UB Fall Fest’s reputation used to extend past the boundaries of campus.
Students who attended UB in 2012 had access to see J. Cole, Childish Gambino and French Montana take the stage all in the same night for no cost –– other than the student activity fee that is already part of their bill.
Even during my freshman year, Fall Fest was nothing to scoff at: one concert consisting of Lil Yachty, Rae Sremmurd, D.R.A.M. and Travis Scott. Those are some huge names, and most of them are still relevant today.
Unfortunately now, that just simply isn’t what Fall Fest is about.
Fall Fest 2018 generated the least hype I’d heard from of an event its size. It would have completely passed by me if I wasn’t already a fan of one of the artists, Vince Staples. They focused on diverse genres, from R&B, to indie and of course, hip-hop. None of the names they pulled were complete unknowns either.
So why did so few students show interest?
In my opinion, it’s because Fall Fest no longer feels like an event that brings the university population together.
Prior to 2018, even if you didn’t go to Fall Fest, you would probably be aware of it, because it was always an event that defined the early semester. Now, we have a “concert series,” that splits Fall Fest into three different nights by genre.
Why is this necessary?
We live in an era of streaming and playlists. Most people aren’t buying CDs anymore, relegating themselves to one genre because it’s monetarily safer. Everyone has access to millions of songs for free. The musical floodgates are open and almost everyone is listening a little bit of everything.
This goes to show that we don’t need to split the genres, because people have never been more musically impartial.
It just simply does not make any sense to me why the “concert series” exists. It used to be easy to ask, “Did you go to Fall Fest this year?” because you either did or you did not.
Now, the exchange looks more like this:
“Did you go to fall fest this year?”
The Fall Fest “concert series” simply does not speak to what made it such a university-defining event, and it works completely counter-intuitively to its no-cost mindset. Instead of grabbing a few big names like the Student Association did with Jason Mraz, B.o.B, Bruno Mars and Robert Francis in 2010, an (assumedly) similar budget is relegated to three different concerts with one to three artists performing at each concert.
Unfortunately, the size of these names is going to be smaller.
The biggest indication of this is Ashanti, a well-known singer, who, just two weeks before Fall Fest, had a concert canceled because she sold only 24 tickets to it. How many UB students would have paid to see her if the concert wasn’t in their bill already?
Despite the mega-flop that was 2018 Fall Fest, 2019’s Fall Fest series is where I draw the line. Once again, SA has made it a concert series. DaBaby and Gunna will be a success, no doubt, and I’m sure Young the Giant will do well enough. However, Burna Boy, the headliner of the first concert in the series, couldn’t even show. What does this say about the future of the series?
Plus, DaBaby and Gunna’s concert won’t even be happening until November. What is the reasoning behind this? It makes Fall Fest just feel like yet another set of UB events.
I’m sure you could try to justify this by pointing to the Comedy and Distinguished Speakers Series, but those make sense as separate events. Speakers and comedians are best digested as their own experiences. With concerts, of course, bands can play without anyone else, but it makes sense to lump all of these artists together in one night, especially when the audience is presumably busy college students.
Fall Fest used to be an event that defined the beginning of the semester. Now, it just feels like a series of obligations.
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Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum.