Backstage at Summer Breeze

A look at MAB's biggest event and the people who make it possible.
Summer Breeze is the biggest event that MAB puts on every year—actually, it’s probably the single biggest event on campus all year.

“Summer Breeze is, by far, the best event of the year,” declared a group of third-years.

Summer Breeze is the annual spring quarter music festival organized by the 21 members of the Major Activities Board (MAB), a student organization that brings concerts and entertainment to the University of Chicago campus. According to MAB Chairperson and fourth-year Sam Abbott, the event has been an institution at the U of C since it was first established in the ’80s—and this year’s show may have had the largest budget yet. The concert was preceded by a daytime “Carnival on the Quads” hosted by the Council on University Programming (COUP).

This year, armed with a budget of $170,000, the May 19th music festival featured rapper Ludacris, indie-electronic band Neon Indian, and indie-pop band Cults.

“Summer Breeze is the biggest event that MAB puts on every year—actually, it’s probably the single biggest event on campus all year. It almost always sells out; around 2500 students and members of the University community come,” said Abbott.

MAB puts on two other shows during each school year: one in autumn and one in winter. Previously this year they presented indie-pop duo Matt & Kim and comedian Reggie Watts.

“A week or so after the current quarter's show ends, the Board starts brainstorming acts for the next quarter's show, and begins the process over again,” said fourth-year Rebecca Gieseker, MAB’s Talent Chair.

The process begins with the Board drafting a preliminary list of acts that it is interested in booking, and that it thinks will appeal to the majority of the student body. Board members keep in mind the type of artist who headlined recent shows. They wanted a hip-hop artist to headline the spring show because Matt & Kim performed in the fall and electronic band Crystal Castles headlined last year’s Summer Breeze. The Board must also consider budget and venue constraints when making these choices.

When the list is complete, the student talent buyers send the list to MAB’s agent, who then contacts the musical artists’ representatives for availability and cost.

“After that, we draw up a bid that we send in an offer to the artist for a certain date and price. They might ask for more money or pass on the offer. If they pass, we'll move on to the next act we are interested in,” said Gieseker.

This year, Ludacris was booked in early January. The other two artists were booked by mid-February.

After the artists are secured, the work is far from done. The Board must review and edit legal contracts, arrange transportation for the artists, attract sponsorship for the concert, print posters and tickets, and further plan the show.

“Different MAB members, depending on their specialties, are busier at different times. After an artist confirms our offer, the talent buyers have a lot of work to do since we are in charge of making preliminary edits on the legal contracts between the University and the artist. The hospitality MAB members won't be busy until a couple of weeks before the show, as they begin to negotiate transportation and other requirements that the artist has noted on his or her rider,” explained Gieseker.

But on the day of Summer Breeze, all MAB Board members are busy from sunrise to sunrise. Last year, they began setting up the equipment in the morning, and finished taking it down around 2 a.m. The Board is also responsible for managing all aspects of the performance: in addition to setting up the equipment and taking it down, they transport the artists, and make sure the show runs smoothly.

MAB accepts applications for new Board members each year.

Abbott says that even though being on the MAB Board feels similar to a demanding job sometimes, it’s rewarding, and he is proud to bring fun to the UChicago campus.

Tagged: MAB, concert, Summer Breeze, bands, student activities