It has become an unfortunate pattern here at Stony Brook that our end-of-the-year event is poorly attended and caters to misguided music tastes and the personal interests of USG members with event planning aspirations. It’s supposed to be an all-out festival in the spirit of the campus that once featured Jimi Hendrix and The Who, but somewhere along the way it turned a distasteful melting pot of self-interest and ignorance, and the students are the ones paying the price.
Despite the name Brookfest having been laid to rest as of last year, this year’s event, scheduled for this Friday, May 6, will not be a step in the right direction. It will seem new, refreshed from years of mishandled Brookfests, and attendance very well may hit an all time high. But it is still undoubtedly another series of missteps for two distinct reasons – its musical guests do not in any way cater to a wide college audience and students must for some reason still pay to attend.
To compare, let’s take a look at a fellow state university – SUNY Purchase. The school’s major Spring semester event is called Culture Shock, a hugely successful two-day concert featuring dozens of bands from both on-campus and off. This year’s festival had 42 bands on the initial bill, cost only slightly more than $90,000 and was able to cater to an enormous variety of music tastes. On top of that, Purchase opens up the Culture Shock festival for free to both students and off-campus attendees. They even have a well-organized guest pass system that allows Purchase students to bring up to four off-campus students into the event.
The Stony Brook Concerts series on the other hand is bringing only three artists, costing roughly $105,000 before factoring in the cost of the security, staging, advertising and the multitude of other factors that contribute to the cost of such a large event. The complete estimated cost is expected to exceed $200,000, and specifics on that figure cannot be confirmed because USG was not able to provide a full budget for the 2010-2011 year. They are charging not only a whopping $25 for off-campus students, but $5 for SBU students as well. This seems reasonable, but when com- pared to the fact that Purchase’s Culture Shock can pull off their event and make it absolutely free, it seems unfair and il- logical that students must pay for some- thing bankrolled by our Student Activity Fee, which funds all of USG (as well as organizations like the Press).
And the two headlining artists – Bruno Mars and Janelle Monáe, while very popular in mainstream music circles, are not what any self-respecting college student would consider a college act. They are simply big names that will decorate the organizers’ résumés and make a big enough splash so as to ensure a criticism-free turnout. But despite the potential and probable large crowd, that fact doesn’t make the ideologies behind the organization and our concert series’ obviously stale and misguided future any more satisfying.
All it takes is a simple observation of the acts that play at our well attended Rock Yo Face Case event or the increasingly successful Stony Brooklyn to see that there is a huge discrepancy between USG’s mindset and those of students who actually understand college music scenes. In fact, Stony Brooklyn featured the band Beach Fossils earlier this semester, and they went on in the following weeks to play a successful set at this year’s Culture Shock.
You can argue that Culture Shock, as well as Stony Brooklyn and Rock Yo Face Case, caters to indie rock bands, and that may be true. However, with the amount of money being put towards the concert this Friday and the track record that has been built this semester from low-bud- get acts, like Best Coast ($5,000) and Immortal Technique ($9,500), there is no reason why USG is still confining itself and ruining such a golden opportunity. They could have booked dozens upon dozens of bands, like Culture Shock does, and represented innumerable music tastes in the process, and yet they chose not to. It’s about time that the planners handling the hundreds of thousands of dollars of student money either open their eyes and wise up to reality, or put the mic down and get off our stage.