Tag Archives: rites of spring

Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes Drop By For Rites of Spring


From left: drummer Joel Wren (he likes his personal space I guess), bassist Marshall Skinner, singer/keyboardist Daniel Ellsworth, yours truly, guitarist Timon Lance.

This year’s Rites of Spring was probably the best I’ve seen in my four years at Vanderbilt.  The Music Group did an excellent job of bringing in headliners–Chance the Rapper and Young the Giant–who could excite a wide swath of the student body (unlike NEEDTOBREATHE) and then put on a show to back up the hype (unlike 2 Chainz).  The lineup also ran impressively deep, featuring a resurgent T-Pain and a variety of up-and-comers such as The Lone Bellow and Matoma.  Best of all, there was a strong local presence on Saturday’s docket with Louisa Wendorff and Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes.

I got the chance to sit down with DE+TGL in the WRVU studio before their set later in the day and we had a blast talking about things like eating donuts, crazy stories from the studio, and the concept behind their music video for “Phantoms.”  The band was also kind enough to play two songs in the studio for us as a little preview of their Rites show.  Here’s audio footage of the full interview…


…and here’s video of the band playing “Sun Goes Out” and “Phantoms” live on air, as well as some highlights from the interview (if you’re in a hurry)!

Be sure to follow The VU Backstage on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the Vanderbilt music scene!

A First Look at the Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands

The Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands provides a great opportunity for local bands to play on a big stage--and for you to discover their music!

The Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands provides a great opportunity for local bands to play on a big stage–and for you to discover their music!

It’s that time of year again at Vanderbilt.  The Student Alumni Board is passing out free shirts at Rand; there are dozens of garbage bins lounging pell-mell on Alumni Lawn; the fraternities are gearing up for their crawfish boils and pig roasts; fierce debate regarding 2 Chainz’ arraignment echoes across campus.  What else could it be but Rites Week?

Love it or hate it (and, as always, there’s been a lot of both emotions in reaction to this year’s lineup), the week of Rites of Spring is the best time for music at Vanderbilt every year.  Though the main event will be an epic spectacle that should trump last year’s in terms of debauchery and Dionysian life force–after all, NEEDTOBREATHE probably played before the most sober Rites crowd ever–my favorite part of the week is the Battle of the Bands, which will take place this Thursday at 7:30 PM in Rand Lounge/Dank New Rand.  The Battle of the Bands is easy to overlook, especially with the winners’ prize being the chance to play on Friday afternoon before most students will want to arrive, but it’s a great showcase of some local talent (including a number of Vanderbilt-based acts) and winning would be a tremendous affirmation for any of the competitors.  And this year, you as an audience member have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in determining the battle’s victor, as the crowd’s vote will account for two-fifths of the final decision (alongside the three judges).  The idea seems to be that the winner should be able to draw a crowd to Rites as early as possible, with the ability to do this on a Thursday night supposedly predictive of the ability to follow suit the next afternoon.  So if you are friends with one or more of the contestants, the most important thing you can do for them is to show up at the battle on Thursday night and bring a pack of friends along for the ride.

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Rites of Spring 2013: The Good, the Bad, and the Juvenile

Alumni Lawn had a true festival atmosphere on Saturday for Rites of Spring 2013.

Alumni Lawn had a true festival atmosphere on Saturday for Rites of Spring 2013.

When the Music Group announced the 2013 Rites of Spring lineup, the reaction was mixed at best.  To many, there didn’t seem to be a real headliner, and overall the acts weren’t nearly as big as they have been in the past (unless you were a Christian rock fan, in which case you were ecstatic about NEEDTOBREATHE).  I myself considered the lineup to be fairly iffy when I wrote a preview of it in March.  This lack of hype really manifested itself in the week leading up to Rites; most people I know were far more excited about every fraternity throwing down on Saturday.  My own, Delta Tau Delta, had a crawfish boil featuring live music from Lockwood Barr and Gage, and as you all know if you follow the blog or the show, live music is all I need to have a good time.  As such, I was at Rites for EVERY ACT, on both Friday and Saturday, live-tweeting the show until my phone died right before NEEDTOBREATHE came on.  And overall, I’d have to say that the show was better than I expected.  While there were a few duds, most of the artists put on a great live show, and the people who did come to the concert were very high-energy for the most part.  In case you missed part (or all) of the show, here’s a recap of Rites of Spring 2013.

