The Swarthmore Floating Concert Series, a pop-up concert project created by Jonathan Kay ’20 where students are given the location an hour before the event, has eight more shows lined up this semester.
Various factors influenced Kay’s creation of the event, including his excitement to be part of the college music scene back in high school, his work as the bassist in the bands Good Good Not Bad and Altair, and an interest from his fellow bandmates. Kay also felt there were not large variety of musicians or concerts at Swarthmore.In addition to a large overlap in the same musicians, many bands are comprised of individuals identifying as straight white males. However, Loud and Underground, a group formed by Dina Ginzburg ’18 and Colette Gerstmann ’18, helped solve this issue by focusing on a band for musicians of color, women, and queer members. Kay also felt that there were no intermediate stages between a group of people interested in forming a band to people interested in playing at Olde Club, such as an open mic night.
“As [this idea] developed, I realized this was an opportunity to start providing more opportunities for non-established groups,” said Kay.
Kay received aid from the office of Student Engagement in setting up the concert series, allowing Assistant Director of Student Life Andrew Barclay to share the information about the events on the entire listserv while also answering Kay’s concerns with the event, such as noise complaints. Set up for the event itself included reserving the space through the OSE, finding someone with an alcohol permit, and applying for a party permit. For the first concert, there was also the issue of moving numerous speakers and equipment to Mephisto’s Lounge that required the assistance of Swaudio.
The first, and so far only, concert this semester was Funk and the Patriarchy performing in Mephisto’s Lounge on Jan. 27 at 9 p.m. The band includes James Wallace Lee ’17 (piano), Seth Stancroff ’19 (drummer), Nathalie Baer-Chan ’19 and Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 (frontwomen), Benjamin Stern ’20 (Bassist), Samuel Wallach Hanson ’18 (saxophone), Tai Warner ’19 (saxophone), Sean Emery ’20 (trumpet), and Asher Wolf ’18 (guitarist). The band has been around for a while at Swarthmore ands includes members of the Swarthmore jazz combo.
Wolf recalls the band being approached by Kay last semester about performing for the Floating Concert Series, to which they agreed. For the concert, Mephisto’s Lounge was set up with hanging and snacks for the attendees. Funk and the Patriarchy played a setlist that included pop songs and covers of lesser known songs, such as “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski, as well as audience requests.
“From my perspective, it was the best show we played. The spontaneity made it low pressure, the sound was great, and, surprisingly, we got a large turnout,” said Wolf.
After Jan. 27, the concerts stopped due to schedule conflicts with music related events such as the Kitao Open Mic, Loud and Underground’s Costume and Cover Show, and an Altair show. Kay also did not want to rush future performers to play sets with which they were not comfortable. The concert time has now moved to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and there will be one concert per week from March 16 to April 28.
Keeping with the theme of floating, posters advertising the event will be released, but the actual artists and locations will not be revealed until an hour before the event by email. The set locations will include dorm lounges, common spaces, the Kohlberg and Science Center Coffee Bars, and Mephisto’s Lounge. Wolf will also be performing at a future event in the Floating Concert Series as part of a different band.
Kay’s future plans for the project include having it as a recurring event only during spring semester, so that bands can form during the fall semester. He is also considering holding concerts every other week, hosting eight to ten concerts total. His goal is to keep concerts short, around the length of a study break, so that more people will attend. There will also be more unorthodox music genres and styles featured beyond funk and rock. These include bluegrass, folk, pop, electronica, rock. All of the performers are Swarthmore students.
“There is absolutely an urge to do something more fun than studying with friends or ‘kicking it’ in Essie’s for an hour, but it is also really easy to disengage from that and come up with a reason not to go. I was really heartened by the response to the first concert; a ton of people came, and it was a lot of fun, and I really hope that it continues,” said Kay.
The first concert in the list will be this Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. An email with further information will be released that same day at 7:30 p.m.