The students over at WRMC sure do know how to put on a good show. This Saturday, April 23, they managed to seduce listeners with Middlebury’s very own version of Coachella 2k16 at The Bunker: Sepomana 2016.
The inordinate deep red posters that hung outside the dining halls pressured each passerby to reconsider their weekend plans; but, alas, it was too late for many. The show sold out a day in advance, allowing everyone else only the opportunity to ask the bleary-eyed concertgoers in the bright morning after, “How was Sepo-mania?”
To be sure, the undervalued, underused Bunker venue was popular while Junglepussy, then Kelela — both female vocalists and songwriters — delivered a truly mesmerizing performance. No fences or security guards separated stage from crowd, leaving the dark blue lights to bleed into the faces of all those transfixed. The vibe inspired many to simply raise their hands and feel the pulsating bass across their skin. Junglepussy and Kelela collaborated well together, offering an engaging balance between the intense and the introspective and leaving listeners with something personal to think about on the walk back to a quiet dorm.
Junglepussy kicked the evening into high gear after a solid opener by two student DJs: Yung Man and Big Slurp. Her ensuing high-octane set might have perhaps been better suited as a closing act – or perhaps it simply dramatized Kelela’s emotionally intense performance all the more. What both performers gave was something that does not often grace the intimate stages of a small, rural college in the Northeast.
Kelela is a Black female rapper, singer, songwriter and independently-borne artist who can put on shows that truly move people. This is inspired. This is bona fide music. A kind of concert like this hopefully proves that the Middlebury community has at least some of its priorities straightened out.
The good people of WRMC deserve a big thanks. In some part, it is the responsibility of a college radio to enrich student perspectives with new, sometimes challenging music, and to bring the rising artists who shape modern ideas directly into campus life. This becomes especially apparent when attending a mostly progressive liberal arts institution like Middlebury. And we must not forget that it is the students of such an institution — not the institution itself — who bring life to that place.
According to WRMC Manager Kate Leib ’16, the first ever Sepomana show took place in 1998, made possible through a loophole in the Student Government Association’s financing rules.
“Our main objective is to host a concert that is both fun and relevant, if not ahead of the curve for contemporary music or challenging the norm of what people might expect from a Middlebury concert,” Leib said.
Derived purely from student motivation and a bit of creativity, the concert series was launched (likely out of sheer boredom of other events on campus) and has kept its momentum for eighteen years strong.
Much of the continually positive response is probably due to the fact that it is, indeed, a little peculiar to have a killer show at such an undersized venue. And so the spectator is drawn to the spectacle. Last Saturday night, the intimate space focused all of its energy to make for a truly memorable performance. Sepomana succeeded in providing a concert that was uniquely Middlebury.
During a short pause in her soulful act, Kelela even brought up the peculiarity of the venue. In a playful, warmhearted tone, she exclaimed, “Where even are we? I come out to the middle of nowhere and all of the sudden we’re here. We’re playing here?” Her smile felt wonderfully human, as if she were acknowledging her authority in performance while reminding her audience that she, too, was only here along for the ride. Outside of a venue like the 200-patron Bunker — positioned in an uncomfortably disjointed auxiliary building to the side of campus — those kinds of moments are hard to come by. Surely, this is why they entertain us so.
Due to the lack of cities near Middlebury, the College naturally plays host to few artists and bands passing through on big tours. What it can provide, however, is spectacularly unique.
“There’s hardly any venue in New York City or Boston where you could be an arms length away from Kelela or dancing alongside Junglepussy while they perform,” Leib said.