There are far too many excuses to read about my alma mater these days. But as - demonstrably - one of the few living alums with a troubled conscience about the place, I urge you to keep reading, and to believe every word of Dartmouth’s gross excesses until you’re given proof otherwise.
I assumed Brown would be much of the same. Media hypes these two like they’re the Treadaway twins. But not so much. Turns out years of raging four-nights-a-week, deliberate boot and rallies, vomlettes, and rampant sexual assault hidden away safe inside a cocaine mountain of non-consequence makes up the stuff of swollen expectations. Granted, there are more lysergic compounds here. But compared, Brown is Dartmouth’s hermit lesbian sister (If you click any link here, click the hermit lesbian sister).
Sad to say, but in exactly the same way #SELFIE is my Sorry4Partying song of the year, I'm sorta bored with my new home. Yes, I survived Dartmouth armed with a useless degree and a mind to frighten your children - but a curdled frat bro composed largely of malt beverage still slinks around inside, excoriating my liver with a shattered frisbee. It’s called self-parody for a reason.
So imagine my glee at the news of Brown's Spring Weekend 2014 - a baby alt Coachella spanning two nights and a lean $40, if you got your ticket early enough. Friday night: literally a brass marching band sets up, followed by Chance the Rapper, and (omygosh) Diplo. Saturday: Cloud Nothings, Dan Deacon, (she’s out of prison?) Lauryn Hill, and Andrew Bird. I hardly care if this bash is a stunt by the administration to profit on all the shrooms these kiddies already gobble each weekend - what a fucking stunt it is! How do you even make a poster for it, when each act deserves that festival big font?
But like the rest of you in this here post-Bush economy, I'm poor. I had to ask myself a few tough questions about the second night. Did I want to pay twenty bucks to get shoved around by three thousand sexually frustrated white manboys clambering to hear a heroic sexually frustrated white manboy tour behind his new, utterly disappointing sexually frustrated white manboy emo album? The answer to that question is an equally tiresome Noooooooooooo. Would I pay twenty dollars to see Zach Galifianakis? Hell yes I would. But twenty dollars for a man who looks, behaves and sweats like Zach Galifianakis, yet isn't any good at his job? No. Would I pay twenty dollars to attend a lecture on Zionism? לא. Would I even accept a bribe to watch an Andrew Bird concert? I'm not that poor.
Accordingly, I restricted my consumption to Friday night alone. I forewent the 6:30 pm marching band gimmick to have a few drinks, which of course is what everyone else did. So I found myself in line at 7:30, an hour into the show, two blocks back of the main quadrangle’s only entrance. You’ve seen me in settings like this before. At 6’4”, I’m one of the heads that sprout out of congested masses of people like a pissy sunflower - this time adrift in a patch of fifteen tiny hallucinating women wowing each other with artist trivia. Did you know that Diplo is short for Diplodocus? Hehe, I did! I learned it three times!
I’m pretty sure I missed Chance’s first song standing in a similarly long line outside a frankly astonishing array of fifty port-o-potties at the far end of the lawn. A very drunk British kid behind me was determined to delight all passers-by with some practiced Dr. Who wit: “My, would you look at all these blue tardises?! Oh, excuse me… I mean to say turdises!”
No, I didn't kill him. And yes, I emerged from the turdis in my own world and time. From there I made way to the back of a sizeable crowd - two thousand at least, though far fewer than I had expected (actually, than I had hoped for). At this point I’m a solid thirty minutes late for Chance’s set, but some kind of malfeasance must have gone on while I was disposed - because the stage lights were dimmed, and a condescending chav made up in post-irony Brooklyn plaid had taken the mic: "Chance will return. I am being told by the men in blue that we are nearly ready to resume the show. We just need to make sure everyone is safe. You guys are doing a great, great job. Keep on keepin on Brown U. Keep on. We're all very proud of you.” Someone next to me shouted “Nazis!” I noted that there was no place here to buy alcohol.
You can call me a bit of a sadist now, if you want - after I spent up 800 words on matters not immediately relevant to a Chance the Rapper concert, but I have my reasons. For one, Diplo probably flexed his stupid dick some, squeezing Chance’s set to five songs. So honestly, I don’t have many notes to translate. For another, I went through a devastating first world pilgrimage to see this show (do you have any idea how often I pee? and for how long I was in that line?) - but the awaited payoff was twenty precious minutes of the best music I’ve seen this year.
