By Ilona Wallace
Artwork by Josh Evans
On orientation day many summers past, we fresh-faced newbies were greeted with sign-up sheets for the Evangelical Society, the Abstinence Club, and the hockey team (all one-in-the-same, really). There was a rock-climbing wall and someone in a fluorescent yellow shirt handing out condoms.
For years and years, UniSA students have whinged that there’s no atmosphere, no campus culture, and no super-hot O-Week celebration to get our hearts and minds pumped for the academic year ahead. Whinge no more! Gear Up is gathering steam and will be singing in study period two at City West from midday on Wednesday, February 27.
Featuring a stellar line-up (Ball Park Music, Hungry Kids of Hungary, The Salvadors, Asta, Koolta, and a stupendous string of student acts), ‘crazy, fun’ visual art installations, and secret pop-up performances, Gear Up is hoping to draw up to 4000 students to celebrate the start of semester.
We’ve been complaining for a long time, and finally our whines have been answered—though Tom Opie from The Salvadors remembers ‘watching people drink too much milk and throw up’ at O-Week parties, so maybe we haven’t been missing much.
Kaylee George, the Student Experience Project Officer from Gear Up, explains how it came to be. ‘The festival concept has been discussed for over three years,’ she says. Over the last eighteen months, the idea for the festival began to take shape, and plans started rolling six months ago.
‘UniSA wanted to offer commencing [and returning] students an exciting and fun welcoming experience to the uni,’ George says. ‘We started with the concept of a Commencement Ceremony […] where students have a formal introduction to the university in gowns and then they go on to a welcome party after. We really liked the party idea and wanted to create something special for students at UniSA.’
Luckily, they scrapped the formal occasion and skipped straight to the party (they really do know what students want).
Opie is digging the ‘good fun vibe’ of the line-up, and is looking forward to a ‘super fun day’. The Salvadors, who recently performed at Echo Festival in Mt Barker, are always keen to get involved with South Australian music projects, and this festival was another chance to play alongside some of the hottest local and national talent.
Dean McGrath (Hungry Kids Of Hungary) says that when the band was approached about Gear Up, they jumped at the chance. ‘I remember some of my favourite times at uni were hanging at the guild bars seeing bands, so I’m pumped to be involved.’
In fact, McGrath’s first licensed gig was at a Queensland University of Technology guild bar, years ago. He remembers it being ‘rowdy and fun, and having to load out through the crowd, which was interesting’.
Ball Park Music had a similar first-gig experience, with bassist Jennifer Boyce recalling, ‘We were in first year, and one of the third-year bands had pulled out, so we were asked to play. It was confusing and busy and we probably didn’t play very well … but we must have done okay because we got some more shows out of it!’
An event of Gear Up’s size has taken dozens of people to organise and endless time navigating bureaucratic processes. George dodged our question about the total cost of the event, saying, ‘We are doing our best to make it a great show so that students get an awesome UniSA experience right up front, and think it is a worthwhile investment for the uni to make’.
Read: it cost a fuckload, so be grateful and supportive, okay?
It’s a fantastic feeling to finally be falling into line behind the rest of the more social universities, and Boyce shares the UniSA student enthusiasm ‘We’ve played at a few O-Week celebrations before,’ she says, ‘but only in NSW and QLD … so we were stoked that SA is getting in on the fun too! These celebrations are always heaps of fun for everyone involved and we love to see all the students having a great time before uni starts back.’
Once Gear Up is over, don’t think for a second that UniSA’s social calendar is empty for the rest of 2013. The student markets will be back again, and the UniLife Ball will satisfy any urges for some masked mischief later in the year. The Academy will be live and kicking once more, if you’re seeking cheap coffee and a cosy bar. Keep updated with the societies and clubs in your own faculties and subject areas—sometimes they like to host cheeky parties, pub-crawls, and even formal occasions.
Opie is all for campus culture, telling students and universities to get on board with as many social activities as possible. ‘Give people options,’ he says, ‘and encourage people to get involved in absolutely anything and everything from the Lion Taming Society to Stamp Collection Club.’
As for McGrath, he says, ‘We like to party. I dare say at least half the band will be at the bar ten minutes post-show. See you there!’
Gear Up will start at midday on Wed Feb 27, at City West. UniSA students can register for free tickets at http://gearup2013.eventbrite.com/
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