Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cajun brass 1, Cajun music 0

Note: My April 20 column refers to this unfortunate incident.

What exactly does the University of Louisiana have against culture?

Here’s the lowdown on an ugly incident: The Pine Leaf Boys, a local band composed of Drew Simon, Cedric Watson, Wilson Savoy and Jon Bertrand, were performing on campus March 23 when the University Police ordered them to stop. They have since announced that they will no longer play here, a move which should sadden anyone who values a vibrant college scene.

This incident is particularly newsworthy for several reasons: 1) UL authorities gave conflicting and contradicting reasons as to why the band wasn’t allowed there; 2) enforcement of “quiet-zone” rules is apparently seriously selective; and 3) the school has now sent the message that only adults interested in selling stuff are allowed to mingle with students.

Based on the direction of the wind, UL officials have offered the following as reasons for the band’s eviction: noise disturbance, lack of paperwork or the ignorance of prior warnings. Taken together, it would appear that the university really does not want The Pine Leaf Boys on campus and will give any half-baked reason for their dismissal.

If the university truly cared about noise abatement, then they should address such diverse elements as traffic, construction and lawn mowers buzzing during classes. Why not shut down the massive heating and cooling units next to academic buildings while you’re at it? Or post signs on every sidewalk reminding students to zip their lips?

And say goodbye to those periodic block parties at the same intersection as well. Is it too late to cancel the rest of Lagniappe Week? That affects the ENTIRE campus! I have no doubt that the vast throng of students who traverse St. Mary and Rex each day would thank you for keeping their sanctuary quiet.

Somehow, I suspect that the noise disturbance was not the real issue at hand. How do I know? Because I was there. As I walked across campus from Griffin Hall to Martin Hall that day, I saw the Pine Leaf Boys doing their thing. Their volume wasn’t exactly at Festival International levels; in fact, I considered standing right by them to get a better listen. I would have even dropped change into their cup, had I not been bereft of change (a situation often shared by musicians and writers alike). As far as I was concerned, having a Cajun band there was a welcome change from the usual huckstering.

Another excuse given by UL officials was that the band was banned under the same provision that prevents beggars from soliciting money on campus. I suppose there’s a profound difference between bums and the credit card people who prowl campus, seducing unsuspecting freshmen with free t-shirts. To campus officials, it’s apparently more acceptable to ruin students’ credit than to expose them to the sounds that define this area. Not that any of this matters anyway, because the band wasn’t exactly advertising its little paper change cup. Maybe, just maybe, they were in it for the music.

Music is a part of the university experience. What movie about college doesn’t have at least one splash scene of campus with some kind of orchestral score? And what campus does not enjoy the periodic street function? Certainly ours does, and its annual calendar of events only enriches the academic atmosphere.

When I saw the Pine Leaf Boys that day, the first question that popped in my mind was not, “Will they please stop?” Instead I asked, “Why aren’t they and their brethren here more often?” Anything that enriches the student experience at a major university, even if for a few moments between classes, should be accepted with open arms. And open ears.


Michael said...

Good on you, Ian. If I've got anything on me, I always drop a little change on street musicians I pass. Anything that injects a little culture (to say nothing of beauty) into our humdrum daily existences should be embraced.

MagicalShrimp said...

Nice to see people who can't differentiate between art and noise pollution. The fact that the police car's lights were flashing is an interesting touch. Apparently music is threatening enough to warrant an officer's getting off his ass and pointlessly busting the players?

Ian McGibboney said...

All Vermilion staff members can go to the UL police station at any time of day or night and trade in their ID to borrow the key to the office (though editors have their own keys). Predictably, the key is sometimes lost by goofs who forget to return it for a day or two.

One day a couple of years ago, I borrowed the key and returned it. It then vanished for several months. The police blamed me and nearly had me fired. I found out later that they had lost the key themselves (I think they ultimately had to get another one made) and that they just went with the last person who'd turned it in. They kept lying about it, telling anyone who came in to borrow it that it was checked out (flashing the first random ID they had on their desk, always of someone not at the Verm).

So I guess you could say that the UP likes to go on jags of law enforcement...but only when they feel like investigating anything.

Nick said...

Yeah...I read that article in the IND the other day and thought, "That's about right for this school." Credit card people are allowed to bug students, greeks "sheep" are allowed to bug people for money, yet the cajun band is beggers? And noise pollution? How about the idiots who think it's cool to turn up their 50 cent or Juvenile everytime they "roll" down Rex Street?

As for the UL Police, they kicked us out of the football game for trying to get the crowd excited. Yet, at the same game, a particular fraternity threw beer cans at Minnesota's fans and mascot, and they got to stay at the game!!

Ian McGibboney said...

There's something about UL that absolutely CHOKES the administration there. You guys shouldn't have been thrown out for running around shirtless. You guys did it on the hill; it's not you were disrupting the game in the end zone or anything. I know that that's all I remember about that particular game.

After seven years I think I've figured it out: UL only likes its spirit as far as the events are planned. They're real uptight if spontaneous things happen. It's sad, because you know students want to break out and extend their fun in a safe way. But the Machine won't have it.

Joe said...

The worst part of all of this is that this band of miscreants was exposing these kids to their own authentic cultural heritage! Many of these students had probably never listened to anything that wasn't approved by MTv and KSMB and to hear the vibrant, dynamic sound of their grandfathers could cause them to delve more deeply into their past and maybe even begin to reclaim their heritage.

You should get Barry Ancelet's take on the University's policy toward Cajun music being played on campus.

PusBoy said...

Sounds like the folks in the Administration are a bit anal about things like "permits" and "quiet zones." Do you have to show your papers as you walk from class to class?

And, I will throw in here that if I were taking a chemistry exam and the silence was shattered by Cajun music, I'd complain, too.

Ian McGibboney said...

PusBoy, that's my point. They were not loud at all. Several dozen decibels' worth of noise happens at that intersection every day; it is the very center of campus. People sit at tables there every day and act like carnival barkers. The university does homecoming festivities there (the aforementioned block parties) in the middle of the day! At those times, you'll see two or three local radio stations blaring their stuff and braodcasting live. None of that seems to bother anyone. The chemistry building is a big boy; it's built for sound abatement, as far as I can tell.

The other structures surrounding that intersection include a career office, a dorm and a coffeeshop kiosk. It's closer to a mall than a campus at that place.

M said...

I'll miss the music on the corner. It used to make me feel better as I left the hell that is statistics and re-entered the hell that is my office.