Chancellor Bennett, not yet old enough to have pregamed his own show with me, assaults the mind on record as a flailing imp of a human: undersized, cigarette hanging crooked out his mouth, permanently mischievous, whiny, annoying, skittish by habit, childish by necessity, horny of course, and ach! His marvelous 2013 mix tape, Acid Rap, seems like an accident of genres and ADHD coming together slapdash and unintended. You worry he couldn’t duplicate it.
But on stage, all 5’4” of him (generous guess) takes command as he damn well pleases. I’d even call it an exercise in absolute confidence. Rocking unabashed a plain white t under XXL denim overalls, Chance jumped back and forth constantly - stopping whenever to dance in rhythms only the songs (if you know them) can help predict. It’s beyond any doubt that he studies dance seriously in his spare time; I noted traces of tap, hip hop, jazz, ballet, swing... fucking Gene Kelly. Do I have any deaf readers? Hey, you. Doesn’t matter. Go see Chance the Rapper.
The set list was composed entirely of songs from the mixtape: “Good Ass Intro,” “Pusha Man” (both halves), “Juice,” “Favorite Song,” “Interlude (That’s Love)” - and were played with strength and familiarity by Social-EXperiment, the excellent band Chance has elected to have along on his 21st Birthday Circuit. Notably, the brass is fuller, thanks to a fearless trumpeter, Nico Segal - who the sound guys notched front-and-center, second (barely) to Chance's mic.
But despite their familiarity, the tunes were still Chance’s to manipulate - he ducked in and out of verse to hype the crowd (whom he thanked incessantly), hype the band (whom he thanked incessantly), switch tempo on a whim, wisecrack, point out cute girls, and - during the the endearing “That’s Love” - hit the grass to tell at least forty students he loved them personally. “I love you, and you, and you, and especially you baby, ach!, oh and you, and you, and I love ach! you, and I love you just a little less than your momma do, I love you, and you, ach, and yes, you, oh I do. I LOVE YA!!! ach!” The band, for their part, remained lock step through these shenanigans, like they all somehow rehearsed it. Or, you know, like Chance controls the whole damn universe.
Soon after, he stopped “Juice” dead and walked off stage right. I was confused - “This isn’t one of the weird tracks on Acid Rap that halts abruptly… what happened? Did someone piss him off? Oh, no… is he being a prima donna?”
Nope, none of the above. Guess he was tired of the t shirt. He came back in just the overalls, with one strap unbuttoned and hanging limp - his ripped kiddie chest somehow taking up most of the stage's jumbotron. All the chicks lost their shit; half the dudes, too. Yeah, even the straight ones. I texted my girlfriend: “You’re never allowed to go to a Chance the Rapper concert.” He picked up the “Juice” right where he left it.
And then it was over. Poof. The university played Yeezus while the concert crew set up Diplo’s booth.
Forty minutes passed. Diplo sprinted up and asked us to ‘bump it.’ We politely obliged. He thanked us with an MIA sample (the balls on this guy) that worked toward something sounding vaguely like the Superman theme. I texted some friends: “Okay, he’s still an idiot… but I’m impressed.” I was shocked. He sounded fantastic. I couldn’t wait for the bass to drop.
Another forty minutes passed. I couldn’t wait for the bass to drop any longer, so I went home.
Oh, good. A decent third reason why this essay builds and builds and builds and builds before getting anywhere. It's like a Diplo jam - except with a point. Poor guy's the erectile dysfunction of the bass drop. Oh man, oh boy, oh my gosh, oh gaaaawwwd, ooohhhh nelly, heeere comes, SO EXCITED YES OH YE - hmmmmm, sorry baby. The EDJ, if you will. Maya's fairly insulated in this economy, and she don't care who knows it - so seems like she got out unscathed. But, uh, could I get maybe ten of my bucks back?
Cam's Scribbles concept is so fantastic, I'm officially aping it.
Let's hope it catches on.
Company Freak, Le Disco Social - The last time a throwback was this compelling, Solange Knowles and Dev Hynes proved they could learn from history without repeating it. But this is disco, and ain't nobody learning shit.
Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else - Just found out she's younger than I am. Impossible. Girl sings and acts like she got over a fling with Cam years ago. Weirdest and favorite lyric of the year: "...I swore I'd go to bed / But I guess I must have it bad / Cuz I got up and I pushed every button that your elevator had."
- What Michael said.
Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans - Patterson Hood is now responsible for the best song about the Southern GOP (hell, Southern politics) I've ever heard. ...if only he'd been responsible for more of the songs on this record.