The Large Scale Event and Worthstock are two of the most anticipated events of the spring semester. In December of last year, Brennan Klein ’14, LSE Committee Chair, wrote an open letter to students through The Phoenix in which he announced that Macklemore would be the headliner at this year’s LSE. There was also talk of a “Welcome Back Show” on Jan. 26, 2013. As Swatties may have noticed, the show failed to materialize, and much else has gone awry since the letter was published.
Nearly two months after Macklemore’s performance was announced, Paury Flowers, coordinator of student activities, has confirmed that “Macklemore is not on the final list for LSE.”
“We didn’t have a contract with Macklemore when I wrote the letter but we had sent him a ‘we’re about to send you a contract’ e-mail,” Klein said. “However someone else could pay more and Macklemore decided to go with that opportunity. When we first thought of Macklemore in May, he could be booked for $15,000 but since then it has gone up to about $50,000.”
After a mad scramble over winter break, the Committee has settled on Solange, also known as Beyonce’s sister, to replace Macklemore. Klein seemed excited at the prospect of having Solange perform. “This is the best opportunity we’ve had to actually book someone. It looks likely that we’ll be able to book her.” The contract that the college offered Solange was supposed to expire on Monday, but Solange has not responded as of Tuesday night. It remains unclear if Solange’s performance at LSE has been confirmed or not. Klein, though optimistic, had mentioned contractual concerns that Solange’s representatives had brought up about LSE. They do not want the performance to be advertised beyond Swarthmore College as it might negatively affect the value of her other Philadelphia performances.
Since Solange is not as well-known as Macklemore, Klein pointed out that she is relatively inexpensive, so booking her would allow the Committee to hire better-known openers within a range of $5,000 to $10,000. Since Macklemore is not coming, the student-selected acts that would have opened for Macklemore have also been cancelled. Over this weekend, the LSE Committee plans to repeat the process of student voting for opening acts that would better complement Solange’s type of music. They will set up a voting mechanism through Moodle, and Klein hopes to approach the selected acts by the following Monday.
The LSE Committee’s struggle to put together a successful event is not an unknown or unacknowledged issue at Swarthmore. It was with the hope of improving the process and providing more transparency that Klein wrote the open letter last semester. However, in hindsight, he considers his decision to be ill-timed, “I was probably naïve about letting people know. The plans seemed more resolute than they actually were,” he said. He added that the letter prompted students to e–mail the Committee with questions, which were all dutifully answered.
The problems with booking artists and timely planning are not limited to the large events like LSE and Worthstock. As last week demonstrated, a small “Welcome Back Show” with a budget of $200 to $500 had to be cancelled at the last minute. Speaking about the failure to execute the show, Klein said, “We were counting on an act from Worthstock last year to be our headliner but he stopped communicating with us. Another DJ from Philadelphia wasn’t available and so we were just left with two young girls from New York City who were eager to come but not known. We didn’t think it would be much of a show with just two girls so we cancelled on them.”
While talking about the apparent problems with the Committee and its current situation, Klein said, “ We weren’t on our game for certain things.” Though he admittedly feels jaded about this process, he thinks the lack of budget for a school this size poses a constraint on the artists we can hire. “This isn’t for want of trying. Other schools of this size can get big acts. But creatively working within these guidelines and finding recognizable acts can be rewarding,” he said. Klein and Flowers also made the point that much of this process depends on the artists that they approach. Even starting as early as May cannot ensure a smooth planning process.
A former member of the LSE Committee, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid offending members of the administration, wrote that the Committee is poorly organized and that much can be done to improve the functioning of the group. However, he noted that he has been uninvolved with the committee since quitting and circumstances may have changed since he left.
Discussing his time as a member of the Committee, he said, “I quickly became disillusioned with the committee, and the administration wasn’t doing great things either. They were just very disrespectful of people’s time. Meetings would be scheduled during class times, and the facilitator and administration people would arrive really late.” He thinks that the administration plays a role in the alleged inefficiency of the committee, specifically its disorganised nature and lack of support for students. He concluded by saying that several past members have expressed frustration with how the Committee is run.
Kyle Krainock ’13, who used to write a music blog for the Daily Gazette and has attended many concerts in Philadelphia during his time at Swarthmore, echoed the sentiment of exasperation, saying, “I know friends who have quit the committee because it was too frustrating.” Speaking as a person with eclectic taste in music, Krainock commented on past LSEs, “I’ve never been excited for LSE in my time here. At one point, maybe things were different, but during my time here, it has never worked out.” He drew attention to known bands that have performed at Swarthmore like Matt and Kim, Tokyo Police Club, The Roots, and Passion Pit, and expressed disappointment that acts of such quality have not been booked in the last four years. Speaking as an ordinary student, Krainock gets the impression that the role of the administration ought to be reduced. He said, “The Committee is capable of booking acts without being overseen by the administration. Let the LSE Committee call all the shots.” He also recommended adopting Bryn Mawr’s system of hosting such events, which involves organising three to four big concerts over the course of a semester.
For the moment, however, these calls for structural changes to the committee are not being considered as it continues its effort to confirm Solange’s performance for the LSE. They are dealing with Solange’s vacillating agents by hosting another meeting on Tuesday night to select another artist from their shortlist that they can pursue.