Spring W.I.L.D.

| Senior Cadenza Editor

Reviewing the new, festival-style line-up

So just over a week before the event itself, we finally have the full roster for this year’s spring W.I.L.D. It’s a little bit of a perplexing array, and while I appreciate the variety, it’s unclear how this new festival layout will work on the day of or whether it will fix what has been rapidly declining student opinion of the event. I have tried to break down each artist and how it may go over, but as student opinion is always highly variable, next Friday looks like it may be a bit of a wild card (no pun intended.)


Yeasayer is probably the closest to a quintessential spring W.I.L.D. band that the lineup has this year. Its unique variety of psychedelic-tinged indie pop would create a perfect marriage with a sunny day. Although much of the band’s sound hinges on fuzzy, lo-fi influences, there are enough synthesizers and sample tracks to pep up a crowd that may not have heard of the group (a lot of similar bands require several listens to truly acclimate to their musical atmospheres.)

I reviewed Yeasayer’s latest release, 2012’s “Fragrant World” last year (I gave the album two stars), and one of my main gripes with the album was its distinct lack of excitement—most songs just didn’t have that spirit that makes you sit up and listen. Translating these songs into a live show with a crowd of inebriated college kids is a little bit worrying. Granted, the previous album, “Odd Blood,” fared better in this respect, but with a recent release, you can usually expect a band to try to load a show with its newer material for more recognition and exposure. Overall, Yeasayer will make the current fans very happy indeed and will go over well if the crowd is willing to lie back and chill but may not attract the largest number of kids who want just a bit more time to pregame.

Mat Kearney

The announcement of Mat Kearney arguably generated the most vocal support and excitement on social media feeds but notably mainly from the female students, and there’s a reason for that. Kearney has perfected the widely appealing and radio-ready pop track with an exact equation of honeyed and emotional vocals, memorable melodies and plenty of handclaps for crowd synchronization. His songs are the definition of easy listening and perfect for a convertible car on a summer day or lying back in a hammock. On the other hand, Kearney’s wide appeal may just be his downfall in the eyes of more discerning students who despise the generic.

And if there’s one word to describe Kearney, it’s generic. In the same vein as other singer-songwriters like Eric Hutchinson, Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw, if you’ve heard one of Kearney’s songs, you’ve heard them all. Logically then, if you haven’t heard of him but like any of the artists I’ve listed, you’re in luck. This also means that Kearney won’t be offering anything new or innovative to students in Brookings Quadrangle.

This doesn’t mean Kearney won’t be able to put on an entertaining show next week. His laidback singer-songwriter vibe will carry on the relaxed mood that Yeasayer will inevitably create. Catchy hooks, sing-a-long choruses and smooth vocals will abound, but will anyone be willing to fight the screaming girls to enjoy him?


In a surprising announcement for the last slot on the list, a lot of students might have been expecting the best-known band to close out spring W.I.L.D. Instead, Social Programming Board has gone for niche alternative hip-hop duo Atmosphere, which may be the least well-known band campuswide, and I am unsure how to feel about it. Sure, spring W.I.L.D has historically been either indie bands or rap artists, and Atmosphere will round out the lineup nicely, but its addition is so out of left field that it’s hard to think that any Kearney fans will stick around for the hard-hitting topics dealt with by Atmosphere’s rapper slug or that any Atmosphere followers will turn up early for bubbly, Top-40 pop. Yeasayer is another matter entirely.

Yet, if there is one connecting thread that will define this year’s spring W.I.L.D, it is that all the artists are appropriately laid-back. Atmosphere’s frequent use of melodic piano riffs, soft cymbal-based beats, and slow and modulated rhythms won’t get anyone dancing, but there will be low-key grooving. Dubbed an “emo-rap” duo, Atmosphere is known for its heartfelt lyrics dealing with disappointment and self-pity. Its most recent album, 2011’s “The Family Sign,” steers even more in this direction—the guitar and key backing tracks turn somber in favor of lyrics that deal with souring relationships, abuse and frustration. Not exactly cheerful material for a Friday afternoon.

All in all, while there may be something for everyone in this new festival-style lineup, the result may not have been what the new SPB was going for. By trying to select three vastly different artists who may not cost as much as the big acts have in the past, they have created an event that lacks cohesion and will likely cause more traffic than usual in and out of Brookings Quad. It’s unlikely that super-fans of Kearney will want to stick around for the low-key niche rap of Atmosphere or that Kearney will appeal to the indie listeners of Yeasayer. Ultimately, there will be more drunk kids wandering around campus looking for something to do, and that’s probably the exact opposite of what SPB was going for. In my opinion? All hail WUStock.