NEEDTOBREATHE was the best act of the weekend.  Part of this may be based on the awesome crowd they played for–while the band’s Christian inspiration may have put off many potential concertgoers, those who showed up were loud, energetic, and clearly very dedicated to NEEDTOBREATHE (also, they may have set the record for most sober Rites audience ever).  But even without the huge show of support, this would have been the highlight.  Frontman Bear Reinhart has a great voice for the Southern-rock style, and I love how they incorporate banjo and mandolin into rock music without a hitch.  My favorite parts of the music were the extended jams between songs, when the band’s musicianship was on display.  Although there weren’t any noteworthy solos, there wasn’t really a need for any, since the performance was so tight.  Some highlights were excellent covers of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Stand By Me,” both of which were given a bluesy makeover and were sung along to by the crowd.  Drew Holcomb and his wife Ellie, of their namesake band, were invited out for “Stand By Me,” which drove the crowd into a frenzy.  As a bonus, they ended the encore with an emotional acoustic piece, “Difference Maker,” that will be featured on their yet-to-be-released album.  Try as I might, I cannot find any weakness in this show…NEEDTOBREATHE was very crisp, they worked the crowd incredibly, and the music was at the forefront of their performance.  They are consummate professionals at the top of their game, and the audience benefited massively.

– Baauer needs to take some tips from Rusko.  Though both produce electronic music, Rusko far outclassed Baauer on Friday night, showing who’s the veteran of the genre.  He probably benefited from playing later, and thus having a more inebriated audience, but Rusko did a great job of making the most out of a scant setup comprised of a folding table, two turntables, and a mixing board.  He was dancing around the whole time, periodically got the crowd pumped up by shouting into a microphone, and varied the tempo nicely to keep things fresh.  Thus, what amounted to ninety minutes of straight dubstep was fun throughout, as evidenced by the constant moshing of the crowd.  Perhaps my only complaints were that the lights accompaniment was subpar and that Rusko has stereotypically British teeth (you know what I mean).  Other than that, he was all that was to be expected out of one of the biggest names in dubstep: creative beats and constant engagement of a rowdy audience.

Baauer, on the other hand, may have been the worst act of the weekend.  His music did not vary in tempo at all, and I didn’t find his samples very interesting.  He was also poor at engaging the crowd, for the most part just standing on stage and bobbing his head to the music.  To his credit, he tactfully omitted the line “Con las terroristas” from the Harlem Shake in the wake of events in Boston, but even the Harlem Shake was fairly anti-climactic…the most notable thing that happened during the song was one kid going crazy at the drop and shaking his beer all over the people surrounding him (including me).  Overall, Baauer was a massive disappointment and really showed his lack of experience in playing electronic music for large crowds.

This is the most interesting Baauer ever got.

This is the most interesting Baauer ever got.

– There was a wide variety of frontman skills on display.  The best was easily Mat Kearney.  His music is fairly generic singer-songwriter stuff, although I though some of the electronic drum effects he used were original and cool and his melodies were well-written and singable.  But the reason he succeeded was because of the energy he brought to the performance and the things he did to get the crowd invited.  He made excellent use of the steps on the stage side of the fence keeping the audience at bay, climbing right up to the crowd and addressing them directly.  At one point, he crowd surfed standing up, which was one of the nimbler feats I’ve ever seen.  He also did a lap around the audience while singing, and it is an indication of the energy of Kearney compared to his band that the crowd literally turned to follow him around while the band kept playing.  In addition to these mobile antics, he struck a great balance between keeping the music coming and talking to the crowd.  He also pulled a Billy Joel by inviting an audience member to come on stage, though stomping on a suitcase/bass drum takes decidedly less skill than playing the piano part for “New York State of Mind.”  This awesome crowd engagement, combined with above-average music, made Mat Kearney probably the second-best act behind NEEDTOBREATHE.

