A Matter of Authenticity: No-Names v. Has-Beens
This year’s Homecoming weekend was, as always, pretty good.
I say “pretty good” because, come on: there’s something underwhelming about seeing sort of well-known DJs and an oldish rock band (probably past its prime) try to entertain a pack of cynical, easily-unimpressed college kids.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the shows. In fact, both days’ performances – electronic dance music (EDM) DJ-duo Cazzette on Friday night and late-90s reggae/punk/ska band Slightly Stoopid on Saturday afternoon – put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. The thing is, given my small-town roots (see my column in the 9.15.11 issue of the Wheel), I’m a sucker for live music and rarely pass on the chance to see a band play.
EDM is a recently-acquired interest of mine – something I picked up through my involvement in Greek life – and as a result, I found Cazzette’s performance on Friday night to be a big hit. Given the show’s conflict with the CounterPoint EDM festival, audience turnout was better than expected. I couldn’t give you precise numbers (what do I look like, a reporter?), but the show was full enough for most attendees to feel comfortable dancing and having a good time – because you know how college kids can be.
The music was, in my humble opinion, awesome. I recognized songs that I knew from my very minimal exposure to DJing, and the songs that I didn’t know fit my particular taste in EDM.
The DJs were pretty talented – or so it seemed. They knew how to keep the crowd’s energy up and transitioned well between tracks, all while doing some remixing and adding their personal touch to the music. Call my standards low, but that’s really all I expect out of a DJ.
Most importantly, Cazzette had stage presence. Their lights were engaging and, for a style of music that has relatively few inherent performance aspects (compared to, say, rock n’ roll), the DJs certainly knew how to rock out. In fact, their energy was downright contagious.
Slightly Stoopid also put on a pretty solid performance, at least in terms of music. Since I’m a big fan of reggae and ska (and anything else that comes out of Jamaica) and Slightly Stoopid’s sound hasn’t changed much since their heyday in the early 2000s, I thoroughly enjoyed the music. While the amount of people rocking out at the front of the crowd was significantly smaller than that of the night before, the show was well-attended and generally well-received.
On the other hand, Slightly Stoopid’s stage show didn’t even hold a candle to Cazzette’s – and I’m not just talking about their lights. The band’s two frontmen made a show of switching instruments – often (and unnecessarily) with each other. Their banter between songs, a crucial part of any performer’s repertoire, was unengaging and generally asinine.
At one point, frontman Miles Doughty took the mic between songs and, with an exaggerated whiff, declared, “Woah, smells pretty good out there, Emory!” (For those missing the joke, he meant that it smelled like somebody in the crowd was smoking marijuana).
And saying it did made it seem like the band was trying too hard to look as cool as they used to be.
Oh, and they misused “y’all.” I’m not from the South, and I’m certainly not an expert in the field of southern vernacular, but I do know that it’s totally unacceptable to say “y’all guys.” Come on, y’all.
I can understand where they’re coming from, though. Slightly Stoopid’s particular brand of ska/punk/reggae/rap fusion isn’t as popular today as it used to be and, for a band that’s still touring, it’s crucial that they make it seem as cool as possible.
When performing for college kids, this includes making weed-related jokes (too many of them, in my opinion) and trying not to sound like you’re an aging twenty-something in a basketball jersey and snapback hat.
Quite the challenge, I’d say.
All things considered, Slightly Stoopid’s stage show was, well, slightly stupid. But how could this be? Slightly Stoopid is a semi-classic that any self-respecting Sublime fan has probably heard of, and Cazzette is a relatively young Swedish DJ team that even the frattiest of frat dudes doesn’t really know. So, what’s the difference?
It all comes down to authenticity. To quote guitarist Jack White, of White Stripes fame, “People know when something is fake. They know when you’re telling them the same joke you told between songs in Poughkeepsie the night before. They can smell it.”
Even if you couldn’t smell the pot smoke (there wasn’t any to smell), you could smell that Slightly Stoopid was doing the same routine they’d done at every other show on their tour – and the crowd just wasn’t having it.
It’s a shame, especially because their music would have appealed to a lot of Emory students. But, good music or no, Slightly Stoopid’s artificial onstage antics killed their performance.
With that, I’d like to propose that the SPC stop trying to take alums back to their college days with washed-up has-beens and start hiring newer, lesser-known bands.
Campus isn’t going to get fired up about either option – we’re cynical college students, so that’s a given – but I’d rather see an unexpectedly fun show by a smaller, more passionate group than be let down by scripted pot humor and onstage shenanigans.
Assistant Editorials Editor Nicholas Bradley is a College sophomore from Skillman, N.J.