Common adjectives used to describe this year’s Welcome Back Concert included, but were not limited to: messy, disorganized, unsafe, and bad. Any calculated or logical attempt to enter the venue proved futile – there was apparently a massive bottleneck leading up to the doors, featuring extremely loose security that culminated in grapevine stories rumoring that a ten-year-old and multiple Geneva high schoolers were in attendance. A student EMS worker reported “six EMTs at the concert on standby for any medical emergencies…” and that Finger Lakes Ambulance did have a vehicle at the field house for any transports – which should be concerning, considering that medical services essentially expect a decent number of students to need these emergency people and vehicles. In terms of the musical aspect of the occasion, one student said that Boogie “didn’t even play a full song.” As she described it, “a song would play for around 45 seconds, then an air horn effect was used, which immediately transitioned into the next song. I thought I was watching a hype man dance around on stage, not the artist himself.” She continued to rank the event as “an overall 2/10 experience,” adamantly indicating that she would “not do it again.” To make matters worse, the artist didn’t even live up to his namesake, as he “didn’t even have a hood.”
When a group of sophomores were asked whether or not they were in attendance, they replied hesitantly. In their words, “we didn’t want to go – we went in and then we left.” One of them added that she bought a ticket with the sole intention of bringing her brother and his friend in as guests. Other students found the audience even more repelling than the music. An interviewee told me that the most populous group in attendance were “coked up white guys wearing basketball jerseys,” who made the entire experience rather unpleasant. This first-year indicated that while he did enjoy the concert – particularly the nuanced details, like the amount of security guards, the involved production crew, the energy of the room, and even the music – he was unable to actually take in any of it because “the entire room was a gross mosh pit” full of the aforementioned Hobart student trope that another student described as “[feeling] kind of like a Mufasa-getting-trampled type situation.”
As a senior brusquely put it, “you could not have payed me to go to that. I have never had fun at a welcome back concert. It’s sweaty, and there are too many jock guys. I hate people, I hate crowds, I hate bad hip hop, and we never get good hip hop. I’d rather have bad pop than bad hip hop. I could still rage to bad pop.” While the general sentiment remained the same, a nearby student added that she could have been successfully bribed to attend, but only if the sum of money were considerable. After all, she said, “I am a broke college student.” Even so, I met other students who had friends purchase their ticket, but despite it, didn’t have any desire to go.
This brings into perspective the unfortunate truth that the overwhelming majority of students I spoke to didn’t actually attend the concert. Even after surveying a large group – falling under a variety of class years, musical preferences, personal backgrounds, and extracurricular interests – who were asked whether or not they attended the Welcome Back Concert, the most common response was a quick, directed, and passionate “No.” Of those who did not attend, various different criteria influenced their decision, though all ultimately rendered the concert a waste of time.
Interestingly, the name “A Boogie Wit da Hoodie” was a major repellent to many people: as one senior elaborated, “the ‘A Boogie’ part is great, and I love rap, but “Wit da Hoodie” was too much for me.” Another student expressed desire to see more popular acts on the stage, calling back to the days of B.o.B. and OAR, “A Boogie Wit da Hoodie? Like…what? […] Boogie only has one good song…”
While some students chose not to attend based on the artist alone, others remarked on their absence through commentary on an alleged decline in quality of welcome-back artists throughout their time at HWS. One student looked back fondly on past musical performances that met or surpassed his then-lofty, now-lowly expectations. To quote him directly, “Wacka Flocka Flame was lit as hell. T-Pain was lit as hell. And B.o.B.? Lit as hell.” His eyes glistened with sparks of enthusiasm that faded rapidly when asked to relay his opinion of A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. I asked him if he saw the concert this year, and the senior responded with, “No, that [music] is garbage.”
Conflicting events and interests additionally impeded attendance. One first-year informed me that she couldn’t go to the concert because her swim meet ended late that night. This particular student, however, also had a chronic ear infection at the time, and after hearing other responses, told me she probably would have had an okay time at the concert, considering she couldn’t hear anything that night. One senior had never even been to a Welcome Back Concert and unyieldingly deemed ‘A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’ unworthy of breaking her three-year streak of absence. Unsurprisingly, the people who seemed to have the most fun that night were those who saved the money and partook in other events. “The dorms were really quiet,” one first-year recalled.
While other events in the history of HWS archives have been grander points of contention than this semester’s welcome back concert, the event certainly garnered much attention, accompanied by an interesting array of opinions. Even before the final vote was cast, ultimately determining ‘A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’ as the concert headliner, disagreement bled through the seams of the process. Most students agreed that despite perpetual votes for other genres, rap and hip-hop artists somehow tend to “win” every year – but these sentiments are not aggressions towards hip-hop as a genre. The discrepancy lies in the nuance that students mainly expressed dissatisfaction towards the choice in artist. Hip-hop and rap can be poetic, beautiful, and incredibly enjoyable, especially when presented within relevant context, which would undoubtedly allow for a more enjoyable experience. While this is not to say that other popular options seamlessly adhere to these criteria, when a $70,000 production budget funds a borderline-dangerous concert featuring a sub-par one-hit-wonder that disappoints more students than it impresses – all while there are enough food-insecure students on campus to start a food pantry, and plenty of quality student-run bands whose concerts other students are ready and willing to support – a foundation for criticism surfaces that cannot be denied.