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What is it about UALR? April 12, 2008

Posted by glenhooks in Show Reviews.
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In my non-blogging life, I am an environmental organizer.  Over the years, I’ve worked for political campaigns, a political party, and a long list of advocacy groups.  Each of those jobs has involved, at some point, an attempt to organize events and people at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, to get them involved in supporting the cause–be it Young Democrats, a candidate, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, a campaign to increase the minimum wage, or a campaign to legalize casinos.  These attempts have been unqualified disasters each time.  When it comes to organizing, UALR is my kryptonite. 

After last night’s Little Rock Love concert, at least I know that I’m not alone. 

The Donaghey Student Center hosted the cream of the Little Rock hip-hop scene last night–Epiphany, Razormack, Rockst*r, Sean West–along with campus up-and-comers Six 9 and Jay Summa.  Osyrus the God served as emcee for this free, on-campus event.  DJ Discipline and DJ Tenslim were on the 1s and 2s.  All the ingredients were in place for what promised to be a great night showcasing the Little Rock hip-hop experience. 

All the ingredients except for one:  an audience that gave more than a casual damn.

The crowd numbered, at most, fifty–including the performers–and seemed absolutely and utterly unsure as to how to respond to the performers in front of them.  Iv’e seen dead rooms before, but this was more like I’d stumbled upon the Room of the Undead.   Picture a room scattered with college students, sitting quietly in their chairs, being unsuccessfully exhorted time and again to get up and move….one of the most frustrating shows I’ve ever experienced. 

As the night wore on, the frustration began to show in the faces of the performers who were bringing it but getting zero feedback from the audience.  Six 9 opened and immediately began stalking the room, looking to bring the vibe alive.  Sean West and Epiphany took the stage to do a quick hit of “Loafers and Laces,” but I swear that I could hear crickets chirping as they finished up.  Razormack got a bit of response with some call-and-response work, but even that was painfully extracted from the unwilling audience.  Rockst*r ended his set by performing only half of his best known track, “So Fresh” before leaving the stage in apparent disgust.  Epiphany noted after finishing a song that his favorite thing in the world is “no response whatsoever,” and Osyrus resorted to laying down on the stage to take a nap. 

The performances themselves were solid, but the lack of crowd response was utterly unnerving.   Know how sometimes you’ve pissed off your partner, and you know it’s your fault, and you start clowning around trying to make them laugh–but all you get is the folded arms/silent treatment?  That’s the vibe from last night.  I was wondering:  what did these guys do to piss off the crowd? 

UALR, UALR…what is it about you?  You are indeed an riddle, wrapped inside an enigma, and shrouded in mystery.   Nobody thinks of Little Rock as a college town even though you’re right here in the heart of it.   Shake off that inferiority complex and start acting like a university.  If you get a great show, come to it.   When you get to the show, at least get out of your chair once in a while or pretend to notice when a song has ended.  Jeebus!

QUESTION:  What is YOUR kryptonite?





1. Demetrius Gordon - April 12, 2008

1. A weak humanities program. The academic focii at UALR are career-training disciplines in the social sciences, technically-centered studies like social work, speech pathology, and what have you. These students aren’t the kind drawn into college-y things like music, politics, and intellectualism.

2. Non-residential. This speaks for itself. There is no culture to the campus after classes are out.

3. Non-traditional student body. Many of the students at UALR have families and/or regular day jobs, which means they’re at work all day, except when they’re at school. On the weekends, they’re free from the obligations of work, which is a time commitment they lump together with school. They wouldn’t go back to work on the weekends. Why would they go back to school.

The biggest thing is the absence of an active humanities culture at the school, though. Obviously there are great professors in the undergraduate humanities programs, but the focus of the university has clearly not been cultivating that kind of intellectual atmosphere. A thriving, interactive humanities population at UALR could almost compensate for the lack of on-campus housing (which, I guess, they’re constantly adding to these days). But even with the addition of more dorms, the campus will remain desolate unless students are able to combine aspects of their academic life with their social life, resulting in a more convivial environment where the arts are followed and politics are engaged.

2. glenhooks - April 14, 2008

Great explanation–helps me understand what’s going on over there. That place has a lot of unrealized potential((GLEN))

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