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Ben Folds Set To Rock At Yardfest

By Alexander D. Blankfein, Crimson Staff Writer

Pop artist Ben Folds, who sings that he “take[s] the checks and face[s] the facts,” will soon be taking a check from University President Lawrence H. Summers. Folds will perform in Tercentenary Theater as part of Yardfest, an April 30 event that will be funded by the president’s office, College officials announced yesterday.

Folds’ visit marks a break from past campus concerts, which have been planned by the Undergraduate Council. Yesterday’s announcement comes as the council prepares to consider legislation this Sunday that would shift responsibility for concerts and other social programming to an independent body.

Folds, who is currently on a cross-country tour that has included stops at Swarthmore, Vanderbilt, and Yale, will be the headline act of Yardfest 2006. The event will only be open to Harvard undergraduates, according to Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II. Indie rocker Chris Mills, who is currently touring with Folds, will also perform.

The piano virtuoso Folds rose to fame in the late 1990’s as the front man for the band Ben Folds Five, a group that dissembled in 2000.

He released his solo debut album “Rockin’ the Suburbs” on Sept. 11, 2001. Despite its unfortunately-timed release date, the album debuted at number 42 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

GOING YARD

McLoughlin and Campus Life Fellow Justin H. Haan ’05 said yesterday that in addition to the concert, Yardfest will also include tire swings and games.

Admission to the concert will be free for undergraduates, and Harvard University Dining Services will provide dinner. Only the Quincy House and Currier House dining halls will be open during the event.

Yardfest organizers say that the event was planned to replace Springfest, which has received much criticism over the years for its lack of an undergraduate focus.

McLoughlin said yesterday that Yardfest was planned as an undergraduate-only event.

“The point is for students to come and relax,” said McLoughlin. “We really want it to feel like a campus-wide event.”

In the wake of several failed student-led efforts at large-scale social programming, including last semester’s cancelled Wyclef Jean concert, the College has taken a more active role in event planning.

“It is no secret that we have been working hard to improve college life community,” said McLoughlin.

In November, the Harvard Concert Commission (HCC), a subsidiary body of the UC, cancelled its planned fall concert featuring hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean because of insufficient ticket sales, costing the UC between $25,000 and $30,000 in sunk costs. And the UC’s Springfest Afterparty last year cost $16,000 but drew fewer than 200 people.

This month’s concert was planned with these previous stumbles in mind, according to Haan, who is a former Crimson deputy photo chair.

Yesterday, both McLoughlin and Haan expressed confidence that students would attend Yardfest and the concert.

“We did informal polling,” said HCC Chair Tyler O’Brien ’07. “We also looked at Ben Fold’s touring record. We made sure we picked an artist that is tailored to the Harvard audience.”

The Dean’s Office declined to release the event’s budget, except to say that Summers’ office would fund the concert.

NEW MODEL FOR SOCIAL PLANNING

While the concert commission is a subsidiary of the UC, the council’s president, John S. Haddock ’07, said last night that the council’s Campus Life Committee (CLC) played a minimal role in planning this year’s Yardfest.

“The UC—and CLC specifically—is not involved in the general planning,” said Haddock. “We wanted students to be involved, but we thought it was beyond the scope of what the UC could do on its own.”

While the specific details of the council’s proposal for an independent programming body have yet to emerge, Haddock said that the board would have a separate budget from the UC, and would be charged with planning and organizing events like Yardfest.

If the proposal passes, Haddock said, the next step would be to present the plan to the Dean’s Office.

McLoughlin said yesterday that events like Yardfest “illustrate the need for a programming board.”

“Our hope is that the student programming board will take charge of this event next year,” McLoughlin said.

—Staff writer Alexander D. Blankfein can be reached at ablankf@fas.harvard.edu.

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