By Sara Fullerton
Despite the recent rain storms, the many flowers blooming around campus remind us that spring is here, and the 20th annual Wulapalooza is fast approaching.
Next Saturday, April 14, Brown Field will transform into a bustling outdoor venue for 15 student musical groups and three headliners. There will be fun breaks including a quick midday jazzercise routine led by Michael Chen (‘18) to keep energy high and a poi club performance to ready the audience for this year’s feature musical act, CupcakKe. The festival will run from noon until 9 p.m.
Last week, I had a chance to sit down with Eliza Walker (‘18), co-president of Wula Club, and Greth Lyon (‘19), club treasurer and secretary. We talked about all the inner workings of the huge festival ,which Walker told me is, “completely run and organized by students.”
Wula Club has about 15 active members this year, and an advisor who deals with legal matters.
Walker noted the mixed results that have come alongside the event’s remarkable growth. From humble origins, Wulapalooza now hosts headliners of the caliber that fill the stages of Coachella and other major music festivals.
Walker explained that Wulapalooza didn’t always carry the party culture that it has come to be associated with. In its early years, the festival was a more family-oriented event that attracted people of all ages in the Willamette community.
In recent years, Walker said, “Wula has been a huge burden for both students and administrative staff and housing staff. It’s become a festival that a lot of administrative staff dread because there’s so much damage to school property, there are so many conduct reports … and there’s a lot of unhealthy behavior that happens.”
This considered, the administration has demanded changes if Wulapalooza is to continue. Walker said, “They couldn’t approve of the festival in the way that it was being handled.”
The last thing Wula Club members want to do is police the event. They are passionate about creating an event that “showcas[es] especially student bands that wouldn’t be able to play in other situations” and unites the campus through a stress-free, artistic shared space.
Dangerous behaviors only detract from this. For this reason, Walker explained that Wula Club has focused efforts on distributing materials to educate students on “how to responsibly drink, and how to stay healthy throughout the day.”
This year, Wulapalooza will be contained within a fence. Attendees can only carry belongings in nine by 12 inch clear plastic bags, which will be available at the entrance or to pick up Wednesday through Friday this week in Jackson Plaza and Goudy where Wula Club members will be tabling. Each Willamette student gets one complimentary pass for an off-campus friend, but anyone else outside of the university will have to purchase a ticket. Make sure to have your student ID ready at the entrance, and know that all water bottles will have to be emptied upon arrival.
There are also many wonderful changes coming this year that aren’t focused on restriction. Wula Club has been working all year to bring us more inclusive and “active” activities. Walker and Lyon mentioned badminton, a “finger painting mural which also doubles as body paint,” painting Bistro chairs, lawn Twister, giant bubbles and two food trucks.
A favorite yearly task among Wula Club members is choosing the headliners. First, they compile a huge spreadsheet of bands that club members dream of seeing on Brown Field’s stage. After contacting all the bands about interest and price range, the club votes to make the final decision. Lyon let me know that anyone is welcome to join in for the selection process. If you show up to a meeting, you get a say in all of these exciting decisions.
This year, the club decided on three headliners: Tunde Olaniran, Lady Lamb and CupcakKe.
Tunde Olaniran is a Nigerian American rapper, singer, composer and choreographer. Beyond this already astounding skillset, he also makes his own clothing, and is an activist with a dayjob at Planned Parenthood. Lyon said his vocal range is so exceptional that it “sounds like twelve different people are singing.” He comes to the stage with two backup dancers, bringing wonderfully “danceable” tunes.
Both Walker and Lyon have been listening to Lady Lamb for several years. She has a dreamlike sound that evokes constant, drowsy motion with melodies that meander into new terrain over the course of each song. Her genre is self-identified “bedroom pop,” as Lyon told me. She has a good mix of upbeat and slower jams. Her sound is mostly sweet, with moments that venture into a more edgy electrified sound. Her vocals are never halfhearted.
Lyon described CupcakKe as a 20-year-old “raunchy rapper” who channels her activist work into her music, noting her witty lyrics, social awareness and strong stage presence. With “hilarious one-liners,” CupcakKe will deliver fast, fun tempos for a strong closer.
If you want more details about the festival and the changes coming this year or you just want to get pumped about all that’s in store this weekend, check out the Wulapalooza Facebook page or official website.