Growl drops clues on who its musical act will be


Sister Hazel performs during Gator Growl in this Nov. 8, 2013 file photo, at The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

Elizabeth Hamilton/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 3:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 3:10 p.m.

The first clue set us buzzing: This artist had their first hit single featured on "Entourage" and "Gossip Girl."

Facts

About Growl

UF Gator Growl and Homecoming will announce the lineup for the 2014 “Limitless” Gator Growl at Friday night's Gatormania at the Reitz Union. We'll have a story in Saturday's Gainesville Sun.

Tickets for the 2014 Gator Growl go on sale Friday at www.gatorgrowl.org.

Gator Growl is Oct. 17. Gates to Flavet Field will open at 5 p.m., with the first act to hit the stage around 6:15 p.m. and fireworks around 8 p.m. The show ends at 10 p.m. because of Gainesville's noise ordinance.

What are Gator Growl's producers up to? Why are they dropping clues on their Twitter feed about the musical talent lined up for this year's student-run pep rally, especially when they've embargoed that information until Friday's Gatormania event?

The second clue sent to us helped us narrow down our search for the artist booked for the event: This artist is signed to Columbia Records.

Who could it be? We came up with Foster the People, a Columbia Records recording artist (actually a subsidiary called Starfire) whose 2010 viral sensation "Pumped Up Kicks" was indeed featured on "Entourage" and "Gossip Girl," as well as "The Vampire Diaries" and "Friends with Benefits."

And, it turned out, Foster the People was already scheduled to play in Florida the same weekend as Gator Growl, Oct. 17.

Gotcha! We thought we had the answer, and by we I mean myself and a trio of twenty-something reporters who know plenty about current music and pop culture.

The Gator Growl and Homecoming Committee had us hooked, scouring the Internet for clues and discussing who could wind up being the headliner for the 82nd annual Gator Growl and how that would impact ticket sales and interest among students and alumni.

Well-played, guys. That was your plan, all along, wasn't it?

"The idea was to get people involved," said Devin McDaniel, a senior marketing major and executive producer for the 2014 Gator Growl. "What better way to build up excitement than with all these clues?"

Their goal from the outset was to use their social media platforms to generate buzz about this year's Growl. It worked. People have been commenting and posting their guesses on Gator Growl's Twitter feed and Facebook page.

"There have been a lot of guesses," McDaniel said. "It's been a fun game for us to keep up with. They're keeping us on our toes."

Held every year since 1932, Gator Growl bill itself as the largest student-run pep rally in the nation. The popular event used to draw headline comedy acts like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.

But declining interest and dwindling ticket sales over the last decade got the organizers thinking it was time to revamp the show, shake things up and revive interest in this decades-long tradition. After going from 75,000 tickets sold in 1998 to less than half that in 2009, the producers started tinkering with the entertainment lineup.

Attendance dropped to 22,000 in 2010 when there was no musical act, and it continued to hover around 21,000-22,000 despite efforts to appeal to broader audiences by booking acts as diverse as comedian Tracy Morgan with country singer Josh Turner.

Only 15,000 tickets sold for last year's show, when producers dropped a comedian and featured the musical acts The Fray and the local group Sister Hazel. The audience was swallowed up in the 90,000-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

So this year's producers decided to move the event to Flavet Field, a smaller venue. With security fencing and bleachers set up for about 1,100 people, the capacity at Flavet will be about 17,000, McDaniel said.

Aside from the bleachers, there will be no other seats. You can bring a blanket to place on the ground, but ticketholders will not be permitted to bring chairs into the event, organizers said. The field will be surrounded by a six-foot-high wind-screened fence so only ticket holders will be able to get inside.

This year, students and alumni got a chance to weigh in on what kind of talent they wanted, suggesting specific entertainers and weighing in on whether they should book a comedy act this year.

McDaniel typed a six-page list of recommendations. The committee worked with Student Government Productions and an agent to see who on that list was available, whether they'd be in Florida around that date on their tour and whether SGP could afford them.

They also decided that this year they would have a host, an emcee who would be able to keep the show going and the laughs coming between acts, student-produced skits and fireworks.

"We have booked a host," she said. "It's the best decision we could have made."

Wednesday, the Gator Growl and Homecoming folks posted their first clues about the musical talent on the Gator Growl Twitter feed and Facebook page, sending people on a digital scavenger hunt for answers.

The third clue — that this artist was a three-time Grammy winner — threw us for a loop. We were so certain. But Foster the People only had two Grammy nominations, no wins. Who could it be?

We found that Kings of Leon, also with Columbia Records, also with songs featured on "Entourage" and "Gossip Girl," had won three Grammys. Score! Or so we thought. Some of us started wondering if there weren't in fact more than one musical artist.

Those are all good guesses, McDaniel said. But she had lots more up her sleeve.

A fourth clue rolled out Thursday may be even more puzzling. "This artist is able to play four different musical instruments."

We're officially stumped. Does that mean there will be more than one musical act? McDaniel wouldn't confirm for us on the record, but she said to stay tuned:

"This is going to be the edgiest the Growl's ever been."

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