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I couldn’t attend Visitas as a pre-frosh. Instead, I came the weekend before and stayed with a friend. Thankfully, that weekend wasn’t just an average weekend: It was Yardfest weekend.
Let me set the scene.
At the ripe age of 17, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was choosing between going to Harvard and UC Berkeley for college. I was a second-semester senior in high school, enjoying being king of the school with my classmates. And, to top it all off, I had just gotten my first kiss a few months beforehand—a huge accomplishment for the Star-Trek-obsessed, calculus-loving, acne-bacteria-test-site-faced, skinny-as-a-rail-from-a-factory-in-which-they-produce-especially-thin-rails me.
So I was excited. The concert would not only give me an impression of social life Harvard, but it would also be fun way to cap off my time in high school.
Turns out, it wasn’t really that at all.
Das Racist was the band headlining Yardfest. In case you haven’t heard of them—which is the case for everyone reading this article who isn’t as senior—they’re a duo known for their hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” Here’s a taste of the lyrics:
“I’m at the Pizza Hut. What? I’m at the Taco Bell. What? I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”
Predictably, they didn’t attract a big crowd at Yardfest. It probably didn’t help that they started their set with the statement: “What’s up, you drunk, overprivileged shits?” There were about two rows of people close to the stage dancing. The rest of the Yard was empty. People were pretty miserable. And they weren’t much happier when Tyga came the following year.
Of course, things have gotten better since those artists were invited. Janelle Monáe was great last year, and Jessie J will probably put on a good show.
But here’s the thing: Although there’s been an upward trend of artists over the years, we’ll never have the big headliners other schools have. Brown had Kendrick Lamar playing at its spring festival in 2013. University of California, San Diego, had headliners Diplo, Young the Giant, and Juicy J last year (yes, all of them at one event). And UPenn has tremendous artists every year.
People will recognize some of Jessie J’s songs, but few probably own her albums. At the end of the day, the CEB has a budget for Yardfest that’s smaller than those of other schools. We’re not a party school, and I don’t think we want to be one. So, especially if we’re going to keep the event free for students, there aren't be any huge names coming to campus anytime soon. Unless…
I did some research. And, as it turns out, there are a bunch of big and affordable names out there. It’s just that people haven’t said their names in a while.
Thanks to a list released by Degy, an entertainment booking company that specializes in booking artists for college events, we can see the approximate price ranges for booking various artists. Janelle Monáe is on the list in the $30k-$50k range. So let’s take that as a baseline budget for Yardfest.
Guess who else is listed in that price category: Cheap Trick, Foreigner, Slash, and T-Pain. The first two are 70s and 80s bands with huge mega-hits like “I Want to Know What Love is,” “Surrender,” and “I Want You to Want Me.” And the latter two are now solo artists with plenty of hits of their own.
I know it sounds strange. These artists are not in their prime and their songs are not as popular as they once were. But look deep inside of yourself and ask: What could be more fun and hilarious than bumping with your friends to T-Pain in the yard? What would be more fun and hilarious than going ham to some guitar solos from Slash up on the stage?
There’s another benefit to looking at older artists. Harvard uses its name to get big speakers to come to campus, often presenting them with lifetime achievement awards. Old bands like Journey still play stadiums. But if they got an award from Harvard and had speeches or discussion on campus, I bet they might be willing to play a show as well afterwards for a reduced fee. Think of it: Journey—JOURNEY—playing a show on our campus.
It all boils down to the fact that if we continue to aim for popular, new artists, we’ll never match up to the lineups at other schools. Instead of trying to compete with other spring festivals, we should make Yardfest a new concert genre unto its own.
We’re the oldest school in the country. Let’s have the oldest artists too. The first year may be weird. But after a few years the trend will catch on. Yardfest would take on its own identity. That identity would be quirky. It would be funny. It would be fun. And it’d become another great defining feature of this school.
Anyways, that’s the dream. It’s a long-shot. But, as a wise band once said, “Don’t Stop Believin'.” Let’s bring Journey to Yardfest.
Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.
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