This year’s KHDX fall concert offered a big, bold new look for Hendrix’s music scene. Lizzo, the rapidly up-and-coming alternative hip-hop artist, gave a vibrant, confident performance that electrified the room. With the help of backup dancers and a DJ, Lizzo set a new standard for future Hendrix concerts.
From the first song of the night to the last, Lizzo preached body positivity and self-love. “Booty vicious, mind yo business,” she sang during the opening track “Fitness.” Throughout the night, she performed old, new, and soon-to-be released songs. Lizzo noted that the set list for Hendrix was identical to her upcoming national tour.
In both her songs and on-stage demeanor, Lizzo celebrated her body and attitude. In songs like “Scuse Me,” Lizzo preached over bass and synth-tracks that she loves looking in the mirror and embracing her curves. During other pieces, like “Coconut Oil,” Lizzo contended that she never needed to “find somebody to love” in her youth; all she really needed was “coconut oil,” a dose of confidence, and to listen to her Mama’s advice.
Lizzo’s fearlessness permeated the crowd in Worsham Hall. Her expressive dancing and unabashed confidence left most concert-goers, myself included, feeling buzzed and ready to conquer the world. Unlike other concerts I’ve attended at Hendrix, watching Lizzo gave me something to talk about hours after the show had ended.
Aside from delivering a quality performance, Lizzo also filled a noticeable gap in
Hendrix’s music scene. The concert marked the first time in my years at the college that a female artist of color headlined a KHDX show.
Bailey Egan, this year’s KHDX Concert Director and head of the Concert Committee, noted that the decision to bring Lizzo was motivated by a desire to platform diverse, female artists through annual concert programming. Although Hat Trick and other Student Activities music events have brought in female performers, KHDX’s headline concerts have solely featured male artists.
“As Concert Director, my mission this year has been to bring more female artists and more diverse artists to Hendrix because every main stage show, not including Hat Trick, that KHDX has put on in the past since I was a freshman in 2014 has been male,” Egan said.
Despite the success in bringing a female artist, this year’s concert had one drawback—low attendance. According to Tonya Hale, Director of Student Activities and staff advisor for KHDX’s concert planning process, only 276 wristbands were given out ahead of Lizzo. Compared to shows in the past, like Cherub and STRFKR, this year’s concert drew a much smaller crowd. Hale also noted that off-campus athletic events and less aggressive marketing through the KHDX station may have caused fewer attendees.
Hale is still uncertain why more students did not come out for the show, especially since the student body voted overwhelmingly to bring a hip-hop artist in the annual KHDX concert survey:
“I’d be curious to know what will bring students out of their rooms…I wonder if it was the timing, or if something else was going on,” Hale said. “Were the results of the survey not as representative as we thought they were?”
One factor may have been Lizzo’s relatively unfamiliarity. She has appeared at numerous music festivals over the past year and has garnered notable attention in the music journalism world, but has yet to release a chart-topping album or single. Hale noted, however, that bringing in more well-known hip-hop artists, such as SZA, is becoming more difficult in an industry that prioritizes festivals over smaller performances. Music festival contracts oftentimes prohibit artists from booking acts in a
certain mile-radius of the festival for months after they end. This system creates travel restrictions for artists in the post-music festival season, which typically wraps up in the beginning of fall.
I agree with Hale’s sentiment on questioning the campus’ connection with concert-going. Rethinking concert timing, marketing, and our relationship with the wider community during these shows is necessary in order to continue generating attendance and interest. Regardless, as Lizzo would say, I don’t always need other people to have a a good time—just good music, confident vibes, and nonstop dancing.