Students voice concern with SA Fall Fest changes

Students react to SA's choice to divide the annual concert into three shows

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Following the SA Fall Fest Concert Series lineup announcement, the Student Association has received a wave of backlash with regard to the performing artists and performance dates.

Rather than stick to the traditional structure of previous Fall Fests, the SA has chosen to spread the concert out over three shows. The concerts will also be held within the Center for the Arts rather than Alumni Arena or Baird Point where it has been held in past years.

The Fall Fest performances begin Sept. 21 with a hip-hop lineup. The show is headlined by rapper Vince Staples and will also feature Taylor Bennett and Blaise Moore. The next concert is scheduled for Oct. 6, featuring alternative rock groups American Authors and duo Matt and Kim. The final concert is scheduled for Nov. 10, with a focus on R&B performers. R&B vet Ashanti will headline the show, with Tinashe and Queen Naija setting the stage.

The multiplicity of shows is an attempt to diversify the lineup compared to previous years, which has been predominately hip-hop.

Accordingto SA President Gunnar Haberl, the organization is saving money by not having to pay for staging. Haberl would not release the cost of Fall Fest or how much money they are saving, due to “contractual purposes,” he said.

Despite SA’s effort to appease a larger audience, many students have criticized the announcement. The CFA’s mainstage theater can accommodate 1,744 seats. The venue also has a balcony, which some students have voiced safety concerns over.

Scot Rosenthal, a senior speech and hearing major, believes UB’s previous festival lineups set the school apart from other SUNY schools.

“It’s just disappointing to see a clear downgrade in artists. The most relevant artist coming this fall hasn’t had a hit song since 2015,” Rosenthal said. “I would have preferred if the SA put the whole budget into one strong lineup like prior semesters.”

Many students said they believe the multiple shows will cause a further drop in attendance compared to previous years. Attendance dropped by more than 2,500 students between the 2016 and 2017 Fall Fests.

Belinda Thongsavanh, a sophomore accounting major, is not surprised at the drop in attendance through the years.

“I know it’s a free event through the school, but that’s not enough to bring students out,” Thongsavanh said. “2016’s show had Travis Scott. I would’ve killed to go. Last year had Lil Uzi Vert. I can pick out maybe three artists from this semester's lineup that I recognize. It feels like we’re settling.”

Some students believe the changes made to the event and venue are in response to security problems from previous shows. Past fests brought mosh pits and large crowds. There have also been reports of sexual harassment following previous concerts.

Jacob Humphreys, a junior exercise science major, doesn’t think the venue change will benefit the three performances.

“I’m not very familiar with the CFA, but I know how students act at these shows. The balcony might be a concern with all the drinking that happens before the concert,” Humphreys said.

“I can definitely see something happening from a lack of judgement. I don’t know what they’re going to do to prevent that.”

Despite the changes made, some students are anticipating seeing specific performers and remaining hopeful.

Zakariya Imdad, a junior finance and international business major, is considering attending despite the venue change.

“The SA should think about having at least one high profile hip hop and electronic name attached to the show because those are the most fun to attend. If they have alternative artists it should at least be performers students recognize,” Imdad said.

“I’ll definitely go to see Vince Staples live, and I might check out Matt and Kim. I just would have preferred better acts.”

Registration for the Sept. 21 show will open to students Thursday at 10 a.m. on SA’s website.

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at samantha.vargas@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter: @SamVargasArts