I've been hyping myself about Juice Jam 2010 since June. It's like the off-season in any major professional sports league - speculation about who's coming might be the most exciting part. Yesterday we finally found out:
Mash-up artists Super Mash Bros, homeschool dance tandem Mouth's Cradle, Passion Pit and advertised headliner Lupe Fiasco.
On paper, this lineup looks good. It'll be easy to support and get excited for Mouth's Cradle. Both they and Super Mash Bros. have styles that are easy to appreciate (big beats, dance orientation, familiar hooks, etc.). Lupe Fiasco and Passion Pit present household names that are probably equally relevant in today's music scene while potentially attracting different crowds (Passion Pit seems to be pop music that the indie scene appreciates, Lupe Fiasco is a rapper who has crossovered to the mainstream with hits like "Superstar" and his various features). With four acts in total and really no set anyone should dread, University Union deserves credit for creating what should be an overall solid, music- packed afternoon.
That said, I still can't help feeling slightly disappointed 24 hours after the announcement. Juice Jam is an event that, for better or for worse, does not exist in a vaccuum. As you continue on through your college career, each year gets compared with the previous ones. As the first show of the year on campus, it's easy to look at the competition from the other CNY universities and colleges with what they've scheduled early this fall (both with their welcome back shows and already announced major acts). In both instances, Juice Jam 2010 seems average.
1) Bloc Party, Ra Ra Riot, Talib Kweli ('08)
2) Girl Talk, The Cool Kids, Jack's Mannequin ('09)
3) Passion Pit, Lupe Fiasco, Super Mash Bros, Mouth's Cradle ('10)
4) Third Eye Blind, White Rabbits, Max Bemis (of Say Anything) ('07)
Consider the fact that the 2008 was Bloc Party's first collegiate show ever (and the night ended with Kele making appearances on Marshall St.). Bloc Party alone (with their debut Silent Alarm being ranked in both NME and Pitchfork's top albums of the decade list, not to mention topping some notable best of's in 2005) elevated that year above the rest. Even if Girl Talk's set in '09 was filled with newer mixes he may still need to perfect, the unique concert experience he provides (unparalleled levels of communal, no inhibitions dance) is something you won't get with Passion Pit or Lupe Fiasco.
3) Passion Pit, Lupe Fiasco, Super Mash Bros, Mouth's Cradle at SU
10) Jason Mraz, B.O.B. at University of Buffalo (I'm aware only four shows are listed...)
It's fair to note that we, at times, have managed to get the same acts as local universities and colleges (just look at Drake last year). For now, it's hard not to recognize how big scheduling acts like Phoenix or LCD Soundsystem is for a CNY school. Phoenix's most recent release, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, was the rare album that has success critically, commercially and at the Grammys. All three of LCD Soundsystem's albums have been highly acclaimed and their work has been cited as some of the best of the decade from respected critics like Jim DeRogatis. Even in quantifiable terms like size of venues they play, both LCD Soundsystem and Phoenix have headlined at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Neither Lupe Fiasco nor Passion Pit has quite reached that level yet.
Regardless of your opinions on the lists above, consider the recent relationships each of the Juice Jam '10 artists has with SU. Lupe Fiasco performed here within the last four years, (Block Party '07). Mouth's Cradle was still doing house parties last semester. Both Passion Pit and Super Mash Bros have been available within a 45 minute ride during the last two months of classes being in session (Passion Pit at Hamilton for free in May, Super Mash Bros. at Cornell this fall). There are many folks on campus who will have seen at least one of these acts before and a substantial number who've seen two or more. That's not an issue if you consider any of these performers "favorites" or a truly special live show, but it's hard to talk yourself into any of them fitting that bill.
Inevitably I'll buy a ticket for Juice Jam 2010, go and really enjoy myself. Lupe Fiasco will be solid as always, it'll be fun to see Mouth's Cradle slowly growing and maybe Passion Pit will surprise me this time around (admittedly, the last time I saw them was with Phoenix and Spoon so it's hard to keep up in that slot). In the moment, I have no doubt I'll leave satisfied and talking about what a strong lineup it was. Afterwards though, I'll simply be counting down the days until the next on-campus announcement (and also the Cornell and Hamilton shows).
Photo: Lupe Fiasco in Melbourne via Flickr user Scootie
Otto-Tune is a music blog dedicated to exposing the best in local, national and international music to the Syracuse community.