By Christopher Squier
Moira Donovan ’14 is ushering in next year’s concert lineup as the recently selected Concerts Committee Chair for the academic year 2013-2014. She brings with her all the experience she has stockpiled over the last few years and an enthusiasm to continue pushing along the trajectory to which Concerts has been pointed the last two years.
In addition, Donovan will be bringing a bit of gender diversity to the position as the first female Concerts Chair in current institutional memory.
“Even though Pooj [Padmaraj ’13] is the Concerts Chair, the committee is very largely, at this point, women,” Donovan said. “It has just [been] a man at the top and almost all women.”
In terms of experience, Donovan is more than qualified to head the illustrious Concerts Committee, with a little over two years of band-wooing involvement at Grinnell, and a lifetime of musical discernment under her belt. During the three most recent semesters, in particular, Donovan has spent much of her time on the rough and tumble streets of Grinnell’s musical scenes, herding bands and musically-deprived students into the same dance-inducing pens around campus, focusing particularly on the subterranean haunts of Gardner and Bob’s.
“I’ve been working every single concert for the past three semesters that I’ve been at Grinnell,” Donovan said. “I’ve been there from 4:30 [p.m.] to 2 o’clock a.m, so I know what goes on.”
Information about next year’s line-up is strictly confidential at this point, and only distributed to the members of the Concerts Committee. Overall, Donovan’s game plan seems to just barely one-up current Concerts Chair Padmaraj, who will find himself headed out of Grinnell in cap and gown just a few weeks from now.
“No one is confirmed yet, but I’m trying to continue in the arc of where music’s going now.”
Despite the lack of certitude on next semester’s itinerary, Donovan is committed to the current initiative to blanket Gardner and other campus venues in an unremitting presence of as-yet-to-be-heard-of bands.
“I think it’s more cost effective to bring smaller bands and … there are people that come to every show and they appreciate having an alternative thing to do on the weekend from whatever else is going on,” Donovan said.
While some have voiced interest in bringing larger acts like Grimes and Macklemore to Grinnell, these artists’ significantly higher price tag would limit the Committee’s ability to have shows on a near-weekly basis.
“I’m going to be focusing on smaller bands and trying to keep up with having 14 to 15 shows per semester,” Donovan said.
Therefore, look to a number of new discoveries next year for additions to your musical library, possibly with a few slightly more recognizable names in the mix. Currently, the Concerts Committee discusses possible bands as a group and Donovan is committed to those democratic discussions in the coming year.
“I’m really trying to work on getting the committee involved more,” Donovan said. “Every single time an artist emails me, I’ll consult the committee, try to get more of their input and more representation of what everyone wants on campus.”
The Concerts Committee is a gathering place for concert connoisseurs to do more than provide simple feedback to their royal leadership. It meets on Mondays at 9 p.m., on the second floor of the JRC. Members sign up for various employment positions from setting up the equipment and running sound to bringing food to band members and chauffeuring them to and from the airport. Others take on poster and website duties and write blog posts.
“There’s a lot for people to do when they come to the committee to get engaged, without necessarily just being the Concerts Chair,” Donovan said.
Additionally, Donovan is hoping to work with the publicity position to bring more events and talks on band-related themes and provide context outside the obscure echoing of guitars and drum sets.
Music-wise, the sets will continue in their tendency towards electronic shows, in preference over garage rock.
“Right now I see that there’s less attendance at the garage rock shows and more attendance at the electronic shows,” Donovan said. “We’ve been getting more connections with those managers and those booking agents and just have been trying to gauge what people like and what’s going on in music to try to maintain both Concerts’ artistic vision, while also catering to the tastes of the campus.”
Donovan will also be pushing for more quiet shows in Bob’s, which have been absent many weeks over the past few months. One band she would like to bring to Grinnell again is Balmorhea, a musically minimalist group of Texans who performed here during the fall of 2011.
Finally, one of Donovan’s projects for next year will be to ante up the sound education on using concert-focused sound equipment.
“I’m really trying to work on getting the sound system both simplified so more people can use it, and getting as many people educated about [sound] so that we can be successful,” Donovan said. “If anyone wants to throw a dance party in Gardner, we won’t necessarily have to hire someone from the Concerts Committee to be there the entire night to make sure the soundboards and all the amps are okay.”
All said, Donovan and the Concerts Committee seem well on their way to preparing an entertaining year awash with all kinds of sound.