It’s been a long semester and it’s time to blow off some steam. Flower buds are blooming, final project deadlines are approaching, and—projected snow fall notwithstanding—spring is in the air. To celebrate all of our hard work and achievement, the upper echelons of the administration have decided to throw us a wee party. I know. I know what you’re thinking. Is this going to be any fun? Will red velvet cake be involved? Will it be raining? But no: no occasion will ever achieve a level of absurdity to surpass that of Harvard’s 375th anniversary. This is a festivity of a different stripe.
Farewell to elitist pomp and circumstance! Yardfest is a jamboree in which the whole student body can take part. The third act of the concert that serves as its centerpiece was, after all, democratically elected at “Battle for Yardfest.” According to organizers of the shindig, even the Fest’s celebrity guests are chosen with student input. But ye of Vineyard Vines apparel fear not: Yardfest is also a party for the one percent. That’s the fraction of the student body that recognizes the names of the people performing.
Among various members of the Ivy League, including Penn, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, the concept of a weekend-long festival has become essential to the second semesters. Many offer such tantalizing diversions as free food, arcade-style games, and inflatable fun houses. Most provide the academically-minded with an excuse to revel in the culmination of another year and, inevitably, to day drink. Harvard’s take on the prototype is Yardfest—now in its seventh year.
These baby Coachellas vary in size, nature, and general appeal, but each features a large-scale musical event. When the University of Pennsylvania sold floor seat tickets to its hotly-anticipated Spring Fling concert, undergraduates camped out overnight to secure tickets. Now in its 39th year, the largest student-run festival on the East Coast boasts over 10,000 attendees to its concert alone. Never mind that at Penn, Friday night’s musical performance is merely one component of the weekend-long extravaganza. “The school pretty much shuts down for Fling,” notes Josh Oppenheimer, executive secretary of the Social Planning and Events Committee at Penn, estimating that “99.8 percent of students participate, in some way, in Fling activities.”
According to Yale College Council’s events manager, Katherine Donley, 71 percent of undergraduates attended the school’s Spring Fling 2011. Of those who did not make an appearance, only four percent were able to go, but chose not to.
In 2007, fewer than 2,000 students showed up to Yardfest to listen to the musical stylings of Third Eye Blind. Afterwards, the grounds were said to be studded with litter and the memories of awkward middle school haircuts. In 2010, a respectable 4,500 students turned out to see the rapper Kid Cudi. And in 2011, bolstered by a population of farmed-in pre-frosh, that figure nearly doubled. After the concert was over, its entertainers capped off the night by partying at the Owl. (Stars: they’re just like us!)
Eager to maintain continuity, the Office of Student Life tapped an act best known for its supporting role on Far East Movement’s “Like A G6,” to play in Yardfest 2012. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Amiright?
This year, Tiesto will take the stage on the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. The international DJ, who performed at the opening ceremony of the Athens Summer Olympics, will be joined by electro-pop idols and would-be-Urban-Outfitters-icons, Passion Pit. Even our friends at Yale will feel the glow of moderate star wattage when T-Pain heads to New Haven for its annual concert. The rapper has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and won two of them. He’s collaborated with Lil’ Wayne, Ludacris, Kanye West, Ciara, and Jamie Foxx, among others. Let’s put things in quick perspective: The Cataracs—who were recently confirmed as Harvard’s headliners—don’t have a photo on their Wikipedia page.
Reception on campus for Yardfest’s performers has been mixed. Some expressed excitement for the somewhat underground choices. Others were less enthused. “Who are they?” said Vidal U. Ekechukwu ’12.
Kenneth A. Parreno, a fellow at the Office of Student Life, submits his impression that “while the artist selection matters, the event itself is about much more than that.” Parenno highlights the event’s larger purpose: to bring the College together with good food and good friends. Good food, good friends, and the dulcet tones of Das Racist.