Bringing the Fest back to Spring
Student leaders have high hopes for Spring Fest
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-04-25
Spring Fest at Western State Colorado University is a long-standing tradition. But names of the bands of years of yore get lost in memory amongst rumors of historic Coors sponsorships and the tens of thousands of dollars spent on bands that failed to make a mark.
Jessica Vogan, staff advisor of Program Council (PC), the student organization that throws the event each year, summed it up best.
“I’ve lived here since college, and I couldn’t tell you who’s played the last seven years,” she said.
But Vogan, in her first year as PC’s advisor, as well as Program Council student leaders, are hoping to turn the event around, starting with the performer.
This year hip hop artist Brother Ali will take to the stage as the event’s headliner. His socially conscious lyrics encourage responsibility, acceptance and even a little patriotism, particularly on his latest album “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color.” He’s been widely acclaimed and has performed with the likes of Atmosphere and Snoop Dogg.
But the hip-hop headliner was not the campus’ first choice, as Program Council Director Stephanie White pointed out. The Spring Fest band is always chosen by a student vote — or at least by the 200 or so students who have enough motivation to take the initiative.
“It’s never been our decision — it’s always been a student decision,” she said.
Brother Ali was actually third on the list. The other two groups — both of which fell into the country genre — were not available to play on the date. Which was just fine with Dax Myers, PC’s assistant director.
“We fell back on the third choice, which was our first choice the entire time. It worked out really well,” he said. “In terms of the amount of people voting, it wasn’t very much. We’re still trying to find ways to reach out to the campus more.”
And the consensus, amongst PC leadership at least, is that hip-hop has wider appeal than other genres and hasn’t been properly utilized by past Spring Fests.
“I think there’s a lot of appreciation of hip hop in this valley, it just doesn’t get recognized,” said Myers.
“You can’t please everyone, but you can please the majority,” added Vogan.
Denver-based electronic duo Bass Physics, whose first album dropped earlier this month, will open for Brother Ali, who actually picked his opening act from a handful of samples submitted by PC.
The first act of the evening is WSCU’s Battle of the Bands winner Kreature of Habit, a Gunnison-based heavy metal band.
“We’ve got a diverse range,” Myers observed.
The event is also sponsored by Red Bull, which will be handing out (non-alcoholic) drinks and sponsoring a VIP section at the concert, replete with flag girls and couches.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a good one,” said White, who’s been involved in PC throughout her college career. “We’ve struggled in the past of getting more of that reputation — not that stigma that Program Council has of being weird or nerdy or whatever. This will definitely turn that round. We’ve set the bar. Next year has a lot to look up to.”
And according to Vogan, the higher caliber presence of Brother Ali will actually cost less than in past years. Ali comes for a mere $15,000, compared to the $20-to-$25,000 price tag that is customary for a Spring Fest headliner of the recent past.
And Vogan thinks that’s a small price to pay.
“Students want stuff to do, they want to see good bands. Living in Gunnison shouldn’t keep you from seeing good music,” she said.
White said she thinks this year’s PC team will leave behind a lasting legacy, a lasting Spring Fest memory, hopefully for years to come.
“It’s the university’s first Spring Fest. We’ve gotta leave a mark somehow,” she said.
As always, Spring Fest is free and community members are encouraged to attend.
“It’s a valley-wide thing,” explained Myers. “I want anyone who appreciates good hip-hop to be a part of this.”
(Laura Anderson can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)