Anywhere But Here
Into the battle with Miss Anthropopscene.
By Will Lyman
I’ve always thought of Battle of the Bands as the climactic event in every Disney Channel Original movie–where tensions come to a head and the final confrontation between good and evil plays out (think Camp Rock, Freaky Friday, Lemonade Mouth). Unfortunately, when Columbia held its annual battle late last month, neither Bridgit Mendler nor Lindsay Lohan made the trek to Morningside Heights. And unless Frankie made an uncharacteristic decision to join in on some good, old-fashioned campus nightlife, none of the Jonas Brothers did either. Regardless, our Battle of the Bands–the Bacchanal-hosted competition among student artists to determine the opener for its schoolwide spring concert–was a cinematic showdown.
Performing that night in NYC’s hottest club, the Lerner Party space, were Columbia’s very own Twice Shy, Miss Anthropopscene, Maad Da Visionary, Omar x Vassi, Frederik’s Dead, Jackie Marchal, and eventual winner, Christina Li.
My muse for the night was Miss Anthropopscene, née Jane Watson. Watson is pursuing her teaching credentials in hopes of one day molding the minds of middle schoolers, but for now she moonlights as a pop star. She lands somewhere in that classic overlap of ex-varsity crew captain and skillfully trained vocalist. Watson famously rooms with two of The Blue and White’s very own; it was through these kismetic connections that I landed myself a spot attached to her hip for the evening, able to experience not just the battle, but the before and after, too, through the eyes of a performer.
6:43 p.m.: After failing to convince my friend to join me for the evening—he’s such a Capricorn—I shuffle through Miss Anthropopscene’s Spotify page. We’re listening to music in my apartment, sipping flat rosé out of cups I stole from The Smith. The energy of the evening is just starting to define itself. A self-proclaimed pop fiend, it takes me by no surprise that after listening to “Though It Should” and “CONSUMER CULTURE,” I’m hooked on Miss Anthropopcene’s artistry. The production of her music is brash, the lyrics are honest, it’s everything I love about dance music. I’m, admittedly, fangirling.
6:52 p.m.: I get a call from Jane asking to pick up “my beer of choice” and bring it to her EC suite. I panic, knowing that I have no taste for fine beer, or for that matter, beer at all. No need to worry, I remembered to mute the speaker upon answering the phone. Giving Miss Anthropopcene the sense that I was streaming her entire discography was not the first impression I wanted to make.
7:10 p.m.: At the Duane Reade on 111th, I legally buy alcohol for the first time. I’m a March baby, but despite my newly minted legality, nobody has carded me in three weeks. Power tripping at the checkout counter, I flash my newly-issued New York State license. I leave the store with a twelve pack of Bud Light in tow and walk across campus as that girl with the beers. If this were NSOP, I would be the hottest bitch in town.
7:24 p.m.: I’m greeted at the door of Jane’s EC suite by her roommate and my publisher, Daniel Seizer. I’m escorted into the dining room, where everyone is seated for a dinner of pork chops. Alison, another suitemate, chops mint with a gigantic kitchen knife. When I finally meet Jane, she’s dressed in a turquoise sweatshirt and black pants. The show starts in half an hour. She pulls out a bottle of champagne from the fridge, a gift from the recent release party of her song “COCAINE.” The pop of the cork visibly startles the rest of the group, otherwise occupied by a calm discussion of everyone’s go-to cocktail. (Mine is a moscow mule. Jane’s is the Aperol Spritz, which she enjoys strictly at 5 p.m.) Pouring each guest a drink, she says: “I could’ve done this in a cooler way.”
7:48 p.m.: While we chat, I learn that, through the Barnard Education Department, Jane teaches social studies full-time at Urban Academy on the Upper East Side. The admission that she spends her time with 7th–12th graders not only baffles me, but earns my deep respect. On top of this, she produces her own beats and writes and releases her own music—all while finishing out her senior year. Damn.
8:12 p.m.: “We should go soon,” says Jane. She is supposed to take the stage in just 28 short minutes. Setting down her glass of wine, Jane does a Broadway-worthy costume change, taking off her sweatshirt and revealing a tan tube top with purple detailing. She had been ready the entire time! While the group scrambles, I sip my Aperol champagne and help her decide if she should wear her hair up or down. “Are you gonna be performing up songs or down songs?”, asks her last suitemate and Blue and White senior editor, Chloë. It’s an important question.
8:21 p.m.: On our way out, Jane asks everyone for their rose, bud, and thorn of the day while packing Bud Lights into her purse. My rose was, undoubtedly, the yassified pictures of Provost Mary Boyce that Daniel and Chloë had shown me moments earlier. Very slay. “I’m so nervous,” Jane remarks.
8:27 p.m.: At long last, we swipe into Lerner and perform the unnecessarily dramatic ramp zig-zag down to the Party Space. Upon entering, I realize that the room deserves its name. With a sizable crowd jamming to Twice Shy, the event resembles a real party. Any doubts I had about the “coolness” of this campus event were quickly silenced. I’ve long held an angsty teen relationship with evenings organized by Columbia. As a freshman, I insisted that there was never enough freedom nor cosmopolitanism for me. I felt constantly that I was “uptown in my downtown outfit.” Attending Battle of the Bands, I gave into the delusion of Lerner nightlife and jokingly asked someone on the stairs if we should do molly. They didn’t laugh.
