Bard College, the liberal arts school located 120 miles north in Annandale-on-Hudson, "puts the 'liberal' in 'liberal arts,'" according to the 'Princeton Review.' It has a 600-acre campus and nearly 1500 undergrads. This is their story—as told by a student who would like to be known as Stephan K. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Shakespeer, the popular file sharing software used by the majority of students at Bard, features hours of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" and way more than 2000 gigabytes of music. Every day, hundreds of Bard students log on and download anything from Lamb of God to Mr. Lif.
Imagine that aliens were attempting to tap into the Shakespeer Bard Music hub in order to gain access to human music. They would be able to download all of the Beastie Boys albums (Bard alums themselves), plenty of Beirut, a hell of a lot of Cat Power, some Kate Bush, all of OOIOO (the band that belongs to Yoshimi, of The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," which you can also definitely download), and enough Rod Stewart to last you several extra semesters of working on your novella so that you can finally finish that creative writing major.
The live music scene at Bard revolves mainly around SMOG, which is described on its Myspace page as "a student-run converted autogarage on the campus of Bard College... open for students to book shows and band practices." The self-anointed, "awesome... obviously" joint has a monopoly on the weekend party scene, even with its particular brand of noise-rock and its passion for bands featuring lead singers that at least pretend to be Japanese.
Dr. Hurs, a Political-Studies major currently flirting with the idea of switching to Music, described the SMOG brand of entertainment as "baby-killing music." It is "less about creating music... more about creating music to be dissonant, or to be dark. At times it can be tasteful, but only when it's genuine."
"It's very cool to be disillusioned by whatever you listen to," he said. "There's constant, just like, I don't know.... They can't just let their guard down. It's always about what's wrong with what they did and how could someone else do it better. It makes concerts really fucking lame."
The weekend partying routine is a general wander around campus from party to party punctuated by several stops at SMOG, where half the crowd smokes and drinks outside and talks about leaving. (Leaving becomes more and more appealing as the temperature drops.) Those actually inside stand statue-still, facing the stage, absorbing whatever faux-sophisticated bit of masturbation is currently being performed.
The scene is so uptight that one friend refused to give me his opinion on local music when I asked him about it.
"People here," he said. "Judge you so much based on what your music taste is, I just don't talk to people about it."
The other afternoon, I sat outside the dorm with Baby Jane. A nearby building contained a musician practicing; it emitted a loud, monotone, fog-horn type music. She said she "liked all kinds of music," but that she "absolutely can't listen to classical music."
It makes her "feel guilty."
But should it? On our second night at Bard, we remembered, we had been witness to a crowd of freshmen chanting the lyrics to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" at 4 a.m.
And not all bad music is confined to SMOG or to 4 a.m. Over the weekend, several of us attended the Bard Musical Theater Club's "Number Seventeen: The Spread Eagle" in the Old Gym. Despite its racy title, the show consisted of several girls (and a few boys) performing their favorite numbers from their favorite musicals. The opening number, "It's Too Darn Hot," from "Kiss Me Kate," was performed by a guy in a suit. He shuffled around the stage awkwardly while two girls in corsets made eyes at him. My date for the evening, Lips the Dance major, spent most of that routine glaring at me; each of us blamed the other for this mistake.
Although it did get very funny when the male performers, doing "The Goods" from "The Full Monty," stripped to reveal nipple rings. And backne.
Earlier in the year, during a weekend where several kids were up for more than 24 hours tripping on acid, a group of kids from South Campus were at first mistaken for the notorious campus bogeyman "Tivoli Bad Guy," who is a mysterious and apparently angry Townie vigilante often mentioned in emails from the Head of Security. (The Tivoli Bad Guy is known for breaking into the dorms, and even, on some occasions, being vulgar to members of the student body, God forbid.)
One of the trippers descended upon us with a megaphone and announced to the entire quad that David Bowie had died.
Several students were woken up by this. Some leaned out the window to yell denials in return; some just sat there in silence.
And several of the kids tripping described the experience as mind-bending. They found the idea of a world where David Bowie had died as both moving and also incredibly scary.