The Conservatory gives Lawrence students the opportunity to see music played at a high level by their peers. Because of the high caliber of musicianship attracted by the Conservatory, student bands also provide high-quality performances in a more informal setting. This term however, Lawrence’s live music scene has been fairly inactive, despite at least three campus bands releasing albums. Recent changes in band lineups and the limited availability of suitable venues have caused some turmoil in the student music scene, but we can take steps to revive this important part of campus culture.
Unfortunately, several former student bands did not survive the transition into the new school year. Wild Firth, a party favorite in years past, has now left campus due to three out of its four members graduating in 2016. This year, known campus bands include MF Gritz, the Goat Wizard, Rat Park and Partybistas, all of which have been less active for various reasons. Although MF Gritz and Rat Park are actively writing new music, there haven’t been performance events since LU-Aroo last spring for them to showcase their musical talents.
Recent changes in on-campus housing have also had a significant impact on our campus music scene. For the past few years, Sinfonia, Art House and Greenfire had stand-alone housing where they regularly hosted live music. However, those houses have now been repurposed, moving Sinfonia and Greenfire to lofts in Colman. While the lofts make for comfortable living spaces, the increased possibility of noise violations within the larger dormitory environment, as well as the low-ceilinged, concrete-heavy layout of the lofts mean they are not ideal for concerts.
These changes make groups look to outside venues, such as the Warch Campus Center, to host concerts. However, performances sponsored by student organizations in the Campus Center are usually much less well-attended than those taking place at parties in small houses. The more formal, less intimate events held at the Campus Center are not usually in line with the raucous, not-necessarily-sober atmosphere of a house show.
The hindrances discussed above are not likely to change anytime soon, so the question becomes, what can be done to revitalize our campus’ live music scene?
First of all, on-campus organizations that do have the capacity to host live bands should do so. Thus far, Sig-Ep and soon to be Co-Op and Greenfire are the only organizations with their own houses that have hosted performances. Hosting live music not only helps performers, but the organizations as well, as it brings in a different crowd to their events, meaning they are able to reach out to more people.
What’s more, we should look to underclassmen to take the initiative and start their own bands on campus. Lawrence has so many creative and dedicated musicians, it should not be a challenge to assemble a decent lineup. What’s more, the liberal arts audience has always been receptive to more unconventional sounds, so people will probably enjoy any new act that surfaces.
Student music outside of the Conservatory has filled an important part of life at Lawrence in years past for musicians and audience members alike. While this term has been a difficult transition for many groups, it is up to students to create and fill new spaces for this music to continue to flourish on campus.