A load of BSS

By Carlye Wisel

Where were you on Sunday?

If you answered “doing homework at the library,” you’re wrong. Same with “enjoying my parents not being in town” or “watching Entourage and crushing on Lloyd”, even though the latter is kind of understandable. There was only one place to be Sunday, and it was Foellinger Auditorium. But why weren’t you there?

Broken Social Scene, quintessential indie rockers and undeniable leaders of the imported Canadian music scene played Sunday evening to a crowd of 326 people. That’s about the same amount of members as one and a half sororities, residents of seven floors of Illini Tower or eleven sociology discussion sections. 326 people is also less than one percent – .82%, to be exact – of the student population .

Comprised of undeniably talented musicians who float in and out of the conglomeration to pursue various solo careers, Broken Social Scene is like a Jackson family of sorts, except unrelated, Caucasian and some have dated, which, hopefully, has not happened in the former. (If it did, though, Latoya totally would have been involved.) With successful side projects such as Stars, Metric and Apostle of Hustle, the band has met widespread genre-crossing success, and even their musical offspring have become popular with fans of more independent-leaning artists. There’s one spin-off guitarist though, who, if my mother’s iPod playlist counts for anything, has become the bona fide “The Hills” of Broken Social Scene’s “Laguna Beach” – Leslie Feist’s solo spinoff eclipsed her predecessors in record sales and overall famosity.

With the iPod commercial, the numerical sing-song, the cutesy music videos, and the incredibly long tour – Feist became so instantly popular that it was almost as if we forgot there were women out there playin’ guitar and makin’ music. We all know her, we’ve all heard her songs, and Feist has crossed into the mainstream and become both a pop darling and a regular in iTunes libraries, which is why a show of hers on-campus would likely have a stellar turnout. Broken Social Scene is arguably better and more influential, but with a widespread common interest of her catchy tunes among lackadaisical music fans, Feist’s show would become more of an “event” or a social outing with friends and less of a concert, therefore garnering a better turnout.

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Before you start chastising me for judging fans and not valuing pop music, consider Lollapalooza. The sublime social music experience, complete with bad sound, big crowds and boiling weather is primarily attended by regular concertgoers and devoted fans for only two reasons – to see a headliner they wouldn’t catch otherwise (such as Daft Punk) and to conveniently hear a handful of smaller blog-hyped bands at once. To many, though, it’s instead a “thing to do”: a three-day party with a hefty yet acceptable $200 cover charge. And, while an inferable ton of UIUC students go, one headliner of the northerly festival this past August was none other Broken Social Scene, attended by thousands in August, but only a few hundred in October.

Feist’s skyrocket success isn’t to blame for poor ticket sales, however – campus music fans are. As an ardent concertgoer, I’ve gotten used to the tiny crowds in town that can barely be classified as an audience at shows. When The Forms and Throw Me The Statue played Champaign-Urbana – two touring bands who pull decent-to-large crowds elsewhere – the amount of people there could have been counted on one person’s fingers and toes. These aren’t even unrehearsed student bands, trying to play once a week to get their tunes out there and garner enough skills to lean against a tree on the Quad and play something decent enough to impress a passerby; they’re successful artists, especially Broken Social Scene, who blows the entire tiny-indie-rock-band demographic completely out of the water.

A lot of music fans claim to love Broken Social Scene, but where were they? A band that big deserved a crowd just as large. Though mainstream music fans wouldn’t be interested, if hipsterism is focused around independent-thinking artists like BSS, maybe it’s time for some people to put their money where their mouth is.

Carlye is a senior in news-editorial journalism and is away on business all week. Hooray, professionalism!