Students are confused over Hollybash headlining artist, Tai Verdes, and so am I

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In March, Rowan University Student Center and Campus Activities (SCCA) announced the headlining artist, Tai Verdes, is set to perform at this year’s Hollybash along with opening performances including this year’s Battle of the Bands winners, Measures.

If you don’t know what Hollybash is, it’s a festival hosted at the end of the year for students to come out and enjoy a full day of live performances, carnival rides, tie-dye stations, rock climbing, zipline and much more.

But to students, what makes the festival so special is the anticipated wait of who will be performing at the event for that year. In previous years we had Kyle The Spy, Noah Cyrus and Young Joc play the main stage. 

This year’s headliner was one of much discussion and I would often overhear conversations of speculation of who it may be, ranging from artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Ice Spice and A Boogie Wit The Hoodie. But students were a bit caught off guard and confused about this year’s artist, Tai Verdes. 

Let me give a little background of who exactly Tai Verdes is. Known off-stage as Tyler Colon, he grew up in California, where he developed his love for music by learning how to play the guitar, piano and ukulele. Verdes later attended Babson College on a sports scholarship where he eventually dropped out to pursue his passion for music.

He went on to star and win Season 6 of the MTV reality show “Are You The One?” Afterward, Verdes worked at Verizon during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this did not stop his passion for making music. In August 2020, he released a song called “Stuck In The Middle” which went on to get millions of streams on all streaming platforms. However, most of his popularity and engagement can be credited to the social media platform TikTok.

Later on the next year, Verdes went on to release his first debut album “TV” which featured another viral single “A-O-K” which reached No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

I took to the streets of Rowan University to ask students their thoughts on the upcoming event and get their reactions when the announcement broke on campus about the headlining artist. 

Jessica Hallam, a junior, did not have any prior knowledge on who Verdes was.

“When I saw the announcement video for Hollybash, I immediately got confused on who exactly he was. But it wasn’t until one of my friends sung this song I’ve heard a while back to finally put a face to the name,” Hallam said. 

Another student, junior Kevin Coiro, expressed a similar confusion.

“I’m excited for the festival itself, but I can’t show excitement for the artist performing because I don’t know who he is,” Coiro said. 

He continued by saying that he can’t blame the organization running the event because he he does not know the financial budget placed for SCCA and Student University Programmers (SUP), which would put restraints on who they could hire for Hollybash.

“At least it’s somebody than nobody, you know?” Coiro emphasized. 

I went through the comments on the official Rowan University Student Center and Campus Activities Instagram page where they posted the announcement to see the mixed emotions from the students within the community. The comments varied from how the event should have been better planned and gotten someone that better fits the musical tastes of the Rowan demographic to others being excited about the upcoming set.

As much as I am excited for Hollybash — more importantly, the food portion — I couldn’t help myself but feel a bit let down with the music choice as well, and feel like compared to last year’s this is a letdown to the student community. 

Now, as Coiro expressed, there likely was a financial budget that SUP has to operate in. However, it’s unfortunate that SUP has to fund this massive festival just through the budget Rowan’s Student Government (SGA) allots SUP — especially as the university builds a massive expansion to the student center that probably costs how much it would take to book Don Toliver or even Steve Lacy.

SUP holds monthly meetings for students to drop by to speak ideas to the committee on who or what events they wish to see more on campus and I understand that some ideas can’t all be heard, but as a student committee, it is their job to make sure that all students are heard and feel included. It feels like a letdown when their ear is not fully open to our suggestions and feedback. 

The meetings regarding Hollybash should be upgraded to a voting system placed on social media as well as mass emails to students through the Rowan Daily Mail to make sure students have a say fully on who gets to perform. This is important because Hollybash is an event that’s specifically made for students after a tough and stressful year, and those who are experiencing their last semester here as an undergraduate.

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