It was only last May that the University of Wisconsin was acquainted with the Revelry Music and Arts Festival, an encounter that led to mixed feelings throughout the student body.
While a number of students were excited for the Mifflin Street Block Party alternative, there were undeniable feelings of animosity toward Revelry and its organizers, with accusations thrown around that Revelry had effectively killed Mifflin. These accusations are definitely misplaced; although Revelry may have landed the crushing blow, Mifflin had no chance of survival regardless.
Mifflin has been on a path of sure self-destruction for years. What started as a protest against the Vietnam War and grew into a celebration and glorification of alcohol consumption soon devolved into a clusterfuck of petty crime and near-fatalities, all brought on by extensive binge drinking. The Madison Police Department had no choice but to extensively intervene; however, while claims can be made that Mifflin’s suicide was assisted by MPD and Revelry, the block party essentially brought about its own demise.
Regardless of your feelings toward the festival, it’s hard to deny that last year, Revelry’s organizers accomplished a feat that was, frankly put, amazing. Within the span of three-and-a-half months, they were able to fundraise, find a venue, book decent acts, sell tickets and pull off an event that defied expectations (although these were admittedly relatively low to begin with).
Before writing this piece, I had a meeting with Wisconsin Union President Neil Damron and Revelry Director Josh Levin, in which my sole purpose was to use my status as opinion editor to determine whether a Revelry ticket is worth the $5 (a question I’m sure many of us share).
I had initial reservations about the second annual student music festival, especially because for the better part of the 2013-2014 school year, I heard of nothing from the Revelry organizers. In January, there was no news of headliners, locations or ticket prices, not to mention their questionable Facebook-based attempt to assemble a marketing team in December. It looked as though Revelry organizers were going to end up working with the same time frame they had last year, rather than capitalizing on the extra time they had, meaning student consumers would be served the exact same service they were last year (not a strong selling point).
Furthermore, Revelry’s seemingly tactless and meandering approach to gaining city committee and MPD approval, in addition to the fact that they filed a street-use permit the day after announcing their location (Langdon Street), didn’t inspire confidence either.
However, the meeting definitely assuaged my concerns over the event’s management practices. Plans for May 2014 have been in the works since last May, and fundraising efforts have been ongoing since then. Apparently, with regard to the lack of noise Revelry made prior to the end of February, Revelry actually employs media strategies based off other music festivals in large cities, which practice quiet marketing before and during planning stages.
Although Revelry is framed as a service to students, it, like any new undertaking, has its limitations, especially at its early stages. Revelry is obviously dependent on general student interest. To provide an incentive for good acts to come to UW, student turnout at Revelry needs to be relatively high. But for student turnout to be relatively high, good headliners must be performing to incentivize ticket buying.
Revelry is likely to be an event that won’t go away anytime soon. There is definitely the possibility for longevity in the new Langdon Street location; in the future, Revelry can expand outward to Library Mall. Also, it’s clear that MPD and the UW Police Department’s top priority is keeping students safe. As long as they are having fun in a way that is not an affront to public safety, breaking up the event in question is not a priority.
While I probably won’t go to Revelry, spending $5 on a ticket would definitely not be a bad investment. By purchasing a ticket now and showing support for this festival, you are ensuring that the quality of Revelry will increase in the future, allowing a platform for better and better acts in the upcoming years.
Briana Reilly ([email protected]) is a freshman intending to major in journalism and international studies.