by Nickolas Mellace
If I had to summarize my thoughts on USG’s decision-making in regards to musical events over the past three years, I’d compare them to an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend. “I swear, I’ll never hit you again!” USG exclaimed after the abysmal attendance of 2010’s Brookfest, which featured indie-pop duo Matt & Kim and hip-hop, erm…sensation Wale, right before taking a swig from the Captain Morgan bottle concealed behind his back. “I’ll change for you, I promise!” And, being the naive young rapscallion I am, I believed him, because for a while, things really did seem to be looking up.
The decision to send Brookfest to an early grave and revive Stony Brook Concert Series certainly sounded like a step in the right direction on paper. I mean, think about it: 35 years ago, SBU was (pardon my white-boy expressions) freaking ill! Don’t believe me? Do a quick Google search of artists that performed here back before you were even a thought-bubble in your parents’ minds. Or, better yet, take a stroll through the lounge on the second floor of the SAC. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Back yet? DID YOU SEE HOW MANY COOL BANDS USED TO PLAY HERE?! Pink Floyd? Jimi Hendrix? Red Hot Chili Peppers?! Even if you’re not a classic rock/alternative enthusiast, you have to admit that compared to the line-ups in recent years…no, you can’t even compare them, so I’m not going to try. It would be a disservice to our school’s fine heritage.
What happened? You can’t blame the local music scene. In fact, our underground alternative/punk scene has been extremely prosperous in the past decade, and only continues to thrive. The Sleeping, Taking Back Sunday (and, subsequently, Brand New), Glassjaw, The Movielife and countless other groups have found success after getting their start right here on Long Island. If you want a more local example, take Ian Kenny, a recent graduate from Stony Brook. As a founding member of NGHBRS, he has had the opportunity to perform alongside more popular acts such as Anarbor, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and the now-defunct Envy on the Coast (who also hail from Long Island).
It certainly doesn’t have to do with the budget, either. Our final concert last year, starring Bruno Mars and two other acts I’ve never heard of, cost over $200,000, funded in part by slashing the budgets of clubs and organizations deemed less important by USG. To put this figure into perspective, see the Press editorial from last year comparing our end-of-the-year show with SUNY Purchase’s Culture Shock festival, which hosted 42 bands for less than half the cost. Oh yeah, and their show was free for students and off-campus guests.
The explanation is plain and simple: USG has been hijacked by hipsters. This is not news by any means; it’s no secret that our elected officials have been promoting their own selfish interests while largely ignoring the tastes and opinions of the rest of us. Since its re-inception, the Stony Brook Concert Series has flip-flopped between obscure indie bands and big-name hip-hop/rap artists guaranteed to pull big ticket sales. I’ll admit, I may sound like a hipster trying to promote my own personal music tastes through this article, but that’s not my point.
Why isn’t there a more democratic system to determine the entertainment on campus? For a school of 18,000+ students, there are too many of us whose voices are not only being drowned out, but ignored completely. There is such a massive potential for an alternative musical explosion at Stony Brook, but because this genre does not match up with the USG hive mind, student musicians are left to their own devices.
Sure, there’s Rock Yo Face Case to pick up the slack, but this is too much of a burden to put on one organization’s shoulders. They face the same dilemma, just with lower stakes; even if one of their shows sucks, they could just make up for it at the next one. Plus, none of the bands that perform at RYFC are paid. All of the money allocated by USG is put towards designing creative themes for each event, and they still manage to book more diverse, crowd-pleasing artists.
Here’s an idea: why not put the issue to a vote? Every semester, USG representatives could make a list of potential artists from various genres for their next event, and students would be allowed to vote for any three (this is an arbitrary number, you get my point). To keep the system fair, voting would be conducted through our SOLAR accounts and linked to our ID numbers to prevent individuals from flooding the polls. USG could act as a sort of electoral college, thus giving them the final decision at the end of the day. Everybody wins…theoretically.
Regardless of how this issue is solved, I demand my right to be listened to as a student and as an individual. I’m tired of looking back on how our school used to be and imagining what could have been. Today I take a stand for myself and my fellow brethren who feel as strongly about this as I do (if there are any of you out there). Otherwise, USG, I’m afraid we’re gonna have to see other people.