During my last three years here, Villanova has had some pretty big acts entertain its students including Dane Cook, The Starting Line, OAR, Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional and the list goes on. Those are just some of the bigger names that have appeared. Hidden in Plain View, Hanson and Murder By Death have made smaller appearances in the Connelly Center, as well.
So doesn’t this make you curious about who entertained Villanovans before our arrival? I bet you would be surprised.
Would you believe that Bruce Springsteen and Guster used to be frequent performers at Villanova? In fact, Brian Burkhard, a former CAT president, told me about one of his predecessors, “Guster’s Tour Manager for many years, known as ‘Pasty’, was once CAT President. Guster was known to play at ‘Nova quite a few times during his tenure on the Board.” Guster returned last year to play with Philadelphia natives, The Roots, at one of Villanova’s largest concerts to date, Concert for a Cure.
Billy Joel played here, as well. I have heard several conflicting and unconfirmed claims that either Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen was once booed off of stage while opening for another act. How about performers that we could have hired, but missed on their road to fame? Villanova once passed on John Mayer who was going to play in Belle Air Terrance for a few hundred dollars. Who would have thought?
The next time someone plays in the Belle Air Terrace or the Villanova Room, you might want to check it out, even if you have never heard of them. You might discover your new favorite band or comedian.
Some acts to pass through Connelly include Dave Chapelle, Naughty By Nature, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and Q and not U. Class of 2000 grad Kristina Kopach remembers seeing Dave Chapelle when no one had heard of him. A good sized crowd gathered, but nothing like the attention he gets today.
Novafest has always been known to bring in great performers including The Ataris, Bowling for Soup, The Calling and Lifehouse. The 2005 Novafest lineup was no different with The Starting Line and Dane Cook. Some of the backstage footage even made it to Dane’s Tourgasm DVD.
That wasn’t the only backstage drama that year – MAE was supposed to open for The Starting Line, but a last minute cancellation due to an illness caused lots of confusion and a few angry fans.
The 2005-2006 school year left many memories as well, Hanson’s documentary screening being one of my favorites. Hanson came face-to-face with Mendel Doug when he somehow snuck through the kitchen just in time to harass the band before they took the stage. The band came out, the Q and A session began, but then was interrupted with a challenge. Doug informed the band that their only hope for success would be found in constantly remixing MMM Bop. Needless to say, that did not go over so well.
It is always interesting to see what a band asks for on their rider, but sometimes the requests made on the day of the show can be even more entertaining. During Novafest with Third Eye Blind, I was sent out as a production runner to get a few last minute essentials: a black belt for the drummer to replace his broken one, fingernail clippers, black nail polish, a specific brand of energy bars, a hot pot to make tea, and a fan among other things.
Jeremy Osinski recalled that during Concert for a Cure, one of the Guster band members hijacked a walkie-talkie and requested that more food be brought to the Guster dressing room. Sometimes the artist will not perform until all of their demands are met. Dane Cook would not start his show until every seat in the first few rows was filled. I gladly did my part as a seat filler!
When Villanova books a band, one can never know what to expect. Sometimes bands bring their famous friends along, like the year that Blues Traveller played Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. In the middle of their set, their close, personal friend Bruce Willis joined them on stage to play harmonica!
During another year, Tom Mogan, Director of Student Life, told me about one Parents’ Weekend that went awry. Villanova hired a comedian (who we all know now) to entertain parents one evening. The comedian did not alter his stand up routine for a Catholic university and the older, unsuspecting crowd. Many parents left during the show, outraged and demanding their money back. Would you have guessed it was Robin Williams?
Never heard of the band that is playing in the Belle Air Terrace? Maybe you should check them out anyway. Many bands have passed through Villanova on their road to bigger and better things. You could be seeing the next Dave Chapelle or John Mayer. Next time Villanova hosts a performer, check it out and bring a camera. Maybe one day you’ll be able to say, “I saw them back when…”