NIU concerts difficult to organize

By Rob Heselbarth

Big-name groups like Nirvana and Jesus Jones came close to playing at NIU, but money woes, DeKalb’s location and space restrictions stood in their way.

Campus Activities Board Concert Coordinator Kristen Sohacki said every two weeks CAB calls agents from all over the country to find out what groups are available.

“We then have meetings to see what concerts would be good for the campus and go after what we like,” Sohacki said.

Steve Duchrow, NIU cultural arts adviser, said that research into possible concerts starts about two years before the group actually appears.

“We look at who is putting out quality music at the time and see how they’re doing on the charts. Their potential is what matters, and some bands are signed on a hunch,” Duchrow said.

He said NIU had a bid in for Nirvana, which (CAB) was considering, but was put on hold until after its album came out.

“Due to the success of their album, the amount of money they were asking for to play here jumped from $1,500 to $15,000,” Duchrow said.

Money is one of the main reasons for not signing bands. “Five years ago, the budget for concerts was cut by 50 percent,” he said.

“At the same time the budget cut took effect, the prices that bands were asking for started to rise, so we couldn’t meet some of their playing fees,” he said.

Another reason for not being able to get some bands to play at NIU is the limited facilities available on campus.

The three facilities available for concerts are the Duke

Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center, Diversions and the Chick Evans Field House.

“Big groups like Metallica ‘fly’ their lights, which means they hang them from the ceiling,” Duchrow said. “The facilities we have available are not technically suitable for about 90 percent of the bands out there.”

Size and acoustics of the facilities are other reasons big bands will not play in DeKalb. “The field house was not built to be a rock and roll facility,” he said.

Sohacki added that DeKalb is a secondary market to Chicago. “The Chicago market reaches this area, so we are only allowed to advertise in the DeKalb area, which severely limits our audience,” she said.

Sohacki said the limited audience means less money for the bands and the music business is a money-driven market.

She also said that the DeKalb weather and the scheduling of the school year have adverse effects on the concert season. She said when the concert season starts booming in May, there are no students in DeKalb to attend.