After spending months working behind the scenes and considering performers such as Talib Kweli and Marc Broussard, Program Board ultimately settled on Robert Randolph and the Family Band to headline this Sunday’s Fall Fest. Talk to any member of Program Board, and he’ll tell you the nuts and bolts of putting together one of the University’s largest events isn’t an easy one.
Tyler Coffey, Program Board executive chair, said members “play phone tag all summer,” working with groups’ agents and figuring out what other types of amusement will be included at the event.
As students finished their finals and headed home for summer, Program Board was already looking forward to the fall – brainstorming for the event begins in May. The selection of each year’s Fall Fest performer is a lengthy process, Coffey said.
“The bid process isn’t simple,” Coffey said. “What happens is, we say (to performers) that we have a certain amount of money and we’d like them to perform on this date, and we send that to them. They get a week to decide if they want to accept that bid or not.”
Senior Aimee Schulman, the Program Board concert chair, explained that the group comes up with a list of potential performers, then takes a look at who is available.
“The list that we actually have to decide from is very small. We looked at Robert Randolph and Talib Kweli. Marc Broussard was someone we were looking at, but he was unavailable,” she said.
Hip-hopper Kweli was almost this year’s Fall Fest performer, Coffey said.
“Robert Randolph originally said no,” Coffey explained. “They gave us another (price) and said they’d perform for that, and we said no to that. But they said this before the bid actually expired, so we started looking into Talib Kweli, and on the very last day that the bid was to expire, Robert Randolph accepted the bid. Because we offered them the bid it became necessary that we take them.”
One thing the Program Board refuses to share, however, is the actual price of the event. Coffey said, “We try to keep it as quiet as possible.”
“Sometimes there are a lot of extra costs and fees associated with putting on a show, and students don’t realize where we’re coming from with our budget,” Coffey said.
Fall Fest and Spring Fling are Program Board’s most expensive events of the year, although they tend to put more money into Spring Fling each year, Coffey said. He added that the group does not publicly release costs in order to minimize complaints from students about costs.
“People are like, ‘Oh, why did you spend this much on this person?'” Coffey said. “They don’t understand that this person cost so much more than they anticipated because of production costs and catering and hospitality, and what they demand in that (alone) can be up to $1,000.”
Declaring a price can also make it difficult to work with the Program Board’s agent, who books the acts for the festivals each semester.
“If you’re trying to get the same band as another school, they want to know what you’re paying,” Schulman said. “There could be a problem if we got it for cheaper than them. We don’t like to make it public because other schools will know what we’re doing with our money.”
“Basically, it distracts us with a whole lot more questions than we have time to answer,” Coffey said.
This year’s Fall Fest will begin differently than those of previous years’, organizers said. For the first time, student performance groups, rather than just student bands, will be the opening acts.
“We wanted to try something new at Fall Fest,” said junior Katie Kemen, the group’s parties chair. “The theme was ‘Best Fall Fest Ever,’ so we thought we’d feature some of the best of GW. We’re trying to make it a little more about the students.”
From 3 to 5 p.m., eight GW student organizations will get 10 minutes each to perform. The lineup includes a cappella group the Pitches, which is followed by GW Bhangra, a cappella group Sons of Pitch, dance group Capital Funk and finally a capella group the Troubadors. Opening act Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers will perform at 5:30 p.m., followed by Robert Randolph at 7 p.m.
Kemen, along with her co-chair senior Sarah Schmidt, is also responsible for choosing and setting up the amusement activities. This year will feature many of the classic games GW students come to expect from Fall Fest each year.
Kemen said Fall Fest will feature two Dance Dance Revolution video games, an inflatable obstacle course and an inflatable gladiator joust.
“We know that (Dance Dance Revolution) has been popular lately and everyone said they wanted that again. I always like the gladiator joust, so that’s just one of the perks of being a chair – you get to pick what you want,” she said.
Even though the doors open at 3 p.m., Program Board members will be at the University Yard well before the first hot dogs are being served.
“We’ll be up at 6:30 (a.m.) making the rain call,” Schulman said. In the event of rain, Fall Fest is moved to the Smith Center.
“Production people are going to be coming at nine, then crew call to load the equipment,” Schulman said. “There’s going to be hospitality, the bands coming in and doing their equipment, and then sound checking, all before the doors open.”
Hospitality involves meeting the backstage demands of the bands, which can have unusual requests.
“Usually every group has something crazy that they want,” Coffey said. “We haven’t seen too much of the green Skittles only-type demands, but they usually request alcohol, which we can’t give them. I think the Black Eyed Peas wanted a bunch of condoms.”
“Patti LaBelle wanted like, 120 towels, all for just her,” Schulman said. “She also needed fancy flower arrangements. She might have been our craziest one.”
“Robert Randolph hasn’t been hard. He just wanted alcohol and some really specific brand of salsa,” Coffey said.
The board will be working until the last act of the evening.
“Until Robert Randolph goes on stage, it’s going to be stressful,” said Schulman, “but once he does, we can enjoy the show.”
When the party is over, and the guests have all gone home, the Program Board is left with a University Yard-sized mess to clean up.
“It feels very worthwhile in the end,” Coffey said. “When you’re done and people see you pushing stuff back to the Marvin Center and they’re like, ‘Hey that was really fun, thanks for the show,’ because they see you wearing the t-shirt, it’s really great.”