Concert sparks controversy

Screenshot of Indigo's story.

On April 22, singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza opened for Flo Milli during Vassar College Entertainment’s (ViCE) annual Spring Concert. De Souza later posted on her Instagram story to voice her disappointment and discomfort in many students for yelling explicit catcalls and talking over her performance. 

De Souza’s Instagram story featured a video of students dancing and singing to Flo Milli’s opening song, while she and her crew drove away. The statement said they decided to randomly open for Flo Milli, but the crowd made them uncomfortable and sad. She said, “I wanted to stop playing but I didn’t because a handful of the students were being super nice and were excited that we were there (thank you—I appreciated that energy).” De Souza added, “Playing colleges is sometimes a really sweet experience and sometimes really horrendous.”

ViCE issued a statement Sunday on Instagram apologizing to Indigo De Souza and her team for the experiences they shared with students on Friday. 

“We are deeply dismayed and truly regretful for this treatment. As the org who has the honor of bringing artists to campus, it is always our goal that those artists feel welcome, heard, and valued while they are here,” ViCE’s statement read. “We would like to maintain that same level of respect that past student bodies have shown before us.”

De Souza’s sentiments were spread via Instagram stories, with many students condemning the behavior and hoping for reflection and change. “I saw the Instagram story they posted… through several Vassar students [who reposted] it,” said Chloe Gjoka ’23, who attended the concert. [Disclaimer: Gjoka is Webmaster of The Miscellany News.] She added, “I would want Indigo to know that a lot of people respect [her] for being open with [her] experience. Despite how welcoming the Vassar community likes to see themselves, I really believe there are a lot of people on this campus who need to keep themselves accountable for making people uncomfortable and not just check others on it.” 

Another concert-goer, Margot Gordinier ’24, said the bad behavior from the crowd was apparent. She recalled, “I was at the event and thought the behavior was consistently inappropriate. It was perhaps the worst crowd I have ever been in, which is saying a lot as I used to go to punk shows in Brooklyn as a young teen.” 

Gordinier added, “Some people in the front row were turning their backs to the stage to talk with their friends, and when they weren’t, they were yelling catcalls and rude jokes directed at Indigo’s guitarist. The worst part for me was seeing the exhausted look on Indigo’s face as the crowd was again and again not reciprocating her energy.” 

ViCE hopes for an improvement in the future from the student body as a whole. “While we can’t control individual actions of students, we hope that we can all use this upsetting moment to learn how to be respectful in crowds moving forward,” their statement read. Their statement concluded with the following sentiment: “At future concerts we plan to have more SAVP trained students in the crowd for student and artist safety/respect.”

Madelyn Ockner ’25 said she thought it was weird that everyone was chatting during De Souza’s performance. She added that, “Being aware that there were a lot of people that didn’t know Indigo, but there were people there who did, and the crowd being so loud made it hard for them to enjoy the experience because everyone was literally talking.”

Some students had been cautious while attending the concert to make sure the artists felt comfortable, but the sentiment was not shared. Gordinier said, “[De Souza] also mentioned that she’d been struggling with insomnia after starting a new medication, so even before I came to Ballentine Field I was not only very grateful that she even came but was hoping that the audience would be as respectful as possible. After the concert, a friend texted me that Indigo had posted something about it, and to my knowledge the issue was that people were talking over her set and heckling her band members, both of which I witnessed.”

Another student at the concert, Sydney Salk ’22, said she had been following Indigo De Souza on Instagram for a while. “I felt absolutely heartbroken for the band when I saw this statement,” she said, adding, “I knew that just a day prior, Indigo had posted on Instagram about a similar incident happening to her opener at a different show. Indigo also wrote that she recently started a new medication that was negatively affecting her sleep schedule, and making it harder for her to perform. Knowing she was facing this type of disrespect under a difficult situation made it all the more disappointing.” 

Prior to opening for Flo Milli at Vassar on Friday, De Souza posted to Instagram disclaiming that it puts her in a weird place when audience’s speak over opening bands. She wrote, “Please be kind and respectful at my shows—even when you are in the back of the venue—I am hanging on by a thread and giving everything I’ve got.” 

Gordinier felt deeply embarrassed after reading De Souza’s post. She stated, “I was shocked that most of the audience had behaved that way at a free concert where these artists had traveled to play for us. I was simultaneously very glad that she had spoken up but sad that she had to experience that.”

Gjoka said she was surprised when she heard De Souza’s sentiments. “Yelling at one person ‘You’re so hot, I love you, be my wife, step on me’ could be considered totally fine and exciting [to them] but yelling it at someone else can make them deeply uncomfortable,” Gjoka said.

She added, “It’s difficult knowing what an artist is and isn’t comfortable with. You have two seconds to express your emotions to the artist so yelling something that may come off a bit blunt and uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve been drinking or doing other things of the nature, [it] may be more common than people think.”

Ockner said, “It’s important to remember that artists and performers are people too and it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by what you’re doing. And just because she might not have been the main performer, you have to give her the same respect.”

De Souza did not respond for comment. 

3 Comments

  1. Do BETTER Vassar. This is sad on so many levels. This is not what Vassar stands for or supports. Maybe extend an invitation to return to this band so that they can see our true spirit?

  2. Same thing happened with the 10,000 Maniacs concert in 1989! Natalie Merchant stormed offstage because the crowd kept screaming at her to play “Peace Train”. History repeating itself!

  3. A long time ago The Rolling Stones played on the Dean Martin Show. After the set Dean Martin ridiculed them to get laughs from the audience. Jagger’s take on it afterwards was words to the effect that stuff just makes the band stronger and tighter. Everybody knows who Jagger is how many many know who Dean Martin was.
    RSM Columbia Grad, ex New Havener, and avid reader of college newspapers.

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