Sneak Preview: Awaken the Wild

If you’re like me, you’ve been eyeing the tent that sprang up in North Quad overnight with confusion and curiosity. The Review sat down with Solarity members and College seniors Eli Clark-Davis and Evan Baker and College junior Pete Njamunge to sneak a peek at what’s been going on under there and what party-goers can expect at Awaken the Wild on Saturday.

Abby Hawkins , Arts Editor

Could you explain the theme “Awaken the Wild” a little bit more? It’s very nebulous right now.

Eli Clark-Davis: We’re going for an “enchanted forest” sort of theme — monsters, fairies, all the craziest creatures you could ever imagine.

Evan Baker: Definitely. Animals are a big thing that have been in all of our designs. Our whole design aesthetic has been animal-focused. … After Origins, we felt that that theme was way too nebulous and no one could connect with it, which was totally our fault for making something that was too heady, so we decided we wanted to bring it to something we felt was more accessible, that people could latch onto when they were dressing up. We always want to get people involved like that.

What does the timeline of the night look like?

ECD: From 5 to 7 p.m. you can expect down-tempo electronic music, but right at 7 we’re going into uplifting electronic music, club music. Starting right at 5, we’re opening up the event with gallons of neon body paint. People can come with friends and they can all paint each other.

EB: We’re doing a happy hour from 6 to 8, and the senior gift people will be there, so seniors can come out and drink.

ECD: Then at 8 we’ve got a hip-hop set, and at 8:40 we’ve got the MegaBand, which is a combination of BootsNCats and Big Band. It’s not gonna be jazz — it’s gonna be the party music you really want at that time. Right after is Evan [Baker], who’s opening for our headliner, Audien, who we’re really excited about. … Audien got selected recently to play on the main stage at Tomorrowland, which is one of the biggest dance festivals in the world.

EB: Something we’re doing more than we have in the past is partnering with other student groups. The African Students Association is having a banquet from 6 to 8 p.m., and we’re selling joint tickets, so you can go to the banquet and go to Solarity afterwards, and get a discount on both of them.

ECD: Starting at 9 p.m. the aerialists and OCircus! will begin their performances, and we’re really pumped about the two aerialist rigs we have behind the stage.

EB: It’s funny, we’ve never had a hip-hop DJ at a Solarity event before this one. We had a hip-hop DJ for a second at the Voyage, and we’ve had live hip-hop performances, but having a longer set is something new. It’s logical — it’s party music that, for whatever reason, we haven’t tapped into yet. Hopefully that helps expand our appeal, which is something we’re always trying to do.

Who’s been constructing the space?

EB: All [Solarity members] have been building all of the installations, the trees and these big flowers that are gonna be in there. We’re making these silver pyramids out of insulation. … We’re also bringing back the lasers we had at Fracture — it’s something a lot of people thought was cool and eye-catching.

ECD: We’ve got a lot of fresh blood this year in Solarity, including Pete [Njamunge] and [College senior] Lake Buckley, who’s the new creative director.

What is the aesthetic that she’s channeling into this event?

EB: It’s almost like a minimal magical realism. It’s an art project for her, so I think a lot of the inspiration for it is similar to what she’s doing in her Senior Studio. … We have a couple more dedicated artists this time, which is new for us.

ECD: This is the first time in a while that we’ve gone all out on the interior design of the space, especially being zero-waste in conjunction with the Ecolympics. We’ve been working hard to get recycled materials — we’ve been collecting branches and trees that have fallen and repurposed them to use at our event, as well as [making] papier-maché from outdated newspapers.

EB: We’re hosting this event as the culmination of Ecolympics. These large events have the potential to be very wasteful and I think, especially here at Oberlin, we should take every chance to minimize that.

It sounds like there are a lot of elements of Awaken the Wild that are departures from past events. I’m wondering which of those you’d like to see continue into the future.

ECD: I’d like to see the interior design happening at every event because … the Root Room [where Origins took place last semester] worked well, but we were really limited by the space. We have to be careful when choosing the spaces, making sure they don’t limit us in our production. We want spaces that will give us the maximum production capacity. Some other things to test are: Will outdoors be everything we want it to be? Will alcohol be successful? Will having a body paint garden be fun for people?

EB: The three big new things are doing it outside, bringing in a professional act and having alcohol, and I hope those all work, and that if they do, we keep doing them. Doing it outside offers more possibilities for production because it’s basically a blank canvas, and we can build whatever we want in there. But we also have to end earlier, so there’s a give and take there. Our hope with alcohol is that it will encourage more responsible drinking, because people won’t feel like they have to drink a lot before they go and won’t binge drink beforehand. … It’s an experiment, because we haven’t done it before, but hopefully it works out and can continue to do in future events.

Pete Njamunge: For me, two things. Bringing more outside acts in the future, ’cause anytime I tell people who [Audien] is, they get really excited even if they don’t care at first. The other thing is reaching out to more groups. I think that’s a work in progress.

EB: We’re trying to bring together as many people as we possibly can, so we felt that with an outdoor party that starts earlier, it can be a fun thing you spend your whole day doing — you can have a couple beers at happy hour, go have dinner, and come back. We don’t want it to be the end-of-the-night party like it has been in the past. We want people to be excited to get there early and spend a longer chunk of time there.