Mat Kearney literally walked on water, with "water" being the crowd's hands.

Mat Kearney literally walked on water, with “water” being the crowd’s hands.Meanwhile, Miguel danced and stripteased but otherwise underwhelmed.Meanwhile, Miguel danced and stripteased but otherwise underwhelmed.Delta Spirit's frontman looked like this cult leader, and is probably just as insane.Delta Spirit’s frontman has eyes like this cult leader, and is probably just as insane.

Miguel was surprisingly underwhelming as a frontman.  He showed off his great dancing skills and definitely used his body to psych up the crowd (I’m pretty sure he flashed some gratuitous pubic hair at one point), but didn’t do a great job balancing talking and singing.  The stories he told about his life were interesting but not what the crowd wanted to hear, and certainly not for several minutes at a time.  In addition, I found his voice weak, and if you’re touring as a self-named act with a backing band, your voice had better be the highlight of the show.  Instead, I thought Miguel’s guitarist, Dru, was the best part of the act.  I got to talk to Dru after the show and he told me that he and Miguel go way back, which may explain why Miguel basically treated him as a co-frontman.  His solos were impressive, but the best moment in the show was when Dru dropped his guitar and he, Miguel, and the guy triggering the pre-recorded tracks did a dance together.  So even though Miguel himself was less than I expected, his band picked up the slack and put together a solid performance.

Delta Spirit was a different animal entirely.  They were probably the craziest on-stage performers I’ve ever seen, to the point where it got a little too crazy.  The music, while good, was too loud for me to discern any individual parts or really enjoy it, though I got a general indie-punk vibe.  Also, I’m pretty sure their frontman was on some sort of substance during the show…he often opened his eyes to the point of looking like Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite, which definitely creeped me out, and he was mostly unintelligible when addressing the crowd in his raspy voice.  These negatives put a damper on what was otherwise a decent performance; I liked Delta Spirit’s use of secondary percussion and keyboards to build an atmosphere, and found the combination of punk with the echoey trends of modern indie alternative to be interesting.

– Juvenile was…juvenile.  He certainly wasn’t helped by the Music Group’s bizarre placement of him between The Apache Relay and Delta Spirit on Saturday, which was dominated by rock music, indie or otherwise.  He would have fared better before Friday’s crowd, perhaps switching with The Kicks.  However, I don’t even know if that would have saved him.  The problem was that Juvenile took himself very seriously while the crowd seemed to regard him as a joke.  His rapping wasn’t bad, but his lyrical themes revolved solely around bitches and hoes, which may have been popular when Juvie got popular during the Crunk movement of the mid-2000s but just sound dated now.  The fact that the crowd only knew the last two songs he played–“Slow Motion” and “Back That Azz Up”–rendered him unable to engage the crowd effectively, and when he was unable to provide a smashing live performance to make up for this, it became obvious that he was an ordinary rapper who happened to ride the Crunk wave to momentary stardom.  In addition, he said some things that simply aren’t oay to say when you’re 38, at one point calling 55% of Vanderbilt women “hoes” and openly talking about the alcohol he had put in his Sprite.  Overall, it was a poor performance, but I almost feel bad for Juvenile…he hasn’t been relevant since “Slow Motion” hit Number 1 in 2004, and he’s trying very hard to reintroduce himself to the world stage.  In the end, though, he was playing for an audience that was clearly not there for him and saw him as humorously pathetic, and this perception was echoed when Delta Spirit and Mat Kearney made subtle jabs at him, the former directly, the latter by omitting him from acts he was proud to be playing with.

