The Fall 2011 semester at the “You of A” welcomed a record 23,153 students.  Fayetteville is once again flush with thousands of additional consumers.  I’m sure Taco Bueno, Walgreens, and the liquor stores are happy to see them.  Some of our local businesses try to entice students to spend money at their establishments by catering to their needs and tastes (those sinister marketing experts at Orange Leaf).  Others, like our live music venues, seem to ignore the community of thousands on The Hill completely.

The Fayetteville music scene has seen better days.  Have you seen the acts coming to town this fall?  Forgive me if you are a Charlie Daniels, Meat Puppets, Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes) or a Candlebox fan, but quenching my musical thirst will once again happen after a long drive to Tulsa or Kansas City.  Sure we’ve got Lucero, Dr. Dog, and “The Gambler” Kenny Rogers coming, but where are the relevant, progressive, critically acclaimed acts that seem to hit every college town except our own?

I compared (see the table below) our fall music schedule with the schedules from Norman, OK, Columbia, MO, and Oxford, MS, three relatively close college towns similar to Fayetteville.   What I found wasn’t shocking: they get better live acts than we do.  This, of course, is all subjective, but even Oxford, MS, with a population of 12,000 and a student population of only 16,000 beats the Fayetteville lineup.  Teo Leo & The Pharmacists, A.A. Bondy, Cold War Kids, Givers, Futurebirds, Portugal. The Man, and Chromeo are all visiting Mississippi.  Norman, OK is lucky enough to have The Dodos, The Luyas, Smith Westerns, Evangelicals, Peter Wolf Crier, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, We Were Promised Jetpacks, David Bazan, among others.  Columbia, MO residents can see Ralph Stanley, Drive-By-Truckers, Sebadoh (worth the drive up there), The War on Drugs, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and The Jayhawks.  If you don’t recognize any of these bands, then you’re probably one of the guys booking the bands in Fayetteville.  Trust me, UA students know these groups and nearly all would sell out.

So why aren’t these bands making it to Fayetteville?  I’m sure there are many reasons.  Touring logistics might make it easier for bands to stop at Columbia (between St. Louis and Kansas City) or Norman (near Oklahoma City).  Also, these towns have multiple music venues that can accommodate over 500 people.  Fayetteville has one: George’s Majestic Lounge (not counting the WAC and the AMP).  George’s is a legendary venue that makes good money and brings in alright music, but it is the only one in Fayetteville (the closing of Dave’s on Dickson hasn’t helped our music scene).  Most importantly, George’s and every other venue in town, including the Walton Arts Center, does not cater to the musical tastes of the demographic that actually craves good live music: college students.  Many college students (including the record 4,400 freshman class) are too young to buy alcohol.  Our venues make their money on the alcohol, not ticket sales.  Music is secondary to beer sales.

There is hope though.  Our local musicians are as talented as ever and are getting good support.  There is big AMP news on the horizon (please no more Rick Springfield-type bookings).  Rogue has been bringing in some good acts.  JR’s Lightbulb Club, while tiny, is back.  Woodsman will be there on September 18, Crystal Antlers on October 31.  But the only way Fayetteville can bring in better music is to hope that someone with cash and knowledge can open up a venue that cares about relevant music.  There is a huge untapped market.

And if anyone doubts how starved our student population is for live entertainment, they should have attended the show last night at the Union Ballroom.  Hundreds of students showed up for comedian Jay Pharaoh (the guy who does Will Smith and Denzel Washington impressions on SNL).  They had to turn people away at the doors at a space five times as large as George’s.  Along with the Donald Glover show at the Union Ballroom last spring, it was the most people I have seen at a show of any kind in Fayetteville (outside of Bud & Barnhill Arenas).

 Notable Concerts this Fall (Shows Worth Paying for in Bold)

Firefox usersclick here for a PDF 

Columbia, MO

Norman, OK

Oxford, MS

Fayetteville, AR (Not including rest of NWA metro)

City Population

108,500

110,925

11,756

73,580

Student Population

33,318

30,303

15,800

23,153

Wed 08/31/11

The Dodos, The Luyas

Fri 09/02/11

The Charlie Daniels Band

Wed 09/07/11

Marc Broussard

Tue 09/13/11

Smith Westerns, Evangelicals

Fri 09/09/11

Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Huey Lewis and the News

Sat 09/10/11

Murder By Death, William Elliott Whitmore, Los Lobos

Eli Young Band

Sun 09/18/11

Woodsman

Mon 09/19/11

Sleeper/Agent

Tue 09/20/11

Gomez

Sat 09/24/11

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

Wed 09/28/11

Maps & Atlases, Circa Survive

Thu 09/29/11

Candlebox

Fri 09/30/11

Colbie Caillat

Yellow Fever, Brother Bear

Jamey Johnson

Sun 10/09/11

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Mon 10/10/11

Peter Wolf Crier

Tue 10/11/11

Peter Wolf Crier, Portugal. The Man

Pretty Lights, Big Giganitc

Thu 10/13/11

Yonder Mountain String Band

Fri 10/14/11

Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Twin Sister

Lucero

Sat 10/15/11

Cold War Kids, Givers

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

Sun 10/16/11

Sara Watkins

Fri 10/21/11

Futurebirds

Sat 10/22/11

Chromeo

Tue 10/25/11

Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives

Wed 10/26/11

Galactic

Thu 10/27/11

Drive-By-Truckers

Fri 10/28/11

Meat Puppets

Sat 10/29/11

Sebadoh

Portugal. The Man

Sun 10/30/11

 

Crystal Antlers

Wed 11/02/11

The War on Drugs

Chris Robinson & the Brotherhood

Fri 11/04/11

We Were Promised Jetpacks, Royal Bangs, Bear Hands, Future Hands

Sat 11/05/11

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Sun 11/06/11

John Scofield

Tue 11/08/11

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Dr. Dog

Wed 11/09/11

Dr. Dog

Thur 11/10/11

Split Lip Rayfield, Mountain Sprout

Fri 11/11/11

The Jayhawks

Tue 11/15/11

A.A. Bondy

Th 11/17/11

Cowboy Mouth

Sun 12/04/11

David Bazan

Wed 12/07/11

Kenny Rogers