Freehold Township High School '97 Marlboro, N.J. And in some respects this past year, it did. The student-run Social Planning and Events Committee organized an eclectic mix of concerts this spring, bringing in acts ranging from banjo player Bela Fleck to hip-hop artist Busta Rhymes. The headline event of the season, however, had a distinctly "funky" air to it. Touted as a "Funk Music Festival," the annual Spring Fling concert was led by saxophone great Maceo Parker, who played with James Brown and George Clinton before going solo eight years ago. Also featured on the bill were the New York-based Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, 1980s punk mainstay Fishbone and the Five Fingers of Funk, a 10-person hip hop and rap ensemble from Portland, Ore. Moved indoors from Hill Field to the Palestra because of the threat of inclement weather, concertgoers complained of poor acoustics and low attendance, and the show itself received mixed reviews. Only about 1,500 students came to the five-hour show. The heads of SPEC's Spring Fling and Concerts Committee had hoped to sell about 4,000 tickets. The show also suffered from negative public reaction to the announced band line-up. Many students had not heard of the acts or were upset about a lack of diversity among the largely funk, blues and hip hop-inspired artists. SPEC's announcement of the concert schedule -- made only three weeks before the show -- came on the heals of failed attempts by the organizers to lure top acts to campus for Fling. Penn had tried to bring the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in to headline the show, but the band's agents instead chose to sign with Princeton University that weekend. Far and away, Parker drew the highest praise from those in attendance. His showcase of varied musical talents and danceable rhythms impressed concertgoers greatly. "Maceo really blew everyone away," then-College senior Stephanie Klupinski said. "I'm just upset more people didn't go." Opinion on the opening acts was mixed. While most students liked Fishbone's enthusiastic performance -- replete with wild stage dives from lead singer Angelo Moore -- the Five Fingers of Funk and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion suffered from low student interest and poor sound quality, respectively. Meanwhile, other SPEC groups had greater success in booking widely-acclaimed acts. In February, SPEC Jazz brought the Grammy Award-winning Bela Fleck and the Flecktones to the University Museum's Harrison Auditorium. The band thrilled the sell-out crowd with their unique mix of country, jazz, funk and rock. Banjo player Fleck led his quartet on a 2 1/2-hour jaunt that pleased not only the diverse audience, but the performers themselves. "Playing in Philadelphia's always cool," he said. "I just loved the show because we were playing to such a mixed audience -- a real listening crowd that really got into the music." A month later, SPEC Jazz scored another coup as famed bassist and West Philadelphia native Christian McBride jazzed up an audience of 450 in the University Museum. Additionally, SPEC To Represent Undergraduate Minorities succeeded in bringing a major act to campus when hip hop and rap performer Busta Rhymes signed on to headline SPEC-TRUM's fourth annual concert, scheduled to coincide with the Penn Relays athletic event. Although a minor altercation involving his opening acts disrupted his performance early on, concertgoers danced to hits like "Dangerous" and "Woo Hah!! (Got You All In Check)" -- despite the show's location in the unfriendly confines of the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Auditorium. "The last thing I'm tolerating is disrespect at my show," the shirtless, dreadlocked rapper told the audience after the fight was broken up.Comments powered by Disqus
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