New semester, new face, new music

New A.S. Presents coordinator gears up for fall semester and beyond

Photo By Tom Angel

Dwight Frey seems very at ease sitting at a folding table in Chico State University’s Bell Memorial Union Auditorium.

It’s evident in his smooth voice and relaxed appearance—casual in shorts and a T-shirt, with long dreadlocks that spill on to his shoulders.

And why wouldn’t he be laid back? As the new head coordinator for A.S. Presents, Frey may have the best job on campus.

The 55-year-old Frey recently took over the position that had been occupied by Ajamu Lamumba for the last 14 years. Lamumba took a position as the outreach coordinator at MESA last spring, a program at Chico State that helps underrepresented students.

Frey is no stranger to Chico State, having spent the last four years as facilities manager for A.S. properties. And he’s definitely no stranger to working in music promotions.

“I’ve seen a lot of water under the bridge,” said Frey, who promoted events for UC Santa Cruz, was board president for the nonprofit Kuumbwa Jazz Center and ran a production company in Boise, Idaho.

As head coordinator for A.S. Presents, Frey works with a staff of nine students who look to bring both national and local acts to Chico State. The trick is finding performers who not only appeal to college students, but also won’t suck up all the resources.

The basic formula, Frey says, is sitting down with staff members, who often rattle off a laundry list of artists that would appeal to students. He then does some homework to see what size venues the performers are accustomed to before calling agents and sorting out the details.

Assistant coordinator Nick Johnson, who’s returning for his second semester, has his own wish list of bands he’d like to see play at Chico State, including new punks Coheed and Cambria and math-rockers The Mars Volta.

“They always ask for the moon and we find something in between,” Frey said.

But Frey insists that he doesn’t rule out any request and that trying to snag a big name is part of the fun.

“I like to play hardball as much as they do,” Frey says with a smile.

The staff is also looking to plug in to the local scene, scouring Web sites like MySpace and Pure Volume to find local bands for afternoon shows, affectionately dubbed “Nooners,” or to fill opening slots for headlining acts.

Frey said he went into the position with a number of goals in mind.

The first thing he did was hire an ethnically diverse staff, which he believes will carry over into more diverse shows.

And the lineup for the fall semester has shaped up well, including mainstream rock giants Jimmy Eat World, hip-hop crew Zion-I and folk-pop duo Tegan and Sara, who have shared the stage with The Killers and Ryan Adams.

Frey also wants to create an environment on the weekends that will steer students away from the bars. That means bringing in acts that may cost a little more money, but will draw larger crowds.

And even with a limited budget, Frey said it makes more sense to bring in bigger-name acts rather than having students drive down to the Bay Area for shows.

“The challenge is making enough money this semester to do more next semester,” Frey said. “It should be a year-long process.”