All quiet on Cole Avenue

It all happened so quickly, didn’t it? Suddenly, out of nowhere, Afroman was on the stage brandishing a Colt 45, belting out rude lyrics to phalanxes of screaming, toga-clad Ephs. It was sweaty, it was drunken, it was mildly disgusting. There was a lot of exposed skin. And it was fun as hell.

And then, just as suddenly, the Williamstown police decided that a college campus is not an acceptable place to have a concert on a spring Saturday night. What were we thinking?

Apparently, Afroman’s tender melodies were not appreciated by the geriatric residents of this quiet New England valley, who seem to think that their college town would be perfect if only there were no college students in it. Apparently the anti-student attitudes of sham businesses like Water Street Books (which is completely reliant on student business) have spread to the town as a whole (which is completely reliant on student presence).

Matt Koven ’09, who organized TogaSpank from scratch and conjured Afroman out of thin air, had gone door to door in Williamstown last week, handing out nearly 200 fliers (yes, fliers!) explaining that there would be a concert on Saturday, and to please call him rather than the police if there was a noise problem.

“Everyone was very nice about it,” said Koven, “except this one lady who laughed and said ‘Good luck’ before she slammed her door in my face.”

This bitter old bag was apparently joined by a few other Williamstown residents who called in multiple noise complaints to the police, causing the 5-0 to descend on Williamstown in unbelievably disproportionate numbers. There were even state cops on campus. I’m sorry, but did these officers really have no criminals to apprehend on Saturday night, besides some drunk TogaSpankers? Were there really no drunk drivers in the Berkshires? No meth labs to bust? No black people to profile? Then again, I can just see the police reaching for their guns at the mention of an entertainer named “Afroman.”

In any case, a shortened Afroman show was certainly better than no show at all. Afroman may have passed his prime as a nationally recognized musician (“She Won’t Let Me F—” seems so long ago, doesn’t it?) but his star is clearly still rising as a collegiate entertainer.

We college students respect authenticity, not hypocrisy. And this is a man who doesn’t just sing his songs; he lives them.

For example, his opening number included the lyrics “Ain’t nothing like being drunk and high.” Want legitimacy? Afroman is rumored to have drank three (3!) forties before he appeared on stage, and I saw him drink another two while he was up there. And he may or may not have consumed some high-grade cannabis as well.

Another thing college students admire is a sense of irony, and “Because I Got High” is the ultimate ironic ballad. The song unabashedly celebrated getting high at the expense of a job, class, sex, child support payment and even, ultimately, shelter. We Williams students sang the lyrics even louder than Afroman did. That’s partly because many of us are idiots. But I’d like to think that most of us appreciated the spectacular double irony: Afroman has money, sex and shelter precisely because of this song, which he definitely wrote because he got high.

The BSU and the Women’s Center were reportedly heavily opposed to his visit. I don’t blame them. The man could be seen as a modern-day minstrel, a hyperbole of several negative racial stereotypes. And the lyrics to most of his songs are sexist to the point of self-parody.

Afroman has made a fortune traveling around to fraternities, particularly in the dirty south, giving legions of rich white males a steady diet of minstrelsy and misogyny.

But I just don’t think that was the reason for all the revelry and fun here at Williams. Call me naïve or optimistic or blind; I think most of us were there to wear our togas and let loose for the first time all spring. Looking around the crowded scene on Saturday night, I saw my classmates, men and women whom I respect as intellectuals and artists and athletes, dancing and singing some of the filthiest nonsense I’ve ever heard. And it was so much fun that it had to be stopped.

When I asked Koven what happened, he admitted to me that he had missed a few calls on Saturday night, probably from angry residents. Then he smiled.

“But it was loud, so, you know, I didn’t hear my phone.”

Matt Roach ’08 is an English and history major from Middletown, Del.

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