– Music City’s homegrown talent was on display.  Including the Battle of the Bands winners, seven of the acts this weekend had Nashville roots.  Aside from Mat Kearney, the best of these acts was probably Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.  Their music was fairly typical of roots rock bands and not too original, but Drew Holcomb did a good job of engaging the crowd, getting them to sing along to songs like “Tennessee.”  The melodies were anthemic and the music was powerful, creating an energetic sound that was best displayed in their cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and their closing number, “Fire and Dynamite.”  They weren’t afraid to slow it down at points, though…one song was sung with just acoustic guitar and the voices of Drew and Ellie Holcomb.  Overall, this was a very tight band that made the most of their crowd support, which has undoubtedly been boosted by virtue of their touring with NEEDTOBREATHE.

The surprise stars of the show.

The surprise stars of the show.

The Kicks were hard rock’s representative this weekend, and played the part very well, wearing all black and looking like rock stars.  They worked the Friday crowd pretty well, providing good energy, but I thought the most impressive aspect of their performance was the music, which falls somewhere between Neon Trees and Jet in terms of mixing catchy melodies with good riffs.  They made good use of unison singing during their choruses, and their breakdowns were a great display of their ability on their instruments.  I was particularly impressed by the way their bass player subtly added color to the songs, creating a full sound that allowed for more soloing by the lead guitarist and freed up their singer from having to play rhythm guitar.  As a fan of bands like Rush and Led Zeppelin, it was nice for me to see that hard rock is still alive, even if it is no longer at the forefront of American popular music.  As their bassist Gabe told me, “Who would have thought that banjo’s in the Top 40?”

Hard rock isn't dead!...except in the Top 40.

Hard rock isn’t dead!…except in the Top 40.

The Apache Relay and Humming House both represented this trend toward folksier music in the Top 40.  The Apache Relay’s sound had a very dreamlike, atmospheric quality to it, and reminded me of the “Wall of Sound” popularized by Phil Spector in the 1960s and revived by Oasis in the 1990s.  This was abetted by the wide variety of effects used by their musicians, especially the violinist, who looked particularly crazy.  The mandolin also added a nice folksy element to the music.  Overall, they provided a huge, echoey sound, but I thought they could have worked the crowd better…they just stood there and played, for the most part.  Humming House was far more minimalist, going Mumford-style and having their bass player use a kick drum to keep a ubiquitous thumping rhythm.  Their lead singer and songwriter, Justin Wade-Tam, told me the band formed out of Sunday night traditional Irish jams at his house, and that sound came out through their music, which featured cool interplay between the different string instruments and good variation of fast and slow songs.  Out of the musicians, I thought the violinist was given the most opportunity to shine through solos.  However, I didn’t find the music very catchy or differentiable from similar acts.  Part of this may be that this type of lyric-centric songwriting really requires multiple listenings to be fully appreciated.

Apache Relay violinist, or Theon Greyjoy gone wildling?

Apache Relay violinist, or Theon Greyjoy gone wildling?

The Battle of the Bands winners did a great job showing why they were considered the best of the eight acts from Thursday night and of 28 overall submissions to the contest.  Joel Heumann’s band sounds like a mix of Earth, Wind and Fire dance-funk with 1940s big band music, perfectly fitting his goal of playing “music people can move to,” as he told me.  Interestingly, in talking to him I learned that he started out playing hardcore and metal but became allured by the groove of funk and jazz.  The highlight of his set was his song “Feeling Good,” which will appear on his EP, Self-Titled.  Acklen, on the other hand, was more of a modern rock-blues band, and featured solid guitar interplay, good guitar and bass solos, and an awesome cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers.  Their lead vocalist was a bit pitchy, and their songwriting wasn’t all that original, but they rocked hard and their passion for the music came through.

Well, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this review, I appreciate it.  All the acts this weekend, whether good, bad, or Juvenile, put in 110% effort to put on a good show.  Though the headliner was polarizing and some of the acts were poorly placed in the lineup, on the whole the Music Group arranged an awesome concert.

That’s all for now.  Tonight we’ve got the season finale of The VU Backstage, featuring Elizabeth Lyons.  If you like what you just read, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get updates on all the musical happenings at Vandy!

