Artist BØRNS Headlining Spring Concert

By Devin McGrath-Conwell

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) revealed BØRNS as the headliner for this year’s spring concert. The announcement was made during the Winter Carnival Ball. The process of choosing and booking BØRNS for the concert began in the fall amidst speculation of who would be picked to follow last year’s artist, T-Pain.

“We’re really excited to bring BØRNS to campus this year,” Concerts Committee member Sara Hodgkins ’17.5 said. “The very weekend after he performs at [the College], BØRNS will travel to California to perform at Coachella, one of the most prominent music festivals in the world.”

Contrary to what many fans expect from the name BØRNS, Garret Borns is not of Scandinavian decent, but instead was born and raised in Grand Haven, Mich.

“I just did it because it looks cool. It also makes it easier to find “BØRNS” via search engines and hashtags,” he revealed during an interview with InStyle in October. Finding distinction in the mob of musicians trying to make a name for themselves can be a challenge, but the decisions Borns makes seem to be working.

Borns trained in magic as a child, but has since moved from small town magic tricks to headlining his own international tour. The rock-star life took the 24-year-old first to New York, and then Los Angeles as he searched for an opening to make the music he wanted to. That opening came when he met Tommy English.

English co-produced BØRNS 2014 EP Candy, which featured “Electric Love,” the single that made people take notice of this newcomer. BØRNS followed up the EP with his full-length album, Dopamine, which was released in October of last year.

“The Michigan singer looks and sounds like he’s stepped out of Velvet Goldmine, high-fived Lana Del Rey, added an unnecessary accent to his surname and gone into the studio with the sole purpose of making girls in crochet shorts feel like they’re having the time of their lives but also a little sad at the same time,” Kate Hutchinson wrote in her review of the album for the Guardian.

With the prevailing positive response to Dopamine, BØRNS is poised to become a bonafide star.

The process of bringing any act to campus is a challenging one. The undertaking of booking and arranging for BØRNS to play began in September on the six-person Concerts Committee.

“Our Committee has a role in what they think their friends and the student body wants to see,” says Concerts Committee Co-Chair Izzy Kannegieser ’17.

The Committee combines their opinions wih direct input from the student body at large.

“This year we did a survey that a lot of people filled out,” says Katherine Brown ’18, the second Concerts Committee Co-Chair. “The survey results came back and the student body was in favor of [an] Indie/Alt Pop band.”

Once all of this information was compiled and reviewed, the Committee assembled a list of artists and suggestions on more general aspects such as genre, and sent it to a booking agency based out of Boston that assisted them in honing in on the most fitting performance. This process is more complex than it may initially seem. An array of constraints must be taken into account when narrowing down a list of possible performers. One of those constraints is cost.

“We have a budget,” says Brown, “we’ll send [them] a name and [they’ll] tell us ‘Okay, you guys can never afford that. Here’s what you can.’”

In addition to cost, Middlebury’s location plays a distinct role in dictating who can play the show. Only bands that are touring in the area around the time of the concert are feasible.

“Often we’ll have artists that we really like, and we reach out to them and want to book them, and they would love to come but they’re touring on the West Coast over those dates,” says Brown. “If you’re in Boston Middlebury’s not so far, but if you’re really anywhere else it’s not an easy one-stop flight.”

When BØRNS was settled on as the act, the logistics of securing the space for the show became the next hurdle.

“People might think … ‘Oh, of course Kenyon will be available this weekend at this time,’ but actually it’s a long process,” says Kannegieser.

When the space is secured, the committee must book a crew to come in and take care of the physical preparation of the stage and sound. This show will be handled by Atomic Professional Audio, a local business based out of North Clarendon, Vt.

Nonetheless, the set-up is a hands-on experience for the Co-Chairs as well. “The day of the concert we’re there at 8 a.m. getting the stage set up. We’re actually moving things off of the truck and getting things set up, and after the concert we’re there making sure it all gets taken down,” says Kannegieser.

Even with the logistics of the act confirmed, a concert is nothing without an audience, so marketing is essential. The Co-Chairs describe a balancing act of deciding on ticket prices and sale times with the Box Office. MCAB does not make a profit off of the show, but whatever revenue is brought in is used to fund the Midd Mayhem show that happens later in the year. Generating excitement for the show is key to it being a success both financially and socially as an enjoyable experience for the concert-goers. They focus on spreading details such as the best time to arrive and the opening act, which often gets lost in the announcement of the headliner. This year, local Burlington band Madaila, who have toured with the Flaming Lips and played with Grace Potter, will open for BØRNS. “They are Burlington’s hottest band for sure,” says Kannegieser.

“Our job is to bring a show to campus that every single person is going to find something exciting about, whether it’s just that it’s spring and it’s an event, or that they love the artist, we want to put on an event that everyone will enjoy,” says Brown.

Tickets for the April 9 show will go on sale for students on March 20. They are $8 if pre-ordered at the Box Office, and if not sold out, they will be available for $15 at the door.