For sophomores, UCONNIC has always been the spring concert. They figure that the multiple artists, food trucks, vendors and music festival atmosphere has always been the norm, when that’s really not the case. Prior to 2018, UCONNIC didn’t exist. Instead, there was a spring concert with a messy history of cancellations and terrible stage shows. So how did UCONNIC form, and what is it going to look like this year?
In 2016, SUBOG brought in Fetty Wap. At first everyone was excited, since, at the time, Fetty Wap was the best artist available within their price range of about $150,000. Unfortunately, the positive feedback from students came to a screeching halt when SUBOG’s website for tickets crashed and a lottery had to be put in place. While this was bad enough, Fetty Wap gave a terrible stage performance: He just walked around the stage for most of his songs instead of performing them, he was surrounded by his random entourage and performed “My Way” four separate times.
The 2017 show went even worse with Lil Uzi’s flight getting cancelled, resulting in a complete cancellation of the spring concert. Students were outraged by both of these performances (or lack thereof), and social media quickly filled with angry comments toward SUBOG. In addition to this, students weren’t thrilled that the only type of music considered for the spring concert was hip-hop.
Adam Sherif, an eighth-semester finance major, this year’s president of SUBOG and last year’s concert chair, came up with the base idea for UCONNIC during his freshman year.
“I was working the Fetty Wap Spring Concert as a … member of [the] concert committee and just recognized the extreme potential for the show to be so much bigger,” Sherif said in an email. “In theory it was a crazy idea. But really, it wasn’t so far-fetched given what other schools and places are doing across the country.”
Sherif’s idea for the spring concert to become more like a music festival would solve many of the problems SUBOG has faced with previous spring concerts. For one, having multiple artists would mean that if one (or three, in last year’s case) artist cancelled, the show could still go on, thus preventing another Lil Uzi-esque disaster. It would also mean that if one singer blows their performance, the others could still save the day and pump up the crowd. For two, by providing food trucks and vendors, they will be able to please and entertain students who might not be the biggest fans of the artists selected.
“In a festival setting, the goal isn’t to get everyone to like everything, but everyone to like something,” Sherif said. “Some go to the show for the food trucks, some for the vendors, some for the openers, some for the headliner. A festival – with a ton of different elements – is an event that is more fitting and representative of UConn.”
While the idea for UCONNIC stemmed from Sherif’s freshman year inspiration, it wasn’t made a reality until his junior year when he became concert chair. In order to move away from past failures, new leadership positions were created within the concert committee, which were then filled with new people. These new voices didn’t know what the old spring concert was, but instead were focused on what it could potentially become. They began planning for UCONNIC in April 2017, a whole year in advance of the festival. Shortly after the fall concert on Nov. 3, 2017, the concert committee went to the music and arts convention ComplexCon to learn about festival planning.
This new committee understood one of the biggest problems of the previous years was a lack of transparency. Students didn’t understand why certain artists were being chosen, why tickets were certain prices or why SUBOG was making certain decisions. And since SUBOG never explained itself, they grew frustrated and lashed out on social media. The new committee decided to try a different approach. They sent out a survey for feedback on previous years and for preference on ticket price, type of music, artist and location. Once the results of the survey were in, SUBOG shared their findings on social media to better help students understand their process and reasoning. After seeing that the largest number of student votes went to Khalid, the committee booked him through a middle agent called Concert Ideas.
After winter break, the committee began discussing other aspects of the festival, such as student openers, vendors and food trucks. In order to get these details figured out, the length of the weekly committee meetings were extended from 30 minutes to over an hour, and an additional second meeting was created for those in concert leadership positions.
“This is where the hardest work and longest days were happening,” Sherif said. “Getting everyone involved and on board to close down a road next to Gampel and run a festival outside was easily one of the greatest challenges of my life.”
In January, UCONNIC got its name, and in February they released a video to introduce it and kick off the presale. In early March, the committee hosted a release party to start selling tickets and announced the lineup.
“Within an hour, we had sold out of 1100 floor tickets, and within 24 hours, we had sold over 2000 tickets,” Sherif said.
On April 12, 2018, SUBOG finally held UCONNIC.
After all the work that went into the creation of UCONNIC, three of its artists cancelled last minute, and yet Sherif still considers the festival a massive success.
“For me, the success is that UCONNIC stood the test,” Sherif said. “Bazzi cancelling, Tory Lanez cancelling or Goldlink not showing up did not stop the success of UCONNIC the same way Uzi cancelling stopped the success of Spring Concert. We have reached a point where we are creating experiences that aren’t centered around one artist.”
Considering the positive feedback on social media and from surveys after the concert, it’s no surprise that there is a 2019 UCONNIC well in the works.
This year’s concert chair is eighth-semester finance major Ryan Banigan. Banigan said this year’s concert committee is focusing on creating a festival based completely on what the students want. Using surveys, polls and suggestions, this year’s festival will truly show that “UCONNIC is for U,” which also happens to be their motto. In addition to using student feedback, the committee is working to create a strong festival atmosphere.
“Part of our focus for this year was to increase the general aesthetic of the festival, which means that not only do we want to give students the opportunity to enjoy a great concert, but also the chance to walk away with a ton of photo memories,” Banigan said.
With this being said, details about which food trucks and vendors will be present are still up for debate and cannot be released at this time. But Banigan did say different interactive activities are being created to give students the opportunity to relax and have even more fun before the performers go onstage.
Another way the committee plans on improving UCONNIC is to familiarize themselves with the travel plans of the artists. While artists could still potentially miss the show, this will help ensure the festival runs smoothly in case of an absence.
SUBOG social media will be posting ticket information for 2019’s UCONNIC within the next few weeks, but Banigan said prices will likely be around $65-75 for floor, $45-55 for lower level and $25 for upper level seats. And considering how much work goes into its planning, it’s sure to be worth whatever price they end up charging.
“The whole time, through all the changes, we wanted the event to be memorable,” Sherif said. “Something that years after, you would remember as a pivotal moment in your time at UConn. Something that new students would look forward to every year and create a new campus tradition. Something that was so iconic, it had a name and reputation of its own.”
Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.