Every year every publication on campus must pass high and mighty judgment on this year’s Rites of Spring lineup, and, by extension, the chops of the Vanderbilt Programming Board (VPB). So how did they do?
Given the crashing endowment, I’m impressed VPB managed to get us a guy who raps about having a $5 million dollar home. Indeed, T.I. can teach Vanderbilt students a thing or two about success in tough economic times. Like many graduating seniors, after April T.I. will be taking a gap year to build his resume at a very prestigious and self-selecting institution for aspiring rappers.
Expect: Gratuitous amounts of swagger and bling; a conspicuous lack of violence
The Flaming Lips
They fit right in with current trends in music – i.e. they are eccentric and airy-sounding – but, having been on the scene for 25 years, they also know how to rock the house down. Their studio music isn’t anything special, but their live act is energetic, so they will come across well at Rites. Try not to get into arguments about what their band name means; you’ll sound just as ridiculous. Just sit back, mosh, and enjoy the show.
Expect: Balloons. Confetti. Psychedelic video footage. An enormous plastic bubble. And awesomeness.
While scoring about 10 bajillion points with the Vanderbilt Programming Board diversity squadron, makes music that is decidedly sub-par. A live performance? Given the choice between Flying and Dying, I’d put my money on the latter. You see, No one Ever Really Dies… unless you named your band something stupid like N.E.R.D. Their name does have one thing going for it, though; they can pass themselves off at college music festivals as the act that brings in the nerds (did you see the galactic backdrop in their publicity photo?). But let’s face it, the only way to get those people to come to Rites is to schedule Rites about a thousand light years before finals. Or bring in a real Asian band. And what’s the only Asian band that has universal appeal? That’s right. Yatta.
Expect: A last minute change to Yatta, the classic bait-and-switch.
Let’s start with the name. Is it because she has gold skin like Lord T (or is it Eloise?). Musically, Santigold is at best an average indie singer, and at worst a cheap M.I.A. knockoff. And M.I.A.’s from the third world, how does that work? Anyone who watched the Grammies knows there’s only room for one M.I.A. on earth. On the Viva La Vida world tour Santigold made a career of appearing on stage when everyone would much rather see Coldplay, and Rites of Spring promises to be no different.
Expect: The Killers-inspired riffs, quirky M.I.A.-inspired rapping, and no originality.
On the other hand, K’Naan is from Somalia. Somalia hasn’t had a working government for two decades. Their lawless seas are home to the finest pirates in the world. Coming from this struggle, K’naan is one hungry dude, some might even say the next Akon. But don’t take my word for it. YouTube “Soobax,” “Going Away,” and “In the Beginning.” Be amazed.
Expect: Anybody’s guess. He’ll switch from Damien Marley to Eminem to Sean Paul faster than you can say “child soldiers.” The surprise sleeper pick of the festival.
Hmmm. Unlike the Flaming Lips, absolutely no one wants to know how this rapper got his name. Some of his songs have somewhat intelligent lyrics, but it remains to be seen if anyone will be able to hear them live, or even care about anything but dancing to the beats.
Expect: Uncomfortable levels of hygiene. Mental floss anybody?
Grand Ole Party
Tying your band’s name to the Republican Party (and the Grand Ole Opry) is probably not the best of ideas, unless you’re trying to appeal to a certain population of southerners. Grand Ole Party, however, doesn’t know who it’s trying to appeal to: turtleneck-wearing Vampire Weekend fans, White Stripes scenesters, or barroom blues types. I can’t help but wonder why GOP’s guitarist and bassist seem like they’re on the verge of falling asleep, while the poor, slightly demented-sounding and overworked female lead singer has to play the drums. It’s an act only masochists and/or misogynists could enjoy. And a disaster waiting to happen.
Expect: There will be blood. The front row will get wet.
Black Joe Lewis
Ah, remember the good old days when bands played square guitars, had three brass instruments, and sang like Little Richard? Well, neither does anyone else under 65. Nevertheless, Black Joe Lewis hopes to take you there.
Expect: “WTF” written on everyone’s faces.
Plain White T’s plus a banjo, minus “Hey There Delilah.”
Expect: Plain White T’s with a banjo. Without “Hey There Delilah.”
Run With Bulls
T-Bone Burnett’s next pet project. Give em another quarter century.
Expect: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, without the Grammies or talent
Pico vs. Island Trees
“Open Doors.” Pretty sophisticated songwriting, and a tight performance. I could see them doing a big hit like “Mr. Jones and Me” one day.
Expect: To brag to your friends that you saw them live before they hit it big.
These guys are pretty good too.
Expect: A rockier form of Pico vs. Island Trees.
How did Sara Watkins get in this lineup? Here’s one scenario:
VPB 1: “Well, we’ve got $200 left and one act to fill…who should we get?”
VPB 2: “An unknown bluegrass fiddler, duh.”
VPB 1: “Funny, I don’t know any…”
VPB 2: “Me neither. Let’s fire up YouTube.”
Expect: The audience to listen while it’s good, and to stomp when it’s about to fall apart.
Star Death and the White Dwarfs
A Deep Purple revivalist band. But left the good singing and songwriting back in the 70’s.
VPB 1: “Only $20 left…”
VPB 2: “Let’s get Star Death and the White Dwarfs!”
VPB 1: “Who?”
Expect: Lots of smoke, mirrors, and extended bass/drum solos.
Four Caribbean-looking girls does not a Rihanna make. Nevertheless, vast swaths of Vanderbilt will be deceived.
Knoxville love! Not really. This guy’s a tool.
VPB 1: “WTF… we need one more act?”
VPB 2: “Erick Baker will do it for free!”
VPB 1: “Who?”
VPB 2: “Just trust me, he’ll do it.”
Expect: A John Mayer wannabe, James Blunt lookalike.
And there you have it. Bottom line? I’m going. $20 to catch The Flaming Lips, K’naan, and Pico vs. Island Trees ain’t bad. And it gives me an excuse to partake in the revelry and wild abandon. How could any self-respecting capitalist refuse?