mtvU invasion brings more than just music

The music blared around campus from the Packer Hall parking lot, drawing students into the fun and festivities of mtvU’s 2006 Campus Invasion Tour.

The tour, which kicked off on Tuesday at the College, began with an interactive village that invited students to compete in music games and compete for prizes, including money and a car.

“It looks like a village and (students) get a taste of mtvU,” Joe Armenia, overseer of the campus tour, said. “They are experiencing new music. And it is all about free stuff.”

Armenia, who created the tour in 1998 before mtvU existed, said he is thrilled to be part of a project that brings music to college students and allows them to see performances by groups that may not yet be in the mainstream.

“It is designed to give college-age students access to what they want,” he said.

With music playing in the background and an announcer consistently reminding students of the evening’s concert, visitors to the village competed in games where they had to identify the bands singing and match song titles to artists. In addition, they had the opportunity to sign up for free newsletters in exchange for mtvU bags and put their names in a drawing for an iTunes gift certificate.

The students responded well to the village and many stopped by to get a peek at what the channel had to offer.

“I think it’s really fun, really different,” Vanessa Campana, sophomore communication studies major, said. “(It’s something you) don’t see every day.”

The still fledgling channel, which is an offshoot of MTV, began as a way to easily reach MTV’s younger viewers, namely the college crowd. According to Armenia, the station was not doing enough to cater to them and he and others at MTV wanted to find a way to host cheap concerts with bands that college students enjoyed.

The channel is now broadcast on hundreds of campuses around the country.

The Campus Invasion Tour started out being a biannual event, but it soon became a huge annual excursion.

“The franchise is strong and still going,” Armenia said. “I am happy and thrilled to be a part of it. It’s a model that works and artists clamor to do the tour.”

Once the tour is scheduled, those in charge determine which campuses it will visit. According to Armenia, they announce the tour to the schools in the “mtvU universe” and wait for the campuses to show interest.

“There was a demand from (the College),” he said. “I feel like (the College) chose us because our target was to start in early April and the time they were willing to do was perfect.”

The final step in the process is to choose the bands that will perform on the tour. Armenia said that many of the bands that have participated in the Campus Invasion Tour in the past have gone onto bigger gigs afterwards.

“The trend is to go from mtvU to MTV2 and MTV,” Armenia said. “We are uniquely poised as a music brand to do this.”

According to Armenia, Motion City Soundtrack was an obvious choice for the tour.

“I think they are poised to go to the next level,” he said.

In addition, he said he is happy to bring hellogoodbye and Straylight Run to the college masses.

“Straylight Run has an amazing live show,” he said. “They have the best show I’ve seen in a while.”

Although Straylight Run had to cancel due to illness, the band members were happy to talk about the future of the tour before they made the announcement.

According to Shaun Cooper, Straylight Run bassist, the band’s show is always spontaneous to keep it interesting.

“Nothing is the same every night,” he said in a phone interview. “We will be switching up the songs every night.”

Straylight Run began with Cooper and lead vocalist John Nolan, who also plays guitar and piano.

The two friends left their former band, Taking Back Sunday, to try something new. They soon recruited drummer Will Noon and Nolan’s sister Michelle, who also played guitar and piano and was writing songs.

According to Cooper, the Nolans write most of the band’s lyrics and melodies, while the other two members contribute to the final structuring and timing of the songs.

“We have all different backgrounds,” he said. “The idea was not to get pigeonholed in any one brand.”

Cooper said the station asked Straylight Run to participate in the tour because mtvU has been playing its videos and fielding requests for its music.

“This will be an amazing tour and we are happy to do it,” he said. “Our songs are a little less poppy so maybe we will add a little more diversity (to the tour).”

Overall, Cooper said the band is looking forward to the tour and visiting the different campuses, including the State University of New York at Binghampton, where his sister graduated.

“A lot of people who work at (the colleges) will go out of their way to help because this is not an everyday thing,” he said.

The Campus Invasion Tour ends May 5 at the University of Maine.

“It’s a great show that people want, but didn’t (necessarily) think they’d get to see,” Armenia said.