-DJ Zach

Rites of Spring: Battle of the Bands + This Weekend’s Schedule

Hey everybody,

The middle of April means a few things at Vanderbilt: the weather, though still completely unpredictable, is at least warm on a consistent basis…the only thing that’s dead during Dead Week is students’ sleep…and Rites of Spring is FINALLY HERE (accompanied by day ragers at every fraternity).  This is the best musical event on campus all year, and so here at The VU Backstage we’re naturally very excited.  Since our initial review of the Rites lineup, three more bands have been added to the schedule: Humming House, The Kicks, and Delta Spirit.  Humming House is a country group with definite indie folk influence, characterized by quick-strumming guitar and mandolin, a fiddler, and male and female vocals working together.  The Kicks are looking to provide the weekend’s hard rock fix.  Their four-piece outfit has a modern-rock sound, very chord-based, but is unafraid to break it down at times.  Delta Spirit is probably the biggest addition made to the lineup.  They fit nicely into the current movement of rock back towards roots-style music, complete with the reverb-heavy production, light guitar work, and driving rhythms that underlie the modern folk rock revival.

Before we hear these or any other acts, though, we’ll be hearing from the Battle of the Bands winners, who were determined last night: Joel Heumann on Friday, and Acklen on Saturday.  I covered the Battle of the Bands for WRVU and can assert that these two acts won because they have phenomenal energy and engaged the crowd, not to mention that they have a decent amount of musical talent.  Joel Heumann brings a modern twist to 1940s big band music; he sounds like Michael Buble and sings atop a band that contains a three-piece horn section within a driving rock sound.  From what I saw, he is also a highly enthusiastic front man who should get the crowd pumped up for the rest of the evening.  Acklen is a fairly typical four-man rock band with a definite Nashville influence evident in their music.  It’s fairly roots-driven, although the lead guitarist can shred on his solos.  Interestingly, the rhythm guitarist did most of the talking for the band and was also the most lively on stage.

Acklen is one of two Battle of the Bands winners...Joel Heumann is the other.

Acklen is one of two Battle of the Bands winners…Joel Heumann is the other.

A couple random thoughts about the Battle of the Bands overall.  First, it appears that horns are making a comeback in rock music.  Four of the eight bands featured at least one brass instrument, and a fifth, New South Whales, has a sax player who wasn’t at the concert last night.  As a fan of bands like Chicago and Steely Dan, this makes me very happy.  Brass instruments add an incredibly rich sound and provide classy energy, not to mention the fact that the saxophone may be the single sexiest instrument in the world when played well.  Second, and more importantly, WHERE WERE THE VANDY BANDS?  Only two out of the eight acts in last night’s show were comprised of Vanderbilt students (Chicken Kings of Jamaica and New South Whales), and neither will be playing at Rites.  From my experience on The VU Backstage, I know that the #vandymusicscene consists mainly of singer-songwriters, most likely because it is hard to get four or five people together regularly to write and practice songs.  Still, the lack of Vanderbilt entrants in a Vanderbilt-sponsored competition irritated me, and is representative of the work that still needs to be done to build Vanderbilt’s music scene to a respectable level.

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned to The VU Backstage for comprehensive Rites of Spring coverage all weekend, including live tweeting and reviews of each act.  Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!  In case you were wondering, here’s the schedule of performances this weekend:

Friday, April 19, 2013

5:10 – 5:30pm  Joel Heumann – Battle of the Bands Winner

5:50pm – 6:20pm  Humming House

6:40pm – 7:10pm  The Kicks

7:30pm – 8:30pm  Baauer

8:50pm –  9:50pm  Miguel

10:20pm – 11:50pm  Rusko

Saturday, April 20, 2013

4:20pm – 4:50pm  Acklen – Battle of the Band Winner

5:10pm – 5:55pm  Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

6:15pm – 7:00pm The Apache Relay

7:20pm – 8:05pm  Juvenile

8:25pm – 9:10pm  Delta Spirit

9:30pm – 10:30pm  Mat Kearney

11:00pm – 12:30am  NEEDTOBREATHE

And after all of this is said and done, be sure to tune in to The VU Backstage on Sunday night, featuring Vanderbilt country artist Elizabeth Lyons!

