W.I.L.D. through the ages

A little more than a decade ago, W.I.L.D. did not simply mean free pizza and a concert.

It meant catered Chinese cuisine and barbeque.

It meant couches and kegs on Brookings Quadrangle.

It even meant Jell-O Wrestling.

Since its birth in 1973, W.I.L.D. has evolved from a mini film festival to a kegger to a full day “WU fest” to the tame-ish evening concert that it is today. Below is a brief glance at W.I.L.D.’s progression through the lens of five distinct years in Wash. U.’s history.


According to a 1978 article of Student Life, W.I.L.D. began as an English Composition 100 assignment. In 1972, Andy Friedenberg was told to write a persuasion paper encouraging someone to do something unbelievable. Friedenberg’s paper discussed how to put on a free, outdoor film festival in Brookings Quad, hoping to utilize the open space for more campus-wide outdoor events. His fellow classmates may not have been persuaded, but his friends in Rutledge Suite 31 hopped on board. Team 31 was created, and W.I.L.D. was in the works.


By 1980, what we know as W.I.L.D. was referred to as Walk In Lay Down Theater and consisted of an afternoon jazz concert and barbecue featuring The Jeff Lorber Fusion Band, a Grammy Award nominee most notable for its appearance on the “Weather Channel Presents: The Best of Smooth Jazz.” Top-notch stuff. The main event, though, was neither the music nor the barbecue that followed, but the two films screened back-to-back in the Quad. In 1980, the classics “The In-Laws” and “Jaws” were the feature attractions. In other words, W.I.L.D. was basically like attending an outdoor movie theater.

What tradition we should bring back from this year: Nothing. It sounds sort of lame.


By 1985, the theater model was losing popularity, and Wash. U. upped its game. Rather than screening two movies after a musical performance, W.I.L.D. featured an opener, Armageddon, and a big-name artist, Chuck Berry. This year marked the decline of the W.I.L.D. as theater and the beginning of W.I.L.D. as a musical event.

What tradition we should bring back from this year: The hot dog cart that roamed around the Quad for the day. Actually, we should just bring this back for the whole year.


In 1993, W.I.L.D. became an all-day Saturday event. In addition to the main attractions, Widespread Panic (a Phish-esque band) and opener Flowerhead, the day consisted of a Congress of the South 40-sponsored barbecue dinner accompanied by a number of activities, such as volleyball and karaoke. Kappa Kappa Gamma hosted a teeter totter-thon, which is exactly what it sounds like. Sisters took turns sitting on a teeter-totter for 24 hours in order to raise money, definitely not what we would picture when someone talks about W.I.L.D. today.

This was also the first year that Wash. U. developed “Second Stage,” which back then meant a series of acoustic performances on the steps of Ridgley Hall. This day-long event, or “WU fest,” did not come without the necessary precautions. In the basement of the Mallinckrodt Center, everyone was required to attend W.I.L.D.: Walk In, Learn about Drinking.

What tradition we should bring back from this year: The gyrotron. For those of you who don’t know what that is, think a life-size oscillator that will perpetually make you dizzy. As if anything else was needed to make you throw up on W.I.L.D.


I don’t think Wash. U. has quite topped 2000’s headliner OutKast and opener Dispatch. A seemingly significant amount of money at the time, $30,000 was the price for OutKast, about $10,000 less than we paid for this year’s artist. Although OutKast had not yet released “Stankonia” or “Speakerboxxx,” it had already been named Best New Rap Group at the Source Awards. Clearly, Team 31 was at its prime at the turn of the century.

Not only did this W.I.L.D. bring in a big-namer, but it was also a catered event, providing Chinese cuisine, barbecue, pizza and ice cream. Once the concert started, students who had paid 10 dollars and registered the week before could bring kegs into the Quad. Yes, kegs. Couches were also allowed as long as a $50 deposit was put down and the couches were removed before midnight.

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