Fanclub Collective, like all other student groups, was devastated by the student population’s abrupt migration from campus. FC is an on-campus student group which organizes concerts in often (literally) underground locations. I FaceTimed Amber Tan ’21, president of FC, to talk about the organization. We spoke from our quarantined bedrooms, both perhaps a little stir-crazy. I asked FC member Stephen Yang ’22 (also a Sun columnist) to comment on his experience with the organization; I’ve added his story to the end of the interview.
Plowe: Tell me about Fanclub Collective.
Tan: We’re a music organization that does a lot of DIY booking, and our goal is to showcase small artists from all narratives and experiences. We try to cover genres that aren’t necessarily represented in mainstream music.
Plowe: What goes into organizing a show?
Tan: Something that I’ve learned is that putting on a show requires A) a lot of organizing and B) hospitality and making sure your artists are being treated right. I hear a lot of horror stories … on the organizational side, it’s important to be sure that you have a cohesive schedule, making sure people are respecting the space, that the bands are on time, the sound equipment is running. Then there’s how we treat the artists — they’re people who need a place to stay, they to be fed and they need time before their set to relax. These people are phenomenal — music is a side gig to a lot of them. They have jobs, are also students, grad students, pursuing other things. It’s great to just talk to them and hear their life stories.
Plowe: What shows did you put on last semester?
Tan: Everyone who does booking listens to a very specific niche. We had a former FC member named Misha, and they did a lot of the experimental electronic booking. And Stephen — thank god, I’m so grateful that Stephen’s in Fanclub — he’s continuing to keep up experimental and electronic music. I tend to book a lot of the more punk, hardcore bands. I also love math rock — it’s like avant-garde jazz but with rock and roll. (It’s so pretentious!) And then Emma, she’s our soft flower girl of Fanclub, she books a lot of indie. Oh, and we did a student rapper showcase. We had another former FC member David Cuebenas, who goes by the name Kuya, who came back and did a show for us (it was a cute reunion). I like having diverse genres: punk, hardcore, indie-folk, experimental electronic and rap — it’s so much fun getting to talk to musicians from very different innovative genres.
Plowe: How does FC fit into greater arts communities, be it Cornell, Ithaca or beyond? How do you engage with all those networks?
Tan: With Cornell, we can provide accessible on-campus music. Ithaca Underground is just so far away in the Commons. All my friends go to schools who have a thriving house music scene, and we don’t have that — our nightlife is really dominated by frats. I wish I found Fanclub my freshman year — I don’t like going to frat parties — but you still wanna go out on the weekends, you still wanna hang out with your friends. We put on not alcohol-centric events — you don’t have to go out and get crazy drunk to have a good night. In terms of the Ithaca community — I did some work with the Ithaca Underground people last summer, and they’re really wonderful. We do a great job exchanging knowledge about artists and resources; when one of us doesn’t have the flexibility to put on a show with an artist, we’ll often share their information with each other to make sure that artist has somewhere to play. We find ways to support each other and artists coming through the upstate N.Y. area. In terms of the music scene at large: We’re a small piece of the puzzle, but I like to think that because we have a very DIY ethic, well, we might inspire people — anyone can do this.
Music can seem like it’s white dominated. But it’s not. And DIY scenes are the best way to show that it’s not. We want to see people making music that look like us. I think Fanclub does a great job of choosing diverse music but also choosing the diverse artists. There’s no risk of tokenism, either — all of us come from very diverse experiences. It’s really nice getting to see artists who reflect that. And it’s also part of the music. We like to keep the DIY ethic intersectional. POC, nonbinary musicians — you have to put the work in. Breaking down the way whiteness and cisness dominate music requires work.
Plowe: What were your plans for the remainder of the semester? What got canceled?
Tan: The next three shows were ones I booked. The one that most recently got canceled featured Spacecamp, Bat House and Foxtails — that one was supposed to be a punk hardcore show. Spacecamp is so awesome, they do queercore — there has been a wave of queer artists who have always been on the scene but are now finally taking the spotlight. They do a lot of experimental stuff — they put synthesizers in!
We set up another show, too — there’s this small record place in Virginia called Citrus City Records. I love a good portion of their label, and they reached out to me over winter break about two of their touring artists. They go by Alfred and Shormy. Alfred is a black queer rapper, who does spoken word, gorgeous lyricism about what it means to be black and queer. Shormy does a lot of disco beats; they’ve opened for the likes of Crumb, really groovy stuff.
After that, I was gonna put on a show of indie jazz, rock and roll, with a little bit of spoken word in there. Izzy True used to be Ithaca-based (they moved to Chicago), but they were touring and I was like of course you can hop on that bill. And then we had Emma’s show, which was with Adult Mom, Lady Pills and Pictoria Vark. The rest of the semester was going to include indie rock, rap and disco.
I’m so sad about the cancelations. These musicians are working people, who have full time jobs or are students. Having sensitivity and respect for their time and work really counts for something. The cancelations have been bad, a lot of the artists already had made their travel plans. Fanclub has a set of emergency funds, so I’ve been Venmoing some artists to help get them on the way back home.
Plowe: Anything to add, Stephen?
Yang: Speaking of the greater arts communities in Ithaca and providing good hospitality for the artists, I have a story to share. For the last Fanclub show Post-Apocalypse, in order to be more self-sufficient so that we wouldn’t need to ask Andi, the artist performing that night, to figure out how to bring a bulky DJ deck with her on her Shortline bus ride, I tried to seek help from the local communities for the specific DJ equipments needed for the event.
Two hours before when the show was supposed to start, we found out that our initial setup was not compatible with Andi’s equipment during soundcheck. We were not only short of some small parts and cords, but we would also need to find a compatible mixer. For those who don’t know what a mixer is, just know that we were in serious trouble. As the one that booked the show and had been looking forward to it for so long, I was absolutely freaking out. But, thankfully, simply by asking people to ask around (I didn’t even ask around on my own), I quickly found someone that would be willing to lend us her equipment for the event. I’m immensely grateful for the support I got from the local music community in Ithaca. (Shout out to Elijah, Rae, and Rahman. I really can’t thank you enough.) With Elijah reaching out to another local artist and with Fanclub people coming to the rescue in a team effort (I mess up all the time), there was once again hope to bring the show back to life. People split up and sprinted (and drove!) back and forth for different parts, and we eventually pieced the whole system together. This time it worked! The moment of brilliance when Andi’s music blasted out of the speakers, I cried in relief on the inside. So that’s how supportive the local community is and how awesome Fanclub people are (and also how inept I am).
Fanclub Collective can be reached at [email protected].
Emma Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She currently serves as Arts Editor on The Sun’s board. She can be reached at [email protected].