WECB showcases diversity and accessibility in concert

by Andrew Doerfler / Beacon Staff • April 22, 2011

At any given time, listeners to WECB, Emerson’s student-run freeform radio station, can find themselves treated to everything from comedic banter to two straight hours of video game music. But with an upcoming showcase, the station aims to embrace that diversity and establish itself as a haven for students’ creative freedom.

The event, which will be held tomorrow in the Cabaret at 6:30 p.m., features a mix of bands, solo acts, comedians, and DJs in a lineup almost wholly composed of Emerson students. Jason Bornfriend, WECB’s events coordinator and the showcase’s organizer, told the Beacon that by highlighting student artists, the event will serve to brand WECB as accessible and encouraging to all up-and-coming performers.

That includes styles on the fringe of the Emerson community. Emersonian-led band Suffer the Destroyer, for example, specializes in hardcore metal — not a style that usually gets much of an audience in the Cabaret.

“I know there’s a lot of people on campus who will come out and see us on Friday night that might not usually go to a hardcore show,” Chris Guinn, the band’s bassist, told the Beacon. The senior print and multimedia journalism major said that the last time he recalls a metal band playing on campus was his freshman year.

“It’s cool to… just expose people to my own band and a style of music they might not be familiar with,” he said.

The show is also a chance for the station to celebrate the unsung talents of its own staff. Many of the acts set to perform either host shows on WECB or are involved in its operations.

“Some of the bands have never performed for us before,” Bornfriend said, “so we give them a chance to come and show their stuff.”

WECB’s commitment to promoting underappreciated audio extends beyond the realm of music. The inclusion of comedians on the showcase lineup demonstrates its commitment to radio’s potential to make people laugh — whether through improv, stand-up, or sketches.

Max Fox, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major who will be performing stand-up comedy at the showcase, said that when he co-hosted an improvised comedy show on WECB, he faced few limits on what he could put on the air. “They don’t really restrict it… It’s definitely a unique creative outlet for Emerson kids,” he said. “As long as I wasn’t, like, inappropriate, I could really do whatever I wanted.”

Bornfriend said that he feels the organization has a special need to create a recognizable identity due to misconceptions about WECB and WERS, the school’s FM public radio station.

Though the two groups share space in the lower level of the Ansin Building, they have no affiliation and operate entirely differently. WERS, he said, offers students a more professional atmosphere, but restricts the students’ ability to dictate the content.

“We’re able to offer what WERS doesn’t…the opportunity for you to do what you want,” Bornfriend said.

The showcase serves as a replacement for WECB’s previous “Cabaraves,” dances in the Cabaret with music provided by the station’s disc jockeys. Bornfriend said that even though attendees of the dances seemed to have a good time, declining attendance (which he attributes to the negative connotations that the word “rave” carries) prompted the station’s leaders to come up with an event with a wider appeal.

The organizers intend to set up the event in a fashion that avoids any lulls in entertainment. They plan to have two stages, one for the bands and another small one for the DJs and comedians to perform between the bands’ 15- to 20-minute sets.

Bornfriend said that he received about 20 applications from acts wanting to play and hopes that such interest will allow the station to expand the showcase in years to come.

“Hopefully if we get a big turnout,” he said, “this will turn into something a little bit bigger, like a festival.”

The WECB Showcase will take place in the Cabaret on Friday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m.