BU Central: It’s Central for a Reason

All photos by Tara Jayakar

Advertising the show on the giant chalk wall outside BU Central
One of the only physical ads BU Central has is the Chalkwall outside the venue. That, and the posters (aslo in GSU)

As we’ve said before, shows at BU Central are vastly under-attended. It seems to be the kind of place where if you’re in, you’re in and if you’re not… well, you’re missing out.

Saturday’s show was Cults, and they were fantastic. The stark change between the mostly white album cover and sunshine associated with Cults and the darkness of the BU Central show only highlighted how complex the band is, bringing out the underside of a band so inextricably woven into the summer air.

“I’m surprised,” said CAS Senior Becca Antonopolis between acts. “There’s no one here.”

Saturday’s show was Antonopolis’s first concert at BU Central in her four years at the university. Antonopolis explained her absence through the theory that, unless a student is plugged in to the basement’s online presence, the only way to hear about shows is through word of mouth.

Which isn’t to say that the online aspect isn’t useful. Students queuing outside the venue before the doors opened seemed to find the online advertising BU Central does very effective, with most of them finding out about the show through BU Central’s e-mails and tweets.

People queuing outside BU Central
People queuing outside BU Central before Cults

“There are so many different ways that they can reach you” said COM freshman Lindsey Mann.

Kevin Velasquez has been going to shows at BU Central for a few years, citing Tokyo Police Club and the Smith Westerns as the two most recent. “They’re really good with advertising on campus so I always know what’s going on,” he said. He did, however, agree with the same sentiments expressed by Antonopolis – students need to already be in the know to keep updated on BU Central’s happenings.

“I feel like maybe I’m a little more pro-active about finding events” said Velasquez.

And it seems to be that the pro-active students are the ones having the most fun.

Cults’s self-titled album, Cults, was released at the perfect time – summer months meant summer music and that’s exactly what Cults is: airy, beachy, singularly west-coast dream pop with some fifties throwback mixed in.

Spectral's drummer in a Cults t-shirt
Spectral's drummer in a Cults t-shirt, showing both sides of Cults's music - light and dark

Which is why seeing them in a dark basement with only surreal projections and deep red stage lights to illuminate the band was so awesome – it introduced the audience to a whole other side of Cults purely through visual elements. The at times disco trance lighting brought out Madeline Follin’s young alto, whereas on the album it sounds like an airy mezzo-soprano. Brian Oblivion’s shredding guitar parts were hauntingly gorgeous as he played in semi-darkness, lost in the swirling polka-dot lights, particularly on the closing song “Oh My God,” where on the album it only adds to the airy feel.

Madeline Follin's intensity is only multiplied by the disco/techno lighting.
Madeline Follin's intensity is only multiplied by the disco/techno lighting.

Even though BU Central’s new sound system has a way of pumping the bass and making the lyrics inaudible, the show also brought out the darkness in Cults’s lyrics, which can get lost in its sing-alongable melodies. “You Know What I Mean” was the perfect example, with the disco lights going absolutely crazy at the chorus with Folin just belting/yelling “‘Cause I am afraid of the light / Yeah you know what I mean / And I can’t sleep alone at night/ Yeah you know what I mean!” stomping on the ground and pounding her fist at the air like a kid having a tantrum. This mania played beautifully with the mellow pinpoint lights projecting on the band when she pleads “please come and save me/ tell me what’s wrong with my brain ’cause I seem to’ve lost it” swaying and moving all the while. And they’re just really nice people who seemed genuinely happy to be there, exampled by Folin’s huge smiles between songs and Oblivion’s sweet banter.

“I really hope you guys feel like you made the right decision coming here tonight” said Oblivion with a laugh before launching into “Oh My God.”

All of this passion, and three of the band members had strep. Holy hell.

Madeline Follin
Belting. Love it.

So in the wake of this revelatory show, why on earth was the 350 person capacity BU Central a little more than half-full?

“I think a lot of it is the stigma that people don’t want to come to school events” said BU Central Manager Jake Cox (SMG ’14)

Even as I asked students how they came to know about the show while we were waiting for the doors to open, Cox announced that they were sending around a clipboard asking students to suggest acts for next year and also write down how they found out about the night’s performance.

“I feel like a lot of people are over-saturated already” said Cox about the basement’s online advertising. Cox also said the solution would be to expand to a more physical ad campaign on campus to nudge the student body into being more pro-active.

“We have a lot to offer” said Cox. “We want to make this more of a community space.”

Cults’ Setlist:

“The Curse”
“Never Heal Myself”
“Most Wanted”
“You Know What I Mean”
“Never Saw the Point”
“Rave On”
“Everybody Knows” (Leonard Cohen cover)
“Walk at Night”
“Go Outside”
“Oh My God”
Check out BU Central’s WordPress and Twitter for updates on events. 
Listen to Cults, Mrs. Magician, and Spectrals.

About Tara Jayakar

Tara is a senior at BU, studying English and Journalism. She enjoys nothing more then a good meal, a cup of coffee, and the bone-crushing force of a mosh pit.

View all posts by Tara Jayakar →

2 Comments on “BU Central: It’s Central for a Reason”

  1. Tara,

    While I understand your frustrations with the attendance at Cults, I am deeply offended by your article. First, you need to understand the work that goes into putting together a show at BU Central. The mere fact that Cults, a band too big for BUC, even played there is amazing and went nearly unnoticed in your article. Also, you are unaware of the many ways that BU Central does, in fact, advertise. There are many rules at BU that prevent some great ways of getting the word out, but BU Central does a fantastic job at utilizing the means they have. They have a solid social media presence, an active blog, and plenty of physical posters that are placed in some of the most high traffic areas at this university.

    What makes me the most frustrated is your complete lack in helping to spread the word of this show. You write for a highly regarded BU news source and clearly knew about the show before yesterday. The Quad wrote about low attendance at Titus, so its been established that BUC has low attendance. Why didn’t you post an article before the show telling students to go? Why were’t you tweeting about it and sharing all of your insights on the band? You go in depth about their music, so you are clearly a fan. I just don’t understand why you didn’t use your own resources to help advertise for this show.

    While I agree that there are always improvements to be made, I also feel that the responsibility is partially in the student’s hands. If BU students walk by posters while texting and delete emails and do not read Facebook posts, then how is any BU group supposed to get the word out about great events. I am sure the Quad struggles with the same issue. It is our job, as BU students, to help each other spread the word. Word of mouth is hands down the most important form of advertising at BU. You could have helped BU Central. Instead, you chose to complain after the fact. Next semester, try promoting shows BEFORE they happen or give the BU Central staff specific ideas to improve advertising, and I am sure more people will go.

    A fellow BU student

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