Have a great music-filled weekend,

DJ Zach

Rites and Wrongs of Spring

Hey everybody,

It’s been a long spring break, but we’re back to finish out the semester strong!  While our this weekend is going to be killer–guest Scott Revey is a fantastic songwriter, singer, and guitarist–the big news on campus today was the announcement of the Rites of Spring lineup.  Now, every artist has their fans and their detractors, and so the lineup was almost assured of getting mixed reviews no matter who the Music Group hired.  While this particular group of artists leaves something to be desired (namely, a well-known artist that fits the Rites culture of a two-day all-out party), it should still be a decent, if not great, show.  Let’s go over the artists one by one, with my grades for each:

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors: A modern rock band with an Americana, singer/songwriter feel that appears to be in the lineup because they will be opening on NEEDTOBREATHE’s spring tour.  After checking out a few of their songs and their website, I find their most impressive credential to be the list of TV shows upon which their music has been featured.  Other than that, though, there’s not much to write home about with these guys…they just sound like a generic country-ish rock band, and certainly not anything that will really excite the audience.  Then again, they’ll probably be playing early in the show, and they fit the persona of an opening act.  This type of music is what I’d expect at an afternoon tailgate, which is what the early part of Rites will essentially be.  Still, this band is pretty ordinary.  Grade: C+

The Apache Relay: An indie-folk-rock band that uses some cool instrumentation in some of their songs, like harps and mandolins.  This is definitely going to be the main draw for those fans of Fleet Foxes and the like, as The Apache Relay has the same type of echoey sound and octave vocal harmonizations as most bands of that genre.  After checking out their most recent album, though, I actually kind of like them.  You never know what indie-folk bands will become suddenly huge (see: Lumineers, The), and these guys might just do it, although I don’t think their melodies are quite catchy enough.  Still, the interesting instruments could make for a cool performance, and they are definitely a nice change of pace from the other acts.  Grade: B

Juvenile: A Southern rapper with a name that should probably be changed (he turns 38 on March 25th) and a couple old hits that are probably still making him a little money.  Juvenile last topped the charts in 2004 with “Slow Motion,” and also recorded “Back That Azz Up” in 1998.  After listening to some of his material, though, one realizes why Juvenile’s friend Lil’ Wayne made it so much bigger.  “Juvie the Great,” as his Twitter calls him, doesn’t write very compelling lyrics (only debatably important for a good Rites performance), works around mediocre flow by repeating lines over and over again (could be either good or bad), and doesn’t often have very good beats.  It’s hard to tell how a rapper will be until seeing him live, though…and that’s the main reason I’m leery of Juvenile.  I don’t know that an older rapper, and one who was never very good in the first place, can captivate the Rites audience with his stage presence, and I don’t think the music is good enough to compensate.  Grade: D+

Are those grills or are his teeth rotting with old age?

Are those grills or are his teeth rotting with old age?

Mat Kearney: A folksy singer-songwriter who sounds like a less whiny, more upbeat version of The Fray.  He writes pretty catchy melodies, and his most recent studio effort, Young Love, has some pretty neat hip-hop and pop influence.  I could see people grooving out to his music…if they even give him a chance, that is.  Bands like The Fray and Jason Mraz put on great shows, but people are there to see The Fray and Jason Mraz.  While I like Kearney’s sound and think he’ll put on a good show (again, this is contingent on his live performance ability), I am concerned that he won’t excite an audience that is there to rage.  If you’re one of those people, though, keep this in mind: Mat Kearney has enough modern pop influence to carry a crowd, so don’t use his set as time to pound a few more shots before the headliners.  Grade: B+

