On the ground: At Fling, moshing and merriment

As Linda Chang ’12 defended her front-row spot at Tuesday’s Spring Fling, casual eye contact with rapper Wale’s guitarist, Drew White, ended with the artist sending a security guard to get Chang’s phone number.

“We hung out for a bit and so now I have Drew’s number, and a photo with him,” Chang said. “I feel kind of awesome.”

Girl Talk
Jared Shenson
Girl Talk

Chang, a freshman, could not compare her behind-the-scenes run-in with any past Spring Flings. But three student organizers and a dozen upperclassmen interviewed all described Tuesday’s concert as the most successful in recent memory. The concert was considerably longer than in years past, featuring five professional acts as well as three student bands.

For the Yale College Council and Yale Student Activities Committee members organizing the event, Spring Fling began at the crack of dawn Tuesday morning. Having built the stage the day before the event, the first shift of students showed up to Old Campus between 6 and 7 a.m. to set up light and sound equipment and prepare food and accommodations for the artists.

Fulfilling the artists’ requests took a significant amount of time, organizers said. The Decemberists, for example, provided an itemized list of 77 requests for their dressing room, band members and crew that included one bag of flavored Kettle Brand potato chips, one small bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin and one copy of The New York Times.

“The Decemberists didn’t like the salad we got them,” YSAC Chair Colin Leatherbury ’09 said.

N*ERD was less demanding, asking simply for an unspecified main entree, two side orders, dessert and beverages. Girl Talk’s requests included 100 rolls of cheap, one-ply toilet paper, a three-pack of size small white T-shirts and an R-rated movie of the organizers’ choice.

The crowd began making its way to Old Campus to hear the student bands around 2 p.m. Some students gathered near the stage to hear their friends in student bands, while other groups sat out on blankets and still others held parties in Old Campus suites.

Due to a few production mix-ups — for example, the production company hired by YCC ordered the wrong onstage earphones for indie alternative rock band The Decemberists — the student bands took the stage about half an hour behind schedule.

By the time rapper Wale started performing at around 4:30 p.m., undergraduate students, graduate students and staff members were flooding Old Campus through two entrances manned by Yale Security.

By 5:30 p.m., The Decemberists were more than ready to take the stage. Though The Decemberists’ tour manager expressed frustration that the event was running behind, YCC President Rich Tao ’10 said, the band delivered the full 75-minute set.

At one point, the band’s lead singer encouraged students to climb on each other’s shoulders and try to knock each other down. About 25 pairs of students took up the challenge, pushing each other in the middle of the crowd.

Meanwhile, student organizers began to prepare for funk-rock band N*ERD, who requested to be picked up in an Escalade and a BMW, Tao said. But organizers were surprised to learn that Pharrell Williams, the band’s front man, was not in either of the cars or the tour bus that arrived soon afterward. About half an hour before he was set to perform, Tao said, Williams arrived.

“Turns out Pharrell was just driving himself down from New York,” Tao said. “His tour bus had his entourage and a few other random band members.”

During N*ERD’s performance, Williams repeatedly exhorted students to crowd surf, at one point demanding that he wanted to see “10 crowd surfers and three mosh pits.” Students obliged as Williams slowly counted the crowd surfers appearing in the air, though many were promptly dropped.

Organizers also began preparing for the performance of mash-up DJ Girl Talk, who had requested that about 50 to 75 students join him onstage. After dozens of would-be dancers flooded the backstage area, Tao said Yale police became strict about regulating who was allowed behind the stage.

The police threatened to arrest student organizers who allowed their friends backstage, Tao said.

“I think they were a bit more strict than they should have been,” Tao said, though he understood the safety concerns behind the crackdown. “I don’t think they showed a lot of respect for the people organizing the event.”

As dozens of students gyrated around him, Girl Talk hovered over his turntable, growing increasingly sweaty and finally tearing off his white T-shirt. Crew members shot rolls of toilet paper into the air, draping those onstage in yards of white tissue.

Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith characterized the event as quieter than in past years. One individual not affiliated with the University was arrested for trespassing, while a student was ticketed for trespassing, she said. Another student was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Some freshman residents of Durfee Hall intermittently launched water balloons at the crowd below for about three hours, until security guards finally put a stop to the antics.

After Girl Talk’s performance, many students, worn out from the nearly nine-hour concert, went to bed early. Others headed off to the numerous after-parties.

But for the event’s organizers, the night was hardly over; cleanup lasted until 5:30 a.m. For Tao, it was the end of a yearlong job.

“This has been brewing in my head since last year this time,” Tao said. “It is just really nice to see it come together so nicely.”

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