The opener sat down on the floor of the Aspen Suite of the University Center. His arms rested on his knees, his spoon tattoo visible on his forearm. As he sat, he discussed the final touches of the concert, where he should be during his introduction, prepping for his biggest performance yet.
The Spring Concert headliner JoJo hand-picked Slake Dransky out of three UNC student submissions. The Spring Concert genre this year was chosen by poll and hip-hop and R&B was selected.
His friends were in the room with him. They would be performing with him on stage as his features, artists featured on his songs. It was a large and diversely talented crew, the trumpeter played a short practice tune.
“For such a big event like this, I want everyone to have a party here,” Dransky said. “I think seeing me with my friends up there having a good time, hopefully, it’ll trickle down to everyone else.”
Dranksy’s performance was nothing less than stellar. His stage presence and attention to detail kept his audience interactive and moving. With the help of his feature crew, Dransky surprised many by his strong performance and reminded people of the great potential and talent of UNC students hold.
Dransky is a stage name, a prior nickname given to him in high school by a theater buddy. The senior acting major’s real name is Drake Slansky. The name became his stage name when he learned the concept of “spoonerism,” which is a literary device where the first consonant sounds of two words in a phrase are switched. Inspired by this pleasant accident, he branded his stage persona with a logo of a spoon.
Likened to Denver artist Flobots, Dransky’s rap music is packed with energy that engages his listeners musically and thoughtfully. He said his music is something people can groove to while inspiring critical thought.
“For me, it’s all about the lyrics,” Dransky said. “I love good production, but I’m a lyricist first and foremost. What’s an artist without his words?”
He typically tries to bring every featured artist that appears in his tracks along for the ride whenever he gets a new gig. He met each of his featured artists through UNC. He said the “perks of being a theater major” is being surrounded by great talent. His crew consists of: his trumpeter, Kelso, Sydee Whigs, Radiance, Type 1ne, Frederiiick the Great and Jason LoCricchio. Together, the performance was lively as the friends collaborated on their art.
Dransky has had prior success with performing at the Moxi Theater and bars like the Jager in Greeley as well as open mic nights and gigs in Seattle where he is from. Dransky has released two mixtapes, available on all major streaming platforms, called “Spoonerism” and “How We Pictured It from the Front Porch.” His next work, an EP, is projected to be released after he graduates.
His performance brought to question whether the great talents at UNC are being overlooked or not.
Previous Spring Concerts hosted by the University Program Council have been lackluster, bringing in artists so unknown that a venue change was called for this year presumably due to low turnout. Previous concerts were held in the Bank of Colorado Arena whereas this year the UC Ballrooms were converted to a concert venue. Some students that did not attend the Spring Concert complained that they had no idea who the artist was, this year and previous years.
If students are expected to want to attend a concert of an unknown artist, would it not be more financially savvy to shine a light on local or student musicians?
Ellie Dorman, a senior business, marketing and RTH major, was concerned about the need for the Spring Concert. She volunteered at the event this year as well as attended at least three previous Spring Concerts.
“I think it’s a waste of money,” Dorman said. “They don’t advertise it enough, so there’s no way they are making back money in sales… I know it’s not the fanciest artist, they don’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars, but there’s no way they make it back in ticket sales. They either have to do something else or stop doing it.”
Dorman and her friends, Emilie Rhoton and Angela Choe, who are both junior elementary education majors, said they agreed with the idea of having an event with a greater student talent presence. Rhoton said that, while this year’s Spring Concert was much better than years past, the concerts are inconsistent. Choe, while she did not attend this year’s concert, suggested a festival of multiple student performers with a more famous headliner as a compromise.
Dransky likened the idea of giving student artists the spotlight to the time he performed in a festival in a previous year called “Porchella.” The festival was hosted by Aidan Warner and Ethan Clampitt. The event showcased local artists in small backyard venue.
“As with any situation ever, I am sure that the student music scene here will fluctuate over time,” Dransky said. “But right now, we are looking at a vibrant student music scene.”
Some students like Dorman, Rhoton and Choe as well as Dranksy were reminded of other opportunities such as UNC’s Talent Show and the Open Mic Nights available for students to showcase their music.
The Residence Hall Association’s “Fauxchella” opened submissions for their music festival on April 21, which offers a very similar idea to the suggestion for the Spring Concert. Though, with the budget and guidance of UPC, as well as a potential partnership with several other programs targeted to showcasing UNC talent, the event could be so much more.
Dranksy said he hoped that nonetheless aspiring students take advantage of these opportunities and that, with dedication and a willingness to take chances, it is possible to put yourself and your art out there in northern Colorado.
“I do think it’s a great idea, but I also think that unless we have someone interested in fronting that, I think it’s something that students are going to have to front themselves,” he said. “I think the Spring Concert is a great way to get student musicians involved. And I think if there were more opportunities like that, other people will do so.”
Dranksy said that, though he will be graduated by the time it opens, he also hopes that the Campus Commons will become a “more interesting and inviting place for people” to share their art rather than the Fireside Lounge in the UC, causing higher turnout.
Emily Carter, a sophomore theater education major, was excited about the alternative of having a dedicated large event to student performers.
“I’d love to see what other people can do,” Carter said.
Bailey Heard, a freshman elementary education major, disagreed with the idea.
“I think we should keep what we have now,” she said. “If people see a face they recognize, they’ll more likely go to it.”
Dransky had planned on seeing JoJo even if his submission was not accepted.
He said student submissions may not always be there, so it would be important to work with what students would want on a year to year basis to make sure everyone is having a good time.
“I think that if the outlet was available, I think you would see a lot who have been sitting on music or want to make music come to the forefront of the student population,” Dransky said.