Miguel: A up-and-coming R&B artist who won a Grammy last month for his hit song “Adorn.”  I checked it out and it’s pretty catchy…if you haven’t heard it, I’d recommend giving it a try.  It appears the factors that work most against Miguel are his genre label–R&B artists aren’t the most popular at Vanderbilt, as shown by the general lack of interest in Trey Songz at Commodore Quake 2011–and the fact that he is just breaking out and hasn’t fully made a name for himself yet.  If you are willing to overlook those factors, though, be prepared for a good showing by Miguel.  Apparently, he put on a great performance with Wiz Khalifa at the Grammys (although I’m not sure that’s what Vandy students want to hear considering Wiz’s underwhelming performance at Rites last year).  My only real concern is that his music isn’t upbeat enough to keep the crowd interested for an extended period of time, falling more into the “slow jam” style.  Still, he’s worth staying for.  Grade: B-

Baauer: Easily the most controversial act in the lineup.  I can only wonder if this was already in the works before “Harlem Shake” took over the Internet for two weeks out of nowhere and then, just as suddenly, could no longer be tolerated.  If so, the Music Group deserves a massive pat on the back.  Baauer was actually cited as a rising star in the electronic scene in 2012, with “Harlem Shake” receiving high praise from music critics long before it became universally known.  If not, the Music Group has taken a huge risk.  At this point, I think most people perceive Baauer as the ultimate one-hit wonder, known for one song that has been overplayed enough to kill it one billion times over.  If “Harlem Shake” hasn’t been laid to rest for long enough to revive it by April, that’s all people will have in mind when Baauer comes on stage.  No matter what else he plays, the audience will just know him as the man who broke YouTube.  If it has, then Baauer’s other material–which is ideal for a college concert setting in that it is trancelike, danceable, catchy, and quirky in a cool way–will shine through, and he could easily be the highlight of the show.  I’m not convinced that a month and a half is enough time for that to happen, but I will acknowledge the potential of it occurring.  Current Grade: D- Potential Grade: A+

Please don't put that mask on, Baauer.

Please don’t put that mask on, Baauer.

Rusko: Now this is more like it.  Rusko is a British electronic musician and producer who has some pretty catchy stuff out…not at the level of Avicii or Skrillex, but certainly not bad for what is sure to be a late-night rave on Alumni Lawn.  Having an electronic artist headline is a great decision by the Music Group, because all the audience will want is a great beat in which it can lose itself.  Rusko will provide that.  I plan on discussing the merits of Rusko with someone who knows EDM better, but for now, I’ll say that he was a very good call despite not being all too well known in the states.  Grade: A

NEEDTOBREATHE: First of all, let’s all appreciate the irony of a Christian band headlining the biggest and drunkest party on campus. *pause*  Are we all done?  Excellent.  Now, let’s discuss whether or not NEEDTOBREATHE is a wise choice to headline Rites of Spring.  If the Music Group wanted to engage more Vanderbilt students, they made an excellent choice.  The sizable population of devout Christians on campus must be ecstatic at this news, since NEEDTOBREATHE is one of the biggest religious rock groups out there today, reminiscent of Creed in that their lyrics only reference Christianity obliquely and the music is hard-rocking and well-composed.  Having this band headline the show is a blatant invitation to those more religious students to stay out with their hammered and stoned friends until the end of the show.  However, the perception of NEEDTOBREATHE as a Christian group has already resulted in a notable feeling of disappointment among those students who aren’t able or willing to judge them based solely on their music.  I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to have one of the two headlining acts be so potentially polarizing, even if their music can and should be able to be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.  In terms of the music itself, though, NEEDTOBREATHE should rock the house in a more moving way, although they won’t be ideal for raving or dancing.  Grade: B  

These guys are rock stars, not preachers.  Don't judge them solely on religion, people.

These guys are rock stars, not preachers. Don’t judge them solely on religion, people.

Overall GPA: 2.5375.  So, not great but not horrible.  Rites stays eligible for IFC membership, but just barely.

Well, there you have it.  Naturally, I’m hoping that this lineup is complemented by a few excellent Vanderbilt student musicians, and perhaps some of these will have been heard on The VU Backstage in the past.  Feel free to agree or disagree with me by commenting below.  One thing we can all agree on, though, is that the music will be a great excuse to get outside and have an awesome, stress-free weekend respite before finals take over the school.  Even if the initial reaction from some people was this.

Be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and tune in for Scott Revey this Sunday at 8!

-DJ Zach