Obama campaign cancels Vampire Weekend concert at Carnegie Mellon
The Vampire Weekend concert and voter registration drive scheduled for last Saturday was canceled in a last-minute flurry of logistical and funding issues.
According to Director of Student Activities Gina Casalegno, discussions between the Pennsylvania Campaign for Change and Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama about having a voter registration concert began nearly a month ago.
According to Nelson Cheung, a lead organizer with Students for Obama, the campaign, which had initially approached the student organization with the idea for the concert, gave the go-ahead Thursday, Sept. 25 after a week of conversation.
After a week of intense planning that brought together a half dozen university administrative departments, it became clear to Carnegie Mellon organizers the rushed concert would not go on.
Casalegno got a call from an Obama campaign field coordinator at 12:15 p.m. Thursday to say that the Obama campaign had made the decision to move the event to a site that would be “logistically less complicated.”
According to Cheung, it has “been unclear on the campaign’s part how much they were expected to contribute.”
While the campaign had said funding was lined up earlier in the week, said Chueng, campus organizers got word last Thursday, from field coordinators that funding for the event had not been secured and a venue change was being explored.
Despite its administrative support for the event, Carnegie Mellon, as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is prohibited from allocating funding toward political activities.
According to Casalegno and Cheung, the university could not assist the Obama campaign in funding the concert.
As early as Thursday night, popular music website (last.fm) was already listing a venue change from Carnegie Mellon to Peter’s Pub in Oakland.
Subsequent to the venue change, however, Vampire Weekend dropped the concert from its tour.
By Friday morning, Pitchfork, the prominent music magazine, was reporting on its website that Vampire Weekend would be skipping Pittsburgh entirely.
The main act’s scheduled openers, Lohio, Life in Bed, and the Dirty Faces, played at Peter’s Pub as planned.
The cancellation was a missed opportunity, but also a learning experience, according to Casalegno.
“I think the civic engagement of voter registration from potentially thousands of people would have been very exciting,” Casalegno said. “Frankly, it would have been a coup to get this concert here. I think one of the goals of Students for Obama, in addition to getting their candidate elected, is to engage their peers in this political process.”
For Chueng, the ordeal was an excellent study regarding what universities and student organizations can and cannot do in terms of political campaign activity.
The Pennsylvania Campaign for Change was contacted but did not comment on the cancellation.
However, Allison Price, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, “We ran into some venue issues due to anticipated crowd size.”