ASI organizes Rhythms Music Festival despite venue, cost challenges

This time last year, the Annex served as a temporary library while the current one was under construction. But Thursday and Friday, April 26 and 27, a stage will take the place of desks, instruments will replace books and silence will be frowned upon as Toro y Moi headlines the Rhythms Music Festival.

Franko Ali, vice president of student affairs of Associated Students, Inc., wanted to compile musicians from a diverse range of genres. The Depot’s booking manager Gio Acosta and booking assistant Stephanie Escoto contributed to the process, contacting numerous bands before compiling the final list.

“Our approach was to find a headliner and let everything else fall into place from there,” said Escoto.

Yesterday, five SF State bands competed in a Battle of the Bands on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center to win a chance to perform at the festival Thursday.

The biggest change for this year’s festival is that it will take place in the Annex. Ali initially wanted it to take place outdoors, but that didn’t pan out for several reasons.

“There is so much politics on this campus and regulations, and we’re still exploring with big scale events,” said Ali.

The event, organized by seven members of the Programs and Services committee of Associated Students, Inc., comes with a price. ASI spent close to $24,000 on the artists alone. The top-paid headliners are Toro y Moi, who received $13,000, and Hood Internet, who received $4,000.

The committee has also faced some challenges in organizing such a large event in the Annex for the first time.

The Annex is filled with power panels about every 10 feet that must be covered up for safety reasons. Also, the space is not meant to be a venue so sound quality posed a problem.

To compensate, ASI hired a sound production and lighting company, straying from the usual in-house technical assistance. Ali hopes that the headlining act next year will be a hip-hop artist, because he believes more people favor that over a chillwave indie-rock artist such as Toro y Moi.

“Until we are in everyone’s vision, a hipster headliner is difficult to sell,” said Ali.

The committee initially wanted to book rapper Immortal Technique, who fell through when his availability didn’t coincide with the festival dates.

Ali created Facebook pages for each festival event and received several less-than-enthusiastic responses from students when he announced the lineup. Some showed concerns that the artists weren’t mainstream enough, while others questioned ASI for spending students’ money on such an event, according to Ali.

Each semester, students pay $51 specifically to ASI, a fee that is separate from tuition. The money is spent as ASI sees fit, which includes giving away scholarship funds, but also planning events students can enjoy such as this festival.

“We just want to make sure everyone’s happy and that it all comes together well,” said Acosta.