After months of planning and secrecy on part of the Association of Campus Entertainment (ACE), the performers for Southern Takeover were announced at Convocation on Feb. 6.
The band Judah & the Lion will headline Southern Takeover, the annual concert on Mr. George’s Green, and bands Sawyer and Juice will serve as openers. The theme for the event, which is based more in the folk genre, was voted on by students at the beginning of the fall semester.
“[The secrecy] was really in the best interest of really the whole student body, even though it can be frustrating for some,” Director of Southern Sound for ACE Julianna Coughlin said. “You wouldn’t want to be told ‘oh, you’re getting a bike for Christmas’ and then Christmas comes and there’s no bike.”
Southern Takeover is a massive production that takes up almost 30 percent of the ACE budget. The costs cover the price of the artists, security, equipment, food, and novelty items. In the past, novelty items included t-shirts and flower crowns. This year, food trucks will be driven onto the grassy area in front of the bandshell, and students will be given vouchers.
ACE partners with a company, Concert Ideas, to handle communication with artists, and with another called MABE to funnel all of the logistics needed to hire and rent what needs to be acquired for Southern Takeover. “[Students] don’t understand all of the moving pieces that go into it,” Jacqueline Inskeep, advisor for ACE, said. One of the reasons there are so many moving parts is that Inskeep, Coughlin and ACE want Southern Takeover to be an experience greater than just hearing music: they want the event to get students active in playing games on the green or making novelty items.
“Something that was important to me in terms of [the artists] is that they be cohesive,” Coughlin said, “The music content itself have (sic) an arc, a tying theme as much as possible, a consistent vibe through all of the performers.”
The decision process for Southern Takeover is a drawn-out process because of how ACE wants to involve students. Once the theme is decided, ACE holds a focus group to feel out a list of bands and a few of their songs. The list of bands is drawn based on the social media followings of artists within a loose genre set, as well as their streaming analytics. Coughlin and Inskeep had to have artists that fit within the price range, were available at the right time, and had a big enough following that students would be interested in coming.
“There was (sic) a couple close ones,” Inskeep said. “There were country, soul, and then folk and pop. So pretty close, except country. Once upon a time, it was in demand, and regionally, I’m surprised it’s not, but these trends change every year.”
ACE shot for a kind of music that used more instruments and relied less on backtracks and synthesized music. Pop, they said, is safe, but they wanted to take Southern Takeover into a different vein this year.
“We have some artists that are kind of becoming known for their ability to blend genres,” Coughlin said. “Whether it’s blending more like country with bluesy jazz and pop like Juice is a little bit more influenced by, with the folk, hip-hop and rock elements of Judah and then the pop-alternative-indie style of Sawyer, hopefully, we’ll be able to have some range on that.”
Judah & the Lion is a band whose members are from Nashville, Tennessee. Though the band is less than a decade old, they admit that they have undergone a musical and stylistic transformation, as they spoke out of the Chicago Tribune, moving from (very early on) a Christian album to less-specific themes. In 2017, they joined Twenty Øne Piløts for the “EMØTIONAL RØADSHOW” tour. They have already released music this year, and are about to begin touring.
“There was a moment with Judah,” Inskeep said, “they were still planning their album release and they were kind of planning a tour and I think that they were thinking that they were going to have different plans, so originally we didn’t think it was going to work out… then they came back.”
Sawyer played at FSC earlier this year, at an ACE-sponsored event in the Creative Space in the Lake Hollingsworth Apartments. The two-woman duo is also based in Nashville (but originally from Texas and Indiana) and also released a new single recently. In 2016, when they were still in college and living and writing together, they self-described as “indie-sparkle-pop” to an interviewer from Her Campus at Belmont University.
“We really enjoyed having Sawyer here,” Inskeep said. “From a CSI perspective, we had a lot of men in the lineup and we just wanted to be able to provide some female acts…. we needed to be rounded out.”
Juice is the largest band on the Southern Takeover lineup. The Boston septet plays traditional rock instruments as well as an electric violin, and the band, like Sawyer, began in college. After they graduated, they opened for DNCE at Summerfest Milwaukee in 2017. Their latest release, ‘DAVE (turn the music down),’ is a 2019 single that mixes rock, R&B and hip-hop.
“We’re never going to appeal to everyone,” Inskeep said. “For us, it’s trying to figure out that way to appeal to the masses and I do think that… the types of instruments and the types of music that we have this year, there should be something for everybody.”
Coughlin, who is a musician herself, described Southern Takeover as a passion project for her. She said, though, that even if there were students in charge of Southern Takeover that weren’t musicians themselves, they would be able to craft a great concert for the student body.
“Coming from the music background–maybe it’s a bit nit-picky–but it was important for me to go through a lot of live footage and see what kind of show these people would put on,” she said. “In terms of consistent sound and talent, it’s a real bummer to go to a show where you love the artist but they’re not good live. It’s something that I had in the back of my mind, possibly because of the music background.”
Both Inskeep and Coughlin ended up going through several live recordings, which enabled them to craft a good experience that would be lively for students. Both of them stressed the importance of the experience, not of having a specific performer, which had an effect on attendance in 2017 when Raury and DJ Earworm only brought in 140 students, compared to the nearly 800 students that went to see American Authors.