By GRACE HOWIE
On Thursday, Apr. 12, the University of Mary Washington welcomed We The Kings and T-Pain. With the help of volunteers, the Campus Programming Board transformed the Anderson Center into a concert venue fitting of these two artists.
We The Kings opened with an energetic, nostalgic performance. Starting with “Check Yes Juliet,” a song that my inner 14-year-old couldn’t help but belt out since I still remember all the lyrics. One of the students who came specifically to see We the Kings was junior Sean Bermingham, who said that “We the Kings [was] the best performance that UMW has ever had.”
Frontman, Travis Clark, is really good at what he does and the between song commentary never felt forced. One highlight was a story he told about the song Secret Valentine, in which he used Tetris as a metaphor for the first time he had sex to make it more ‘school appropriate’.
Seniors Emma Wallace and Timmy Caish told me that they thought, “they were awesome and have a great personality. Their interaction with the crowd was incredible.” The energy that the band was able to sustain throughout the set, particularly in a way that hyped up the crowd for T-Pain, made a difference on the overall experience of the show.
In the past at Spring Concerts, especially with artists of different genres, the momentum between sets sometimes falls flat. Caish said that he “liked the mix because some students want one genre versus the other. It was a good mix of both, and I think targeted more students on campus.”
This year, the two genres worked, and I think it was heavily impacted by the constant excitement that We the Kings facilitated by asking the crowd if they were ready for T-Pain or mentioning him. Everyone I talked to thoroughly enjoyed them, and most had been there in anticipation of this band, the nostalgic aspect was a huge strength for them. Bermingham added, “it’s all about keeping the hype up and losing your voice.”
When T-Pain came on, and the crowd went wild. Sophomore Ellie Kilmon said she thought “people [were] more excited for T-Pain,” and I agree. He is objectively the bigger name with more recognizable songs, however the majority of the songs he sang were ones that he is featured on, meaning he would play a short section before transitioning into another. It was very jarring, and while I understand, as some of these features are the more well-known things that he has done, it was overall a dissatisfying performance.
The whole set was weird. There were long breaks between songs, in which he would go talk to his DJ leaving the crowd in slight confusion before delving into another hit without any sort of comment. T-Pain also repeated a few songs more than once, and that to me just didn’t sit quite right. Was he just singing what he thought people wanted to hear?
It almost felt like, especially with the breaks, that he hadn’t really planned which was disheartening from an artist of this size, since there had been so much expectation for his performance from the students.
The Spring Concert is what you make it, and for some people, like sophomore Sam Hartz, “it’s a gorgeous, beautiful, and magical night.” For others like juniors Maddie Ullestad and Mike Stys, it was “too long and too hot,” so they left early. They left 15 minutes into T-Pain’s set, the artist that they had specifically come to see but noted it’s “not a reflection of the show or those who planned it.” Part of the reasoning as Stys told me was that “people started getting too rowdy.”
This is a problem every year, that is not anyone’s fault other than those attending. UMW as a whole is not a good audience. There were fights, complaints of pushing and a large amount of students seemed somewhat intoxicated. I foresee this to be a continuing problem in the future as it has been in the past.
Overall, it was great night. Both performers played good sets with recognizable songs, and I think CPB tried really hard this year to give the campus what they wanted. However, I asked everyone that I talked to whether or not they had taken the survey to select the artists, and of those that had, whether or not they were happy with the outcome. Everyone said they weren’t particularly pleased with the outcome.
There will never be a perfect way to allow the student body to comment on or choose who we get for the Spring Concert, but I think there may be greater disappointment for students when they see some of those bigger names as options, and then we don’t get them. But I do want to acknowledge that even if the people I talked to hadn’t voted for T-Pain, somebody did, and those people were probably too busy enjoying the show.
My takeaway is that I think CPB should take every aspect of a show into consideration, not just getting a big name. Just from talking to the students who were there, it was evident that the presence of a real band was preferential over a DJ/ backing tracked set.
This was also the case last year, as Waka Flocka played a set to backing tracks while D.R.A.M played with a live band. It’s just an incredibly different and almost more authentic experience, especially considering the price we’re paying for these artists. This was my last Spring Concert, but don’t doubt I will be checking CPB’s social media to find out who we’ll have next year.