8:32 p.m.: “I LOVE COCAINE!” one of Jane’s friends yells to her backstage, praising her song. As she prepares to perform, she receives continuous outpourings of love. “You’ve been so enthusiastic about music since freshman year. I love what you’re doing,” comments another passerby. I begin to understand Jane’s role in the night, not only as a personal moment of triumph, but as a payoff to the community which has supported her over the years.
8:37 p.m.: Jane takes the stage just before 8:40 p.m., giving the impression of punctuality. Kofi, the emcee for the night, announces her as “Miss Watson. Miss Anthropopscene,” and the crowd. Goes. Wild. I make my way through the cluster of people, reaching out to my friend for a secured spot near the front. A group of girls audibly groan when I stand in front of them. I’m well aware of my status as a Tall Person. I apologize for nothing.
8:40 p.m.: The opening notes of “CONSUMER CULTURE” play as Jane grabs ahold of the microphone. Around me, everyone is listening intently, tossing out intermittent “woo”s before each chorus. She sings: “If I work hard, shouldn’t all my dreams come true? Shouldn’t I get you?” My friend leans over to me and says, “So true.”
8:49 p.m.: “It feels so good to be back in person. This is so special,” Jane says to the audience as she queues up her final song. I notice then that she chose to wear her hair up. “I produce everything myself, and I have a fun time doing it,” Jane explains, “I like to make music to dance to. We need more of that.” Some superfans in the audience seem to anticipate what’s coming next; they scream when she begins to play “COCAINE.” It’s an up-tempo jam about breakups and drugs. Photographers swarm around the front of the stage, capturing her in a moment of true glamor.
8:55 p.m.: At the end of her set, Jane shouts out the other performers and accidentally knocks over the microphone stand. The crowd cheers. She’s panting and overwhelmed, but smiling. Jane expresses her gratitude for everything going according to plan, despite the earlier chaos.
9:05 p.m.: I then join Jane and her suitemates at the back of the Party Space to watch Maad Da Visionary, who leads the crowd in a call-and-response—“He’s mighty Maad,” everyone screams back and forth. After the stress of the performance is over, Jane makes some socialite rounds, greeting everyone who came out to support her. I see a friend who I only ever see at music-centered events, and a girl from my Film History class. We bond over evading attendance.
9:45 p.m.: During their set, Omar x Vassi articulate exactly what makes this event so appealing. “The thing about being a Columbia student, we’re all stressed the fuck out. We came here to release, to let go of our anxieties.” The crowd cheers. “I love you,” Omar continues, “It doesn’t matter if you love me, because I love you.” The energy of the room is wild. I see a Public Safety officer, acting as a bouncer, checking the wristbands of people getting off the elevator. I run into, and proceed to have a completely lovely conversation with, someone that I made out with while watching Pretty Little Liars a year ago. I feel like a bona fide member of campus life. As the acts change, “Frederik’s Dead” appears on the screen behind the stage. Someone to the left of me yells: “HE IS?”
9:56 p.m.: I catch back up with Jane as we begin to entertain the idea of leaving and getting a drink. “I’m feeling wonderful,” she says. As we walk, Jane explains just how intimidating the music scene at Columbia can be, citing that we go to school with literal popstars. “Everyone has a path and my path is not that.” Jane makes music as “a form of journaling, of connecting with friends,” and expresses her gratitude for being able to do that. Although her long-term goals are in other realms, “you're not isolated to one path at Columbia.” We talk the group next to us into giving us a paper party hat, one that I walk out wearing proudly.
10:20 p.m.: Down to the two of us, Jane and I settle in at The Heights. We decide to order frozen margaritas with inverted Coronitas. When they arrive I perform a little photoshoot, capturing the glory of my one night stand with beer. Jane discusses the influence of the ethereal on her work and describes her sound as “critical, tongue-in-cheek pop.” As the Coronas starts to infiltrate our margaritas, we get into my favorite topics: zodiac signs and love. I find out Jane’s big three consists of all water signs, to which I say, “I’m so sorry.”
10:50 p.m.: I learn that Jane got into music during her sophomore year following a bad breakup. In her dorm room in Carlton Arms, she learned how to let go of shame and do what she truly wanted. “Nobody cares,” she explains, “and the people who do care do because it makes them happy.”
11:28 p.m.: After our drink is finished, we head upstairs to the patio and run into some of Jane’s friends, who talk about their day dissecting fly brains and complain that a fourth Taylor Swift song is playing consecutively. Together, we sneak beers from Jane’s purse and eat Insomnia Cookies while loading the Battle of the Bands Google Form. I know exactly who I’m voting for.
11:40 p.m.: On our way out, Jane explains that “someone else will get it, but it’s a great opportunity.” I’m home before midnight, watching the new Drag Race episode and peddling the Battle of the Bands voting form to all of my friends. “Vote Miss Anthropopscene. NOW!” Despite the final outcome, one thing is for sure—Jane has made a lifetime fan out of me.