Kohoutek Music Festival Goes Big with GZA

In March 1973, Czech astronomer Lubo Kohoutek made the first sighting of a long-period comet glamorized as the “Comet of the Century” by TIME Magazine, and feared by some as a sign of the apocalypse. The following year, when the comet—now bearing the surname of its discoverer—not only missed Earth but also presented a lackluster display in the night sky, the students of Pitzer College celebrated by organizing a festival named after the underwhelming astral body. Last weekend, the Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival—held annually on the mounds at Pitzer College—celebrated its 37th anniversary in trademark fanfare, featuring smooth organization and an impressive lineup.

Every April, a group of Pitzer students organizes the event, which typically features renowned musical artists among smaller-name acts. Past headliners include Rage Against The Machine, Matt & Kim, No Doubt, O.A.R., and The Roots. In addition, Kohoutek usually features a selection of non-musical events, including local food and art vendors.

This year, Kohoutek felt considerably grander. As rumors about the supposed lineup circulated across the 5Cs, no one could have expected the end result—Javelin, Sleepy Sun, and the Soft Pack? Just on the first day? How could Pitzer possibly top that?

Well, they arranged for legendary hip-hop artist, producer, and Wu-Tang Clan founding member GZA to close out the second day of Kohoutek. Suffice it to say, a “holy s—t!” was in order.

When Apr. 23 came at last, Kohoutek kicked off smoothly as hundreds of students across the 5Cs came out to experience a bizarre blend of sensory delights. Whether you showed up to eat, enjoy the wide variety of local art, or simply take in the live music, this year’s Kohoutek offered something for everybody.

Music-wise, Friday actually came out ahead of Saturday—to my surprise. Although seeing a legend like GZA grace the stage on the mounds felt considerably more ground-breaking than anything that had occurred the day before, Friday presented a more fluid selection of live music. Between Sleepy Sun’s Vietnam-era-tinged psychedelic drone, or Javelin’s playful 8-bit blend of R&B and sample-based electronica, Friday’s lineup conquered the stage. Many—including myself—were left underwhelmed by San Diego four-piece The Soft Pack, whose brand of lo-fi rock clicked less with Kohoutek’s denizens than Javelin’s. Thomas Van Buskirk and George Langford of the Brooklyn-based dance duo brought a genre-blurring live experience that felt refreshingly odd and surprisingly fun.

Closing out the second day, GZA presented some difficulties to the Pitzer audience. The hip-hop MO of arriving late for one’s own performance did not sit well with students of the 5Cs. Scheduled to appear at 10 p.m., GZA took the stage a full two hours later. Many students left during the wait, while others backed away from the stage for a much-needed rest from standing. When the rapper finally launched into his hour-long set, the result felt significantly deflated given the amount of time we had waited. GZA’s set, comprised of selections from both his solo catalogue and that of Wu-Tang (of which the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a founding member) failed to live up to the sheer amount of pent-up anticipation. GZA appeared in the flesh—enough of a moment to spark the crowd into a frenzy—but was barely audible over the sea of yelling hype men surrounding him. That, coupled with a visible lack of enthusiasm from the man himself, made his set barely accessible. In the end, though, it was still GZA.

Overall, Kohoutek was a success.

“A lot of people are saying it was the best Kohoutek ever, or at least in the last five years,” event staffer Lucia Reynolds PI ‘13 said. “Everything went really well…the variety of music was awesome.”

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