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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Diverse acts reviving Day on the Hill popularity

August 11, 2007

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Kansas University sophomore Sara Thompson, of Salina, left, dances beneath the concert tent with fellow KU student Whitney Gudgel, of Kansas City, Kan., during KU's Day On The Hill, which was April 14. Because of heavy rain the night before, even beneath the protection of the tent, the ground quickly turned to ankle-deep mud.

Kansas University sophomore Sara Thompson, of Salina, left, dances beneath the concert tent with fellow KU student Whitney Gudgel, of Kansas City, Kan., during KU's Day On The Hill, which was April 14. Because of heavy rain the night before, even beneath the protection of the tent, the ground quickly turned to ankle-deep mud.

Day On the Hill performers The Faint launch into their opening number. The concert event, which used to take place on Kansas University's main campus, was staged this year on the Lied Center lawn.

Day On the Hill performers The Faint launch into their opening number. The concert event, which used to take place on Kansas University's main campus, was staged this year on the Lied Center lawn.

Kansas University students cheer as headlining act The Faint takes the stage at KU's Day On the Hill.

Kansas University students cheer as headlining act The Faint takes the stage at KU's Day On the Hill.

On April 14, about 1,000 people gathered in the mud beneath a huge tent outside Kansas University's Lied Center for Day on the Hill, an annual outdoor concert.

It was a far cry from the Day on the Hill 15 years before, when more than 12,000 people came to Campanile Hill to see Pearl Jam. But considering the event's four-year hiatus earlier this decade and the snow flurries the night before, the organizers of this year's show considered it nothing less than a success.

Stephanie Patyk, the 2007-08 president of Student Union Activities, said SUA managed to make the best of the show's circumstances.

"We had setbacks, but everyone who went seemed to really enjoy the mud," Patyk said.

This year's show featured two headlining acts: the Omaha, Neb., electronic-tinged rock band The Faint, and the Philadelphia blues/hip-hop group G. Love & Special Sauce.

SUA adviser Susan Hoffman said the differing genres of the two groups helped the show appeal to as many students as possible, which is the goal of Day on the Hill.

"It's kind of hard to satisfy a whole university with one show on one day," Hoffman said. "I think we really need to make sure we're covering as many areas as we can."

Growing talent costs have made this difficult to do in recent years. The show disappeared in 2002, partly because SUA no longer had the money to attract acts that would interest students.

Day on the Hill's rebirth began in spring 2005, when KU students approved a new $5 student fee that would go to SUA's budget. Bailey DeReus, 2006-07 SUA president, said SUA used the return of Day on the Hill as a selling point in its campaign.

"We needed significantly more money to put on shows students would actually attend," DeReus said.

Tanner Burns, SUA's 2006-07 live music coordinator, said the two headliners in this year's show cost a combined $45,000 to book. Burns said a large-scale, mainstream music act would cost at least $40,000.

Hoffman said Pearl Jam only cost SUA $3,000 in 1992 because they managed to book the band just before it broke into the mainstream. Later in the '90s, SUA still managed to grab national-scale acts like The Gin Blossoms, Fastball and They Might Be Giants.

But by 2002, the costs of major acts had outgrown SUA's budget.

"Talent fees went crazy, and the funding wasn't available," Hoffman said.

The new student fee helped matters, but Day on the Hill is just one of two or three major entertainment events that SUA tries to present each year. These usually include a famous comedian and a marquee music act, both of which SUA hopes will sell out the Lied Center. In 2006, SUA brought comedian Kathy Griffin and piano rocker Ben Folds.

This year, they charged Day on the Hill admission for the first time: $5 for KU students, $10 for others.

Other obstacles include the Lied Center's inflexible schedule, which leaves few possible dates for the show, and the possibility of bad weather.

But Patyk said the show has still met its goal - giving students a look at an up-and-coming band and a fun end-of-the-year event, at little or no price.

"The actual goal of it is to have bands that are under the radar, that are out of the mainstream," she said.

Patyk said the show will likely continue, with possible changes: perhaps a move indoors, or a shift to more mainstream music groups. SUA will begin planning the 2008 event in the fall.

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