APPS takes entertainment online, brings free events to community

Before+the+coronavirus%2C+APPS+events%2C+like+Appalfest%2C+drew+crowds+of+hundreds.+Now%2C+the+organization+is+adjusting+to+the+world+of+virtual+event+planning.

Courtesy of Camryn Collier

Before the coronavirus, APPS events, like Appalfest, drew crowds of hundreds. Now, the organization is adjusting to the world of virtual event planning.

David Brashier

The Appalachian Popular Programming Society is bringing campus concerts to virtual platforms in an effort to keep students entertained and foster community despite COVID-19 social gathering restrictions. 

“It’s confusing now because a lot of people are either doing virtual concerts or they aren’t, so it’s kind of a new phase that people don’t really know how to do,” said Allie Tarry, APPS main stage councilperson. 

  APPS kicked off the fall 2020 semester with a variety of programming for Welcome Week in August, including Q&A webinars with prominent activists, spoken word poetry over Zoom and the headliner event, a virtual concert from rapper Denzel Curry.

For the first virtual concert of the year, APPS’ main stage Council wanted to feature an act relevant to the current political climate, especially given its relevance on App State’s campus, said Tarry. 

Citing recent demands by #BlackAtAppState for increased university programming for the wellbeing of Black and brown students, Tarry said she and her council searched for an entertainer who is outspoken on such issues, which led them to reach out to Curry. 

  While APPS has been forced to optimize their events for virtual platforms, this hasn’t stopped them from striving to fulfill their vision to “establish transformational experiences and a deep sense of belonging to all Appalachian students.” 

“We’re trying to find ways to do virtual programming while still making connections with people,” said Emily Gottlieb, APPS club shows councilperson. “Some of the more low-key events that we’ve had, such as Drag Queen Bingo with Alexis Michelle, are very interactive, and students are more inclined to go if there’s going to be some form of interaction.”

Though some may see it as a drawback, Tarry and Gottlieb say the new online platform allows for an expanded range of high-profile acts.

Concerts on Zoom take out the additional travel costs for a performer to come to Boone. Plus, because acts can perform from their own homes, the logistics of putting on a concert are more accessible than before. 

Zoom events have been well-received by students thus far, according to Gottlieb. The major drawback is that APPS doesn’t charge students for tickets to the events because of the limitations of virtual concerts. Thus, none of the programming this semester is paid for. 

Without the budget for paid-for acts or the advertising campaigns that come with them, there are fewer patrons in attendance on Zoom than there are in-person. 

Despite the nontraditional virtual platform and lower turnout, those who attend find these events worthwhile. 

“Obviously there’s a different vibe for a virtual concert compared to an in-person one, but Denzel was great to watch,” said Will Strickland, an App State graduate who attended the virtual Denzel Curry concert. “I love Denzel. You could tell it was an unusual setting for him, but he still made it really fun.” 

This creative brainstorming for virtual events did not come without great disappointment for APPS, initially. 

During the spring 2020 semester, APPS’ concert councils were gearing up for Boonebox, which would have been App State’s largest concert festival to date. Shortly after the pandemic arrived in the U.S., they had to cancel the event. 

  “I was definitely nervous when (the pandemic) arrived in Seattle in February,” said Alex Brody, the former main stage councilperson for APPS. “Right before they shut everything down, I got an email a day or two before from my adviser saying, ‘They’re shutting everything down, Boonebox is through.’” 

  For Brody, who oversaw festival production, Boonebox was going to be his magnum opus, capping off his two-year career in APPS. Tarry, Brody’s successor, took over as main stage councilperson at the end of the spring semester and began brainstorming potential alternatives to in-person concerts for the fall. 

“Ally took over planning the Denzel Curry concert, and that was the brainchild of post-Boonebox,” said Brody. 

  Gottlieb and the Club Shows Council made up for lost programming at the end of the spring semester by hosting virtual concerts featuring mostly local acts from the Boone area. 

  According to Brody, Boonebox isn’t dead yet. Post-pandemic, App State students can hopefully look forward to another festival, one bigger and better than the one originally planned. 

  More virtual concerts are planned for the remainder of the fall semester, though Tarry and Gottlieb declined to comment on any confirmed acts.