It doesn’t take much to get someone to Toad’s. Past a certain point on Saturday night, it exerts some abnormal gravity over us, and we’re drawn like moths to a flame. It’s understandable: booze, dancing, friends; there’s plenty to be said for Toad’s.
Which is why I was so mystified to see the dance floor half-empty last Friday night at the start of WYBC’s annual Anti-Fling concert. The throngs that usually spill into the bar area were instead confined to a knot pressed up against the stage, bouncing along to a killer set by a freshman DJ. Despite a strong lineup, an evening of live music and — maybe most importantly — a free open bar, Anti-Fling was decidedly off the beaten path.
I’d realized this, to some extent, earlier in the night. My suggestions to check out the free show had been met with blank stares all evening: “Anti-what?” Plenty of people had no idea about the event, and would have remained oblivious if not for my intervention. Everyone I told about Anti-Fling was instantly sold — an open bar will do that — and their enthusiasm for what promised to be a great night was matched only by their confusion as to why they hadn’t heard about it.
I have a radio show, as you may have guessed from the fact that I self-indulge in a music column, and I had the distinct feeling that Anti-Fling was a show for radio, by radio, for the cool kids and by the cool kids. Let’s start with the name: Calling the concert “Anti-Fling” makes it nothing more than the opposite of everyone else’s idea of a concert. It’s something close to a “fuck you” to those poor souls ignorant enough to be content with Spring Fling; if you enjoy Spring Fling, then you certainly won’t enjoy its evil twin, the Anti-Fling. Sure, WYBC did promo: a few posters on Old Campus, a Facebook event. If we wanted this event to be bigger, we could have made it so, and I think we should have.
Because who wouldn’t enjoy Anti-Fling if they went? The show opened with a set from Beat Culture, a Yale producer who’s made something of a name for himself in the open water. Beat Culture, aka Sunik Kim ’16, is the rare DJ who puts on a show instead of just pressing buttons. With sounds just unusual enough to be fresh and an ear for infectious beats, Kim had the crowd just as into his music as he was. His music had both edge and appeal — the essence of Anti-Fling.
But the evening’s most memorable performance would belong undoubtedly to Mykki Blanco, a cross-dressing New York rapper who insists on going by female gender pronouns. Although Blanco toned down her get-up for the show, settling for black lipstick and a basketball jersey that doubled as a skirt for the show’s second half, she delivered a snarling, vitriolic performance that was impossible to tune out, one way or the other. Okay, so it’s not the kind of thing you’d see at Spring Fling — although some of Macklemore’s outfits can border on androgynous. But even if more than a few of the event’s bro-ier attendees might not have expected a cross-dressing rapper, everyone could shout along to the refrain of Blanco’s “Getting Wavy”: “We’re getting wavy, getting wavy, getting wavy.” Like I said, an open bar will do that.
Blanco’s bizarre set led into a performance from Brooklyn band Oberhofer, who played convincing if somewhat conservative indie rock, poles apart from Blanco’s antics. As happens with a lot of bands, Oberhofer lost much of their sound’s glockenspiel-fueled nuance once they stepped out of the studio. Their set was all power chords and fist pumping; I’m not sure if I saw someone break out a lighter, but you get the point. No one at the show was as snooty as me, though, and Oberhofer’s set had enough energy to keep a well-lubricated crowd interested before electronic act Pictureplane closed out the night with some solid spinning.
There wasn’t much “anti” about Anti-Fling. It wasn’t against anything except itself. Why would you put on a great show, pay for an open bar and then spin it as the concert for people too cool for concerts? It makes no sense to use music to differentiate people, for music to be “for” some people and not for others. Obviously, not everyone likes everything, but music itself isn’t biased. It’s not going to make a football player bleed from the ears to hear some indie rock, and it doesn’t make your music better when you’re apathetic about sharing it with people. Music is an inherently communal activity; we’ve been making it in groups for millennia. It shouldn’t take an open bar for music to pull people together.
It helps, though.