When I got word last weekend that Waka Flocka Flame and Michelle Branch were coming to Spring Fling, I became so happy I almost cried. Waka is king of the hoodrats right now, heir apparent to the 1017 Brick Squad legacy ever since Gucci Mane went a little crazy. Michelle Branch was my idol at the age of nine, back when I used to think it was cool to cover my body in temporary tattoos of glittery butterflies. I knew that Spring Fling would be utter nonsense — in the most fun way possible. But then that turned out to be a joke.
So Waka Flocka Flame and Michelle Branch were supposed to be jokes, but Designer Drugs and Third Eye Blind are totally serious?
After last week’s joke announcement and subsequent confirmation of the real performers, it finally feels like Spring Fling season is upon us again. I’ve decided that the most fun part of Spring Fling has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the music — it’s looking back on how absurd you were during last year’s Fling, and wondering how on Earth you’ll be able to top that this time around.
That said, the second and third most fun parts are certainly wondering who the performers are going to be, and then complaining about them when you’re inevitably disappointed. Both times I had the opportunity to do so, I considered applying to join the Spring Fling Committee. The power to remake the mini festival in the image of my own personal iTunes was appealing; but in the end, I realized that a position on the committee would make me responsible for what it came up with. I’m a natural-born critic — I love to complain. I must complain.
Based on the reactions to last year’s Fling and this year’s proposed lineup, I am not the only person who likes to complain. Face it: everyone is always disappointed by the Spring Fling lineup. MGMT was mean, Sean Kingston was ridiculous, the Decemberists were boring, the Ying Yang Twins were offensive, etc. There are no artists that will please everyone, so maybe it’s better to be complaint-worthy than utterly forgettable.
So I’m only moderately dissatisfied with the prospects for Fling 2011. Lupe Fiasco has a real “performs at colleges and knows about rock music” feel that gives him broader appeal than one might think. Third Eye Blind has written some pretty damn catchy songs; need I say more? I think Designer Drugs falls on the corny side of Witch house, but they’ve remixed some of my favorite bands, so I trust that they’ll show us a good time. I don’t know who the fourth band will be, but there had better be a fourth band, because Lupe + Third Eye Blind + Designer Drugs should not equal $100,000.
From what I can tell, Spring Fling as we know it today originated in 2005. Before 2005, the YCC would spend $30,000 or $40,000 to bring one band, usually an obviously college-oriented act (Guster in 2002, Ben Harper in 2001, Wilco in 2003). But the ambitions of Spring Fling changed after the student activities fee was implemented in 2004, and the event’s performers budget increased to $100,000. Spring Fling 2005 featured three more-or-less equally famous, college-oriented acts: The Shins, O.A.R. and Rahzel. Since then, the festival has moved away from focusing on college-popular bands and has followed a formula of contracting one huge act costing at least half of the budget, and a few lesser stars to open.
It’s debatable whether the YCC should bring as many acts as possible to Spring Fling. But maybe the debate is not worth having, because it’s difficult to prove that satisfaction did or did not change after the budget doubled. It is impossible to deny that despite its mixed successes as a music festival, Spring Fling triumphs every year as a Yale tradition, debate-starter, and downright spectacle. So despite my (admittedly lukewarm) feelings about this year’s performers, I’m thankful for the opportunity to get some sun on my shoulders while dancing with a few thousand of my closest friends.