Gardner is one of those facets Grinnell could not survive without. A live DJ at a dance party represents a proud and sometimes slightly cocky opposition to Harris. Gardner is the venue that makes possible performances ranging from Washed Out to RiFF RaFF. Gardner is often the answer to our weekend blues. Yet just like everything else at Grinnell (and with life itself), there are ways to take full advantage of the jubilee and entertainment Gardner holds on a Friday night, and ways to, well, fail to get the most out of your Gardner gallivanting.
Undisputedly, concerts are Gardner’s main draw, and almost every weekend at least one act graces the stage. These concerts are one of the remaining events that continue to unite this divided campus, especially with the big, hyped up shows such as Dan Deacon and Le1f that bring Grinnellians from Dibble to Cleveland to fill the dance floor in one sweaty mass. The reason is that these shows are good! For once, we have outside entertainment brought all the way to the middle of Iowa to rap about popping pills or swoon about heartache. Yet this treat goes unappreciated by some, who are busy scanning the crowd for their booty call or best friend. I have noticed that much of what makes up a crowd at a Gardner concert is not people enraptured by the music, but people pushing through the crowd calling someone’s name, or standing facing away from the live performance with a worried expression. I know, I know, part of the whole image of Gardner is an air of apathy, to shout excitedly in the JRC about a show that night but then at the show itself be too busy scanning the crowd or generally being hyper-aware of your surroundings to actually be engaged with the show itself.
Grinnellians’ first priorities on weekends are usually “where are my friends?” and “am I drunk enough?” If they aren’t satisfied with either answer they will leave wherever they are to fix it. I understand leaving a 1010 party to smoke more, or meet up with someone special, but if you are at a live show that people put a lot of effort into planning, why not stay? Why not immerse yourself in the act, without concern of whether you are surrounded by friends? If you feel more sober than you had intended, do not be alarmed. Life, and believe it or not, Gardner concerts, can be experienced sober and still be fun. Instead of constantly seeking out companionship and substances, why not forget you are at Grinnell, stop worrying about what people are thinking about you, close your eyes, and simply get swept away by the music.
Another tendency of Grinnellians I have noticed that greatly reduces the Gardner experience is to walk down the stairs slightly drunk and pumped for the show, enter Gardner to find the opening act jamming away, and then promptly leave. Why would people do this? Well if Grinnell ever had one unifying ethos it would be the understanding that because there aren’t enough other Grinnellians there yet—“it isn’t happening!” People will even go so far as to report the “dead” status of Gardner to those approaching as they leave. What I don’t understand about this is the illogical notion that if you and a group of your slightly drunk and primed-to-dance friends leave Gardner, and warns others to do the same, it will still end up eventually poppin’. The poppin’ status is eventually reached, this mysterious critical mass of bodies where it is deemed acceptable for everyone to stream out of their rooms and into Gardner, this time to stay. But why not start this process earlier in the night, especially when the live acts have already started? Grinnellians complain often that the crowd at Gardner is lacking, “there is no one at Gardner… pffft, so typical.” Yet we as a collective body, but also as individuals, have the power to change this.
Next time you go to Gardner with friends and they insist on leaving, try staying. Yes, even if it is just you, the dance floor, the music, and a few other brave independent souls. Watch the drummer get really into the beat, observe the lead singer and notice the funny saying on his or her shirt. Most of all, begin to dance, truly dance, in a luxuriously spacious Gardner without sweaty undulating bodies grinding up on you. Realize that you can exist alone in Gardner and have fun, because before everything else, Gardner is not a dining hall table or even the dance floor at 1008, it is a live show and godd*mn it after a long week you owe it to yourself to genuinely experience it, no matter where your friends or booty call is.