Solarity Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Bloom


Photo by Andi Elloway

Musical artist Tommy Genesis will headline Solarity.

This Saturday, Solarity will host rappers Tommy Genesis and Duckwrth — alongside a plethora of student performers — in its 10th-anniversary rendition, Bloom. Solarity, which is a student-run group, holds a large concert event each semester in an effort to unite the campus and curate a welcoming safe space for collective artistic expression. This will be the first Solarity for most first- and second-years, who were not on cam- pus for Solstice, Solarity’s summer festival, due to the College’s three-semester plan.

Kate Steifman, College third-year and one of Solarity’s co-chairs, said this is the biggest event the College has seen since the onset of the pandemic. While the original headliner, St. Louis rapper Smino, had to drop out of the event earlier in the week, the concert will still be the largest Solarity to date.

“We’re going to have the most acts that we’ve ever had this semester,” Steifman said. “It’s definitely the biggest budget we’ve ever had. It’s the big 10th anniversary, and we’re all so excited. We’re gonna make it pretty big. We’re putting on eight acts during the show, which is a really big undertaking.”

College third-year and Solarity’s other co-chair Erzsi Misangyi is excited to introduce the new students to the event. While they’re excited about bringing artists to campus, Misangyi is most looking forward to showing them all of the student performance groups.

“We wanted to put on a big show so that everyone could just kind of like have a night to enjoy,” Misangyi said. “There’s a lot of people on campus that just have never experienced Solarity and we wanted to make the 10th anniversary a big deal… I’m excited for OCTaiko and [College third-year] Reggie [Goudeau] to perform. We have AndWhat!? performing, and OCircus is going to be doing some stuff. Kopano is performing and Tali is our closing DJ. A bunch of really amazing student acts.”

Ahead of the commemorative anniversary, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Solarity’s faculty advisor Sean Lehlbach reminisces on the event’s origin. Prior to the advent of Solarity, Oberlin didn’t really have any school-wide events of the same scale.

“In the spring of 2011, the event originated to high- light student art and performance,” Lehlbach said. “They used to have huge art installations. But through the years, it has evolved into having that student art in performance in varying ways in addition to larger acts.

It’s grown into featuring these larger headlining-type musical acts that come to campus. That was definitely a void for the campus. Some schools have spring flings or fall fests and we hadn’t really had that before. Now, it is all about serving the Oberlin community and offering them a unique space to have fun.”

This year, though, College fourth- year, Solarity Treasurer, and event Co-chair Perry Mayo, said that booking for the event has been especially trying, mostly due to rising COVID-19 cases and increased campus-wide safety concerns.

“Preparation for this year was a bit crazy, just because we didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID,” Mayo said. “We weren’t sure what kind of safety materials we might need and what rules we might have to enforce, so that was definitely a little precarious. But, we mostly followed the usual process. We narrowed down artists that we thought the student body might want and reached out to them. Once we decided on a theme, we started working on promotions and figuring out what kind of safety materials we would need for the show.”

They added that it’s been especially difficult to find student performers for the event. While Solarity has showcased student performance groups like AndWhat!? and OCircus several times over the past few years, they haven’t seen a ton of new performers.

“It was kind of a bummer because we always want to find new student performers, like musicians, bands, dancers, or emcees,” Mayo said. “I think the challenge is mostly that the [first- and second-years] never had a Solarity. I’m not sure they really know what it is. We’re hoping that once Saturday comes around, they’ll understand and get more excited about the opportunity to perform at such a large event. Hopefully, in the spring, we can get a whole new crop of people.”

Following Solstice over the summer, the event and those in attendance received backlash over the concert’s relaxed COVID-19 precautions. In the days after the event, a few students voiced concerns that people who had recently attended Chicago’s largest music festi- val, Lollapalooza, also attended Solstice directly afterward, though the College released a statement saying there was “no evidence that attendees at either event [were] at increased risk, as there was no confirmation of exposure.” As Solarity prepares for Saturday, Steifman reflected on the College’s summer ObieSafe policies and the controversy surrounding the Solstice.

“We were in such limbo with Oberlin COVID regulations [over the summer] because there wasn’t really anything in place,” Steifman said. “Because we’re a student organization, we don’t really have the authority to tell people what to do outside of what the school is enforcing. Early in the summer, there was no mask mandate, so Solarity couldn’t have a mask mandate. With Bloom, it’s totally different, because we’re still following the school’s rules. But obviously now we have a lot more rules to follow.”

In order to mitigate COVID-19 concerns, the concert is instituting a few extra safety measures in addition to the College’s general mask mandate. Misangyi went over some of the new policies.

“We’re setting up a six-foot barricade between the audience and the performer,” Misangyi said. “We’ll have safety kits — bags which will include masks and ear plugs — for people at the door. Instead of having open water stations we’re going to provide water bottles.”

In addition, Solarity will also employ vibe watchers, trained student volunteers who will be stationed in the audience to enforce the mask mandate and watch for disorderly conduct.

“The vibe watchers are trained volunteers who will act as the liaison between a student and Campus Safety,” Steifman said. “We’re trying to mitigate COVID spread by putting out a lot of safety information; a lot of stuff about consent, a lot of stuff about COVID, a lot of stuff about alcohol and drug safety. We do a lot of work with PRSM and the Students for Sensible Drug Policy. We’re just trying to put out as much information as possible so that people are in a good headspace for the event.”

In an email to the Review, Steifman also wanted to remind concertgoers that Solarity is releasing a set of community guidelines that attendees must read and sign in order to be admitted into the event. The guidelines cover respect, consent, COVID-19 safety, and substance safety expectations for the concert, and will also include phone numbers for Campus Safety and the Counseling Center. Here is a link to the community guidelines.