Author: Sam Van Buren
The stage was empty, a back-track emanated music in the Greek bowl, red and orange light spilled over the crowd and the audience waited. They waited all day, starting in the Thorne-to-Johnson food truck line, then for a friendly TSA-like pat down before the show and finally for Common to make his appearance on stage. The announcement that Common would be performing at this year’s Springfest surprised some after rumors of Waka Floka Flame, Big Sean and Hoobastank. Either way, Snoop Dogg’s performance from last year would be a tough act to follow. Regardless of the artist’s talent or unique message, another rapper for Springfest was an unoriginal repeat of the previous concert, and the programming board could look to diversify its musical portfolio for upcoming Springfests. Common’s lyrical ability, smooth stage presence and popular set-list formed a great show for those who made the effort to listen completely even though the act felt like it had all been seen before.
The crowd’s patience nearly ran out after a couple “Com-mon, Com-mon” chants, just in time for the DJ to cue the beat and Common to burst onto stage. Jumping up and down, head bobbin’ with the mic in hand, it was the standard Hip-Hop entrance. With a concert version of “The People” to start the show off, the amphitheater was buzzing early with “lyrics [that] are like liquor for the fallen soldier.” Having started rapping when most of the audience members were only just born, Common’s deep vocals and impeccable timing with the beat were signs of a seasoned performer.
By the time Common began rapping the words of “Testify,” the audience knew what to expect and rapped along with him: “The judge yelled for order, court reporter making her words shorter, his lawyer…” The set-list included many Common classics and samples from collaborations with Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Of course freestyles are essential to the rap diet, and Common fed the audience well. His freestyles were imaginative, humorous and generated a roar from crowd with any shout out to “Occidental!” There were even mentions of the Pauley resident hall and yellow liquor store, proof that Common did his homework on Occidental.
Even though the show ran smoothly, the scene felt unoriginal. The concert was nice, Common was solid, rap music is great, but after Snoop Dogg and too many school dances featuring “top 40 playlist” music, Springfest needs a refreshing change of genre. Big names draw the big crowds and look impressive on paper, but the school could save money and expand its musical tastes if it hired artists from different genres. If a live band was brought in, showcasing a different set of skills, Springfest could have have been amazing. A rock band with a strong voice belting out the lyrics of a good chorus followed by a head-banging guitar solo has the potential to be much more interactive than yet another rap concert.
In an era of digitalized, computer generated and DJ-based concerts, just a few guys or girls up on stage with only their instruments and voices would have been a welcomed change. Bands like Flogging Molly or Vampire Weekend, while impossible to imagine performing at such a small school as Occidental, are different yet entertaining and energetic. It is fun to either head bob to smooth hip-hop or to head thrash to heavy rock, but after enough head bobbin’ at school sponsored events, it might be time for more head thrashing and more rock. Who will play at next year’s Springfest is still completely up in the air, but hopefully the performer’s sound will deviate from the assumed musical preference of all Occidental students.
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