It’s a Saturday night just after 10, and the band Sead is rocking out at Turtle Underground, performing a cover of the ZZ Top classic “Cheap Sunglasses.” The music is loud, the room is filled with colorful lights, and everyone there is bobbing their heads to the rhythm. It seems like the perfect setup for a full house, and yet there are less than 20 people in the entire crowd. What gives?
Over the past year, the student-run music organization Turtle Underground has undergone major changes, perhaps the most obvious being a change of venue from the basement of Purtil Hall on North Campus to the second floor of Alliot in Eddie’s Lounge. Since the move, Turtle has held significantly fewer concerts, and the concerts they do put on have drawn much smaller crowds than in previous semesters. According to Sean Walkama ‘17, co-head of Turtle Underground, the blame for Turtle’s waning popularity falls directly on the school administration, “The administration seems to have lost interest in keeping the Turtle atmosphere alive. When we were trying to decide a new venue for Turtle, we suggested places like Dion or Alumni Basement, but they ended up deciding to move it to Eddie’s Lounge instead.”
The move to Eddie’s Lounge has taken away a lot of what made the original Turtle so popular. When Turtle Underground was held at Purtil Hall, its location on North Campus meant that students were generally free to openly drink without the interference of Public Safety. This created an atmosphere in which students could gather together and have a good time without feeling like they were being supervised by the administration. Of the three Turtle Underground shows I’ve been to since the Fall 2016 semester, there have been Public Safety Officers lurking both inside and outside Alliot. An atmosphere like that doesn’t exactly foster fuzzy feelings for students hoping to have a good time on a Saturday night.
The administration has also made some other changes that have restricted the creative freedom of bands trying to perform. According to Walkama, “They’ve severely limited the amount of practice times bands get to only 1 or 2 a semester.”
One or two practice sessions isn’t nearly enough time to properly prepare for a two hour show, which forces bands to find their own spaces to practice their setlist. Christopher Toomey ‘17, guitarist for the band Soulfinger, says that his band no longer performs at Turtle Underground since the move, “Back when Soulfinger was in its prime, we used to have ten or twelve practice sessions before a show. Now that the administration doesn’t care about giving us the practice time we need, our band isn’t interested in performing there anymore.”
Sadly, Walkama suggested that this will most likely end up being Turtle’s final year unless major changes can be made, “If we don’t have an actual space to call Turtle Underground, there’s not going to be a Turtle Underground.” As someone who’s enjoyed attending many Turtle concerts in the past, it’s sad for me to see such a great idea being slowly phased out of existence.
Musicians and concertgoers alike are being snubbed by an administration that doesn’t see the issue with stifling the creative freedom of its students. Is it time for Turtle to be put to rest, or is there still some hope it can be redeemed?