A half-time experience: Lanez leaves Whittfest early

A half-time experience: Lanez leaves Whittfest early
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“Whittier College about to get littier college tonight,” said this Whittfest’s headlining artist, Tory Lanez. He had the crowd going wild . . .  for 34 minutes. The second annual Whittfest event had been in the making since T-Pain walked off-stage in 2017, and that year-long planning process paid off on Friday, April 6, 2018. Whittfest was met with great excitement, before it abruptly ended.

Program Board and KPoet kicked off the night with their new event called KFest, a collaboration of Whittier’s previous KChella and Springfest events. It took place on the North Lawn, with plenty of grass space for tables and events. Activities included body paint by Team M&M, balloons, hair glitter, live music, a photo booth, tye-dye, and a rock wall. This event engaged students on campus before directing their attention to the Upper Quad for the main event.

Fourth-year Carly McAllister has been a fan of Lanez for years and was ready to share the experience with peers. “Engaging different parts of the community together to enjoy music? That’s awesome," said McAllister. "I’ve listened to him since I was a little kid so I know his music. I’m excited.” Whittfest doors opened at 6 p.m., but students did not start to filter in until the openers came on stage. 

Two Whittier College artists had the once-in-a-lifetime experience to open for a big name artist that night. The opener for Lanez was Battle of the Bands winner Aaron Shreve, known by his DJ name, shreviewonder. However, he wasn’t on stage alone. Shreve invited Battle of the Bands competitor and friend Aaron Mazon on stage to share the excitement together. 

“Amazon [Mazon] and I met up several times to practice our set in front of some of our friends. We wanted to make sure that the set was perfect and would pump everybody up before Tory Lanez came on,” said Shreve. Both of the artists share the same style of music, so collaborating on a set was more fun than work, which showed in their upbeat engagement jumping up and down with the crowd. “It was pretty surreal,” said Mazon. “Once we weren’t afraid to look a little silly on stage, it just felt like we were dancing to the music just like everyone else.”

 Neither DJs had much prior experience mixing under their musical belts, so their nerves crept up on them a bit, but on stage it didn’t show. “Some advice I’d give to the next Whittfest opener would be to have fun and not stress,” said Shreve. “The reason people show up to see you is because they’re interested and probably want to see you do well.  That’s definitely what kept me from getting too nervous.”

The Whittfest Committee attempted to bring star power to the campus and sought out Lanez for the role. The Whittfest Committee is made up of four chairs: Marketing, Hospitality, Production, and Sponsorship. Each Chair has specific responsibilities and goals that pertain to their title. Program Board defined these Chairs:

Hospitality Chair: works with the artist’s contacts, arranges food with BonAppetit, sets up the multiple Green Rooms that are needed, and ensures our artist is comfortable.

Production Chair: works with our production company, and is there the day before/day of to assist where needed and be a liaison between the Whittfest team and their team.

Marketing Chair: is responsible for our Social Media platforms (@Whittfest on Instagram and Twitter), marketing our event, and for the planning and execution of Battle of the Bands, which gives Whittier College students the chance to open for our headlining artist.

Sponsorship Chair: Works with various organizations and departments on our campus, along with companies in our community, offers the opportunity to partner with Whittfest in various ways, and such that it will be beneficial for all parties.

According to second-year Program Board Director Isabella Zonni, one of the biggest changes from from previous years was the decision to give students free tickets. “Inclusivity is something Whittier College, as well as Program Board, holds as a high priority,” said Zonni. “We wanted to ensure any and all students, guests, and staff would have the opportunity to attend our event. Though I cannot predict the future, it is our hope and goal that we will be able to offer free and fun events for all.” Another big change was the location. “Having it in the Quad is the best change,” said third-year Corie Hammock. “I’m a big fan, and I’m really surprised Whittier brought a big artist to this school.”

Whittfest’s planning and execution required work from a variety of parties. The Committee and the professional staff had to negotiate bids for artists, book sound, staging, and lighting; acquire food and beverages for the performer’s green room based on their orders, ensure that each vendor and contract is properly and accurately written, book the Whittier Police Department and an ambulance in case of an emergency, and secure the venue with the help of Campus Safety and the contracted security company.

The contracted company, Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), secured the perimeter of the concert area for Whittfest; the same company as last year. According to Associate Dean of Students Josh Hartman, CSC provides services for venues across the U.S. and are a well-known concert, festival, and special events security company. Despite their reputation, somes students expressed concerns that people of color were being targeted by security. “These reports are very concerning, and I would encourage students who have knowledge or experience supporting those assertions to bring them to me or to file a Bias Incident Report,” said Hartman. “We contract with a variety of vendors and we expect that they adhere to expectations of inclusivity that we as a College hold dear, and I would like to address specific concerns with the company so we can pursue action as necessary and appropriate moving forward.” Hartman’s office is located under the Campus Inn within the Dean of Students Offices.

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Other student concerns post-Whittfest have circled back to the performance itself. According to a tweet sent out by ASWC Senate, the total cost of the event was upward of $130,000. Their tweet is a general breakdown of the event:

“Whittfest Logistics:

1. Total cost $135,000 - $140,000

2. 60 minute artist performance fee $75,000 (actual performance time: 34 minutes)

3. Approximately 800-900 people attended the event.”

The turnout was only slightly less than last year, with 850 counted guests. According to fourth-year Chris Montelli, 34 minutes wasn’t enough time with the guest artist. “It was shorter than what I was expecting,” said Montelli. While there have been many rumors on campus about why Lanez might have left the stage early, there is no verified answer. “That [student] dissatisfaction extended to the Whittfest Committee and to the people who were backstage, also. [It was] made clear to the tour manager backstage, and our booking agent.” Lanez performed for 34 minutes, however he was contracted to be on stage for a 60-minute show. “We are trying to figure out the best way forward, and are concerned because the College didn’t get the full show as contracted,” said Hartman. Lanez did, however, attend the meet-and-greet after the show as contracted.

 Lanez offered some students a personal meet-and-greet after his short set, taking the time to meet each person and take individual photos with them. Among some of these students were openers Shreve and Mazon. “He wasn’t super cocky or anything; he just seemed like a chill, normal guy. He took the time [to] take pictures with everybody in the room, which I thought was cool,” said Mazon.  “Being behind the scenes opened my eyes to how hard the Whittfest Committee worked to make sure that this event went smoothly.” 

Among the rest of the planning for Whittfest, the Committee is responsible for advertising the concert, recruiting other members, and soliciting feedback from the student body.  “We have heard concerns from students, mainly about the performance time, but have also heard from many that they greatly enjoyed the event," said Zonni. "We want to make sure all voices are heard, and the situation is being handled both at a student level by listening to concerns, as well as at an administrative level, with individuals in top leadership positions of the college. We encourage students to fill out a survey that will be sent out in the near future so we can collect information to continue to learn, and better our event(s). Program Board Meetings are also open to the student body, and we would love to have anyone join us to share thoughts on Whittfest 2018. We meet on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in the LEAP Conference Room.”