and both factors con- tribute greatly to its ability to orchestrate something like Culture Shock. Not only does the school’s undergraduate government own the space on which the con- cert is held, but the school is also centered around the arts, including majors in sound production and other areas of event planning that allow them to pull straight from their student body to organize and run the event. Purchase also has a long history of performing arts and a number of bands have deep rooted connections to the school, including this year’s organizer, lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore.
These differences make the likelihood of something like Culture Shock at Stony Brook near-impossible due to the extreme limitations put on campus events from organizations like University Police, the private security firm forced onto anyone who books the Sport Complex and the dozens of other barriers and restrictions that exist here at Stony Brook but not Purchase, as Khan himself would happily point out to anyone who asks.
But this likelihood would only be near-impossible if we decided to stupidly dive in head first. That was not what we were implying USG should do, nor did we think that dozens of cheap bands that no one has heard of mixed in with only a handful of recognizable names is the right direction for an end-of-the-year concert. We simply wanted to highlight how a concert of that magnitude manages to cater to multiple music tastes, and for far lower price tag. The key factor was that Culture Shock was a massively participatory for-the- students, by-the-students effort that was 100 percent college-geared, which is not at all what you can say about Bruno Mars.
We were not arguing that for the same amount money, Stony Brook should try and get 42 artists, many of which are obscure. However, Stony Brook could have gotten 10 artists, say three or four in the price range of Immortal Technique and six or seven in the price range of Best Coast. But that’s not what Khan wanted.
And here arises the ideological difference between what Khan sees as good for the school, which is what we at The Press wanted to highlight, and what we think would be a step in the right direction. Khan did not want multiple bands because multiple bands means less notoriety for each act, which ultimately reduces the potential for a lightning-quick sellout of tickets like Bruno Mars. Khan sees the success of the Bruno Mars’ May 6 concert as “…the foundation for the beginning of a diverse and vibrant campus life,” according to his Statesman opinion.
However, it would have made much more sense to have not gunned for the obviously unrealistic 42-band extravaganza of Culture Shock, which again was not what we were implying, but to try and get a more college-geared artist like Lupe Fiasco. Not only is the 18-24 age range a primary market for the young hip-hop artist’s music, but he also dropped a new album this past March, making him far more timely than Bruno Mars. We only suggest Lupe Fiasco because we know that Khan tried to secure him and failed, ending up with Bruno Mars only after Lupe Fiasco pulled out at the last minute to perform in New Orleans.
But instead of trying to find someone equitable to Lupe Fiasco, we ended up with a Billboard Hot 100 artist who is constantly played on the radio. That shows that Khan had the right mindset to begin with, but didn’t care in the end when he discovered that he could still sell out the Sports Complex with an act like Bruno Mars.
So Khan may dream of a concert on the Staller steps, of huge acts just as big as Bruno Mars or Lupe Fiasco performing alongside each other, even possibly at a multi-day festival. But because that is not realistic, Khan sidesteps to achieve what he sees as his goal of creating a better Stony Brook experience. That means settling on Bruno Mars when nothing else pulls through and making the best out of it even if it means putting on a concert that is not traditionally geared towards college students.
But the more you sidestep to maneuver constraints, the higher the chance that you will like where you’re standing over where you were originally aiming. That’s the fear. We at The Press want to make sure those original aims are at least apparent if they are no longer in the sights and to scrutinize the decisions of those in power not just because it’s our money being spent, but most importantly because it’s our college experience on the line.