With the final Plexapalooza less than a week away, Mike Florio, director of live entertainment for the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and CSOM ’19, said that this event is one of the most important ones he’s ever been in charge of organizing. This year’s edition is important on a couple of fronts, one of which is slightly more controversial.
Florio noted that part of the appeal of the three major concerts CAB puts on for the BC community is ensuring each features its own style and ambiance. By staying true to the signature aspects of each show, Florio said he believes CAB is able to provide the entertainment experience that leads to each show selling out. It’s a lesson the senior learned early in his time with CAB.
Florio rotated through the board’s introduction program for freshmen, where he most enjoyed working on the live entertainment side. His love for department was inspired by the event he just booked: the final edition of Plexapalooza. In 2016, CAB booked The Chainsmokers just as the duo was hitting its stride. Now, Florio is looking to live up to the legacy of one of the most well-known Plexapaloozas as he brings the event to its close.
In a way, it’s ironic that Florio is dropping the final curtain on Plexapalooza, the event that drove him to enter live entertainment in the first place. His first priority is making sure that his department stays true to the legacy Plexapalooza is leaving behind.
“Plexapalooza in itself embodies something that is much more than just an artist,” Florio said. “While it’s great that we have all these talented people, I think the event has become more than that.”
Florio cited the event contains a unique emphasis on production elements not present at every BC concert, or even some professional events. The live entertainment team sees the final Plexapalooza as an opportunity to go bigger than ever using the video boards and lighting effects it has at its disposal. To Florio, the visual components of the show are what drive a great artist performance to another level of excellence in the eyes of an audience.
The Plex provides unique problems for the live entertainment group to deal with. For instance, CAB can’t use pyrotechnics, which are typically a major part of EDM performances, because of the way the Plex’s fire sensors work. Florio noted it provides his team with a unique opportunity to find other ways to create a unique, engaging performance style inherent primarily to Plexapalooza.
The concentration on production value doesn’t mean the artist—or, more aptly, the artists—don’t play a part in making this particular performance special. Florio noted that Plexapalooza has never had two artists before, and the RL Grime and Audien provide a unique blend of EDM specialties that will make up a concert unlike any of Plexapalooza’s previous editions. RL Grime’s sound is more electro trap, while Audien’s is more electro pop.
Florio said that by choosing two artists whose styles blend but aren’t the same, the audience will be treated to a more in depth interpretation of EDM on Saturday than any previous performance. The primary criticism of EDM is that it lacks artistic creativity and can be too repetitive, and though Florio doesn’t think that issue has affected past Plexapaloozas, he said he believes RL Grime and Audien’s wide-ranging combined expertise will prevent any aspect of the performance from lacking interesting, comprehensive EDM experience.
CAB traditionally brings in students to open for the headliners—this year, Matt Kuda, MCAS ’19, and Max Gates, MCAS ’19, will serve as DJ’s for the final Plexapalooza. Florio emphasized the importance of bringing in as many aspects of the BC community into CAB performances, making the student DJ’s a vital part of Plexapalooza’s history.
In terms of merchandise, shirts will be given out as they always are, but a special memorabilia poster has been created just for this performance. The first 500 students who pick up their tickets, which can be picked up at Robsham Theater between Tuesday and Friday, will receive the poster.
The pressure on CAB this year isn’t different just because Plexapalooza is ending, but because of the controversy surrounding last year’s Modstock.
Florio was abroad when CAB announced that the headliner for Modstock would be B.o.B last April, and the organization came under fire for bringing a headliner to BC who has made comments with anti-Semitic undertones in the past. Over 200 faculty signed a letter calling for a response from administrators, and then-vice president of student affairs Barb Jones and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley wrote a letter to the community that stated vetting processes for performing artists would be reviewed.
CAB issued an apology for the oversight, and is working to ensure its vetting process is more vigorous in order to weed out any candidates to headline a show that would be a detriment to the BC community. CAB is working closely with BCPD on this issue: The two organizations have always worked together on vetting options, but BCPD now produces more detailed background checks for CAB to go through before making any decisions on a headliner.
Florio and his team have worked to move past the issue as quickly as possible to restore the community’s faith in their work. That effort began with this year’s successful Stokes Set, which Florio raved about, specifically citing headliner Daya’s performance as the highlight of the evening. Now, with more distance and a successful performance showcasing what Florio believes is his team’s best work, CAB and its live entertainment division are primed not only to put on a marquee final Plexapalooza, but also to put together Modstock and make preparations for what will replace Plexapalooza.
Florio said that the winter concert won’t disappear from BC’s calendar, but that CAB has not yet decided what will slot in in Plexapalooza’s place. CAB is planning on keeping the winter concert an on-campus event, and Florio’s crew is considering the Margot Connell Recreation Center as a potential new location, but no concrete plans are in place. Regardless, CAB will be using the year in the lead-up to the new event to flesh out what kind of concert they want to replace Plexapalooza with.
“I wish I had an answer for, ‘What’s the next move?’” Florio said. “I think that’s going to be a process that we figure out as the year goes on.
“One of the difficult things is space on campus is tight. I don’t want to make this a thing about why we need a student center, but it can be difficult to find those spaces on campus.”
Florio encouraged the community to chime in on what they’d like to see from a new annual concert. He sees the loss of the Plex as bittersweet: Though Plexapalooza is wrapping up, CAB and the greater BC community now has the chance to build a concert from scratch with the inspiration of a successful previous iteration in mind.