When Empress Of released her first studio album in September 2015, president of No-ViCE Zack Wilks ’17 turned up his efforts to get her to Vassar. “I told ViCE, ‘She’s gonna blow up, we gotta book her,’” said Wilks. He had been following her career ever since she got signed to Terrible Records, a Brooklyn-based record label also representing acts such as Le1f and Solange, both of whom have performed at Vassar in recent years. In the months since the release of “Me,” Empress Of has indeed “blown up.” Her single “How Do You Do It” has over 2.5 million listens on Spotify and she’s going on a European tour later this month. She has worked with artists from Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange to Florence and the Machine. Empress Of is a solo project of singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez. The New York-based musician first gained popularity after posting a series of anonymous one-minute videos to YouTube in 2012. Rodriguez has since come into her own with a unique style that mixes elements of electronic, pop and rock.
This style was perfect for the revival of the winter concert, a tradition that only current seniors will remember. Bringing back the winter concert is part of a larger push by ViCE and its sub-organizations to provide more programming this year, after only having one big show for the 2014-2015 school year. No-ViCE, ViCE Jazz and ViCE Music collaborated on bringing Empress Of and the opening band Gemma to Vassar for a larger show after the success of the Thundercat concert earlier this year.
Head of ViCE Music Ben Greenspan ’17 said that when they start talking about what acts they want to bring as a general body, they start with the general and get more specific. He explained, “[We get a] general idea of what kind of music you want a concert to be, usually there’s a tradition that goes along with each big concert.” Fall concert is usually in the rock or alternative vein, and the spring concert is usually hip-hop, R&B or rap. Winter concert is not tied to a specific genre, so ViCE saw it as a great opportunity to bring a bigger act who does not necessarily fit into either of these categories. The concert took place last Friday night, Feb. 5 in the Susan Stein Shiva Theatre. Wilks referenced that the last big concert to be in the Shiva was Mykki Blanco, an artist who also does not fit neatly into any traditional musical genre, and has since gone on to sell thousands of records.
Although the Thundercat concert was deemed a success by many students, it caused hundreds of dollars in damage to the Chapel and jeopardized ViCE’s relationship with administrators. The winter concert needed a new venue on campus and ViCE decided on the Shiva. The Shiva works as an ideal space for the winter concert not only because it is indoors, but also because of its structure. The theatre is a big black box–perfect for adapting to many kinds of shows. It is much more suited for concerts than the Villard Room, and is much more spacious than the Mug. Luckily ViCE Music booked it early enough so as not to conflict with any student theatre groups who often occupy the space later in the semester. The show was by all counts a success, students filled the Shiva before Empress Of went on stage, and the large space remained full for the entirety of the concert, with everyone dancing and singing along. At the end of their hour-long set, the drummer for Empress Of even remarked that the audience was memorable. “[It was] one of the best crowds we’ve ever played for,” they said. The greatly anticipated show lived up to its expectations. Concertgoer Jake Pardee’s ’17 brother even came up from New York City to see the show. An avid fan of Empress Of, Ben Pardee, Bates class of 2015, braved the Metro North and a weekend back in college to see the band live. “I was planning on visiting him to see Empress Of at the Bowery at the end of March, but when they announced she was playing here for free we were so excited,” said Jake of he and his older brother.
ViCE Music, No-ViCE and ViCE Jazz have started off 2016 on a strong note and hope to continue the success with events this coming weekend. This Thursday Feb. 11, ViCE films is co-hosting M1 of Dead Prez with Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace for a screening of the film “Hip Hop is Bigger Than the Occupation.” The film will be followed up by a panel discussion on hip-hop as resistance from the United States to Palestine and a DJ set at Burgerfi co-hosted by WVKR. On Saturday, No-ViCE, ViCE Student Music and ViCE Special Events will host “ViCE Electronik Muzic Showcase: PLUR(e)ality.” According to the event’s Facebook page, “[It is] a curated collection of electronic sonic vibrations and holophonic sensations to cleanse your ears.” Stay tuned for a semester full of carefully picked artists and fun nights at different venues all around campus.