North Campus Opens with a Bang…and then there were the fireworks.
Last Friday night, a campus wide celebration ensued for the grand opening of North Campus, bringing a diverse array of performances and an impressive fireworks display. The festivities kicked off in the Robert Purcell Community Center (now the Ebenezer of North Campus) with the Cornell dance group, Uhuru Kuumba opening for the D.C. based and internationally-touring dance troupe, Step Afrika. The largest and most energetic audience of the evening enjoyed learning about and witnessing the culturally rich choreography known as “stepping.” Once associated with the African-American Greek pledging process, stepping involves a lively combination of call-and-response, rapping, and expressive dancing.
Then, after this RPCC prelude, concerts commenced at both Noyes Community Center and the new Community Commons on North. Bree Sharp — known for her tongue-in-cheek pop tune “David Duchovny (Why Don’t You Love Me)” — played her brand of catchy folk-rock on West Campus.
The real excitement of the evening, however, surrounded the notoriously charismatic Evan Dando, once lead singer of the seminal alternative band, the Lemonheads. As the show was about to start, Dando entered the multipurpose room at Community Commons with a bale of hay, a remnant of the North Campus construction. Then, Mary Lorson opened for the rocker with her evocative indie rock, while Dando suggested from offstage that Lorson put on a pair of sunglasses. Realizing the irony, Lorson quipped that her music is “pretty morbid” for a celebration, but the intimately-sized crowd nevertheless enjoyed the contemplative songs. At one point, Lorson coaxed the ex-Lemonhead to abandon his cigarette (yes, the room was non-smoking) to join her for a moving, if imperfect, duet.
Stumbling onto the stage in his plaid button-down and yellow flip-flops, Dando opened his solo set with the Lemonheads classic, “It’s A Shame About Ray.” A few songs into the set, Dando decided the room needed to be “baptized” with a flood of feedback, putting an end to the mellow mood set by Lorson, at the expense of the audience’s eardrums. As the screeching came to a halt, Dando unplugged his guitar out of frustation with the sound system and sat down on the front of the stage, playing a heart-felt acoustic rendition of Victoria Williams’ “Frying Pan.” The change was greatly appreciated as the audience immediately responded by crowding around him to create an even more intimate atmosphere.
While finishing an unplugged version of the fan-favorite “Into Your Arms,” Dando spotted a security guard in the back of the room. The Lemonheads frontman exclaimed “The cops are here, good … are you a cop?” When the man answered “No,” Dando quickly retorted “good” to the audience’s amusement. A sign of things to come, this would not be Dando’s only interaction with a badge that night. After more of Dando’s warm voice and infectious strumming, a few students stood up to leave, at which point Evan stopped playing mid-song and declared, “That’s it. Those guys are leaving.” He proceeded to chase them into the hall with his guitar, chord and effect pedals falling off the stage after him. When he re-entered the room, he apologized, saying, “I’m kind of sensitive when people get up and leave and all, especially when I’m playing with such a good PA system.” Closing the set with a few requests, a new song, and some more piercing effects through the aforementioned “good PA system,” Dando remembered the bale of hay behind the stage. With the help of the excited audience, Dando ripped the ropes off the hay, covering the shiny, polyurethane-smelling floor and certain members of the audience with the yellow straw. That’s when the real fun started…
Heading down the stairs and outside the community center, with fans following, Dando inquired whether anyone present had a replacement for his prescription “downers” or painkillers (“do you mean to tell me no one has broken a leg within the last month … an elbow anyone?”). Still performing for his wide-eyed audience, Dando recalled various experiences he has had over his career with celebrities, like Juliana Hatfield and Liv Tyler. However, the most memorable story involved one of his Vancouver shows at which Courtney Love bared her breasts and usurped Dando’s guitar to play her hit “Doll Parts.” “I really pray for her, although in an ultra-Christian way, because she’s not very cool. That girl has a lot of fucking karma to deal with,” Dando joked. As Dando began to return inside to retrieve his gear, having failed to obtain any medication or even an invitation to a party, he was greeted by a Cornell policman asking, “Are you Evan?” After a momentary lapse of deafness, Dando shouted “What? What’s that? No I’m not going inside with you man, you got a gun and shit, I’m not going near you… What would you like to talk about? What would you like to talk about with me?” After the police offficer made Dando clean up all the hay, with the help of some Cornell students under the guise of his crew, Dando was handcuffed and taken away to Barton Hall. After witnessesing this outrageous spectacle, the venue was cleared as the police officer threatened to arrest all of the onlookers, including the opening band, for trespassing. The fireworks outside paled in comparsion to the explosive events during and after the concert.
Archived article by Ben Kupstas