Updated December 9th, 2:24 a.m.
This year’s Bacchanal spring concert will not take place on Low Plaza and will instead move to an evening concert at Terminal 5, a concert venue in Hell’s Kitchen. The Bacchanal executive board announced the move in a press release on Friday morning.
The Bacchanal student committee cited the cost of hosting the concert on campus as a primary motivator to move the show, which it stated will allow for more funds to be allocated to booking the performing artists. Artists in recent years have included Grammy-nominated artist SOPHIE, Ty Dolla $ign, and AlunaGeorge.
“The main reason why a lot of people in the past haven’t come pick up tickets is because they weren’t really that committed to seeing the music … on stage. It was kind of a second-hand interest,” Bacchanal co-president Joy Barrett, BC ’20, said.
Since 2016, the committee has been plagued with high security costs due to Public Safety configurations requiring significant numbers of barricades. Meanwhile, the committee has cited difficulties attracting headliners without significant increases in funding; last year, the group had to request additional funds from Barnard’s Student Government Association in order to afford a headliner.
“We believe that with the new allocation to the artist budget … students [will say], ‘Oh, it is worth it to get off campus, it is worth it to go out and see them.’ Because in any other capacity, they would be paying for a show at Terminal 5 that’s upward of $40,” Barrett added.
Though committee members could not provide a specific budget, Barrett expressed optimism for their ability to attract current name-recognizable artists.
“We have a better chance of getting someone who people are excited about right now. In terms of monthly listeners [on Spotify, they could have] 10 million monthly listeners. Previous years, [headliners] have had between 1 million and 5 million,” Barrett said.
Students can expect a similar ticketing system as in years past. Up to 3,000 tickets will be released in batches to the student body. Each ticket will include a round-trip Metrocard, though students may choose to opt out of receiving a Metrocard in order for it to be donated to an unspecified organization.
The release also noted that the venue is wheelchair-accessible and that transportation and other accommodations will be coordinated through Columbia Disability Services and Barnard’s Center for Accessibility Resources & Disability Services.
According to committee members, they conducted a survey following last year’s concert in collaboration with the four undergraduate student councils to gather feedback and gauge student support for the potential move. Questions specifically asked whether students would “be in favor of a nighttime, off-campus concert and more on-campus daytime programming.”
A majority of the 736 students who responded to the survey said they would prefer better artists with an off-campus venue, according to Bacchanal co-president Emma Schechter, SEAS ’20,
Daytime programming on the day of the show is yet to be finalized, though the committee has confirmed that it will host a smaller-scale daytime show featuring student artists and potentially local performers on the Butler Lawns. The committee is also planning to collaborate with other student arts clubs around campus, though it is currently unclear in what way they will be involved. This will continue to give students the opportunity to “lie on the grass during the day” without needing to construct a stage near the Low Steps, according to Schechter.
In response to concerns that moving the concert may impact the sense of campus community provided by Bacchanal. Barrett expressed the committee’s intent to maintain this culture, albeit in a new way.
“Arguably, that is our biggest concern—how much of the community aspect we will be able to maintain and retain—but there’s also the opportunity for new community, like getting on the train together; going downtown to Terminal 5. … Taking up a different space as a student population is crazy to think about. If anything, there’s a new opportunity for community by being able to band together and leave the space [campus] as a unit,” Barrett said.
Students’ reaction to the news has been mixed. Some, like Arbaz Omar, CC ‘22, have praised the move while citing concerns of a limited attendance.
“Honestly, I love the move since the venue is amazing from [my] previous experience. I just feel there might be a capacity issue since it’s a closed space and the number, while big, may not be able to cater to the entire student populace and can be quite exclusive,” said Omar.
However, others have expressed frustration with the change. For Ashby Bland, CC ‘20, the decision has brought an important dialogue about the real reason for Bacchanal—the community rather than the artist.
“For me and my friends, Bacchanal has always been something beyond the concert. My friends and I were never elated by any of the artists that Bacchanal brought [in the past], but we could count on being on campus together, laying in the grass. [This year’s show] is not Bacchanal; it’s a concert.” said Bland.
Though the main stage of Bacchanal has shifted, other aspects of the show will unfold in traditional fashion. Battle of the Bands is still scheduled to take place, with the winner being given the opportunity to open for the headliner at Terminal 5.
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