By Cadets 2nd Class Garrison Haning and Roderic O'ConnorNovember 19, 2007
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Army News Service, Nov. 19, 2007) -- The U.S. Military Academy was rocking Wednesday and Thursday nights as cadets, faculty and other local community members packed Eisenhower Hall for two nights of free concerts by the Dave Mathews Band.
The concerts, billed as "The World's Loudest Pep Rally," were the result of a competition by colleges and universities across the country. AT&T sponsored the contest, which encouraged students from participating schools to each send up to 50 online invitations per day, via a Web site, asking Dave and the band to perform at their school.
West Point -- a service academy with a student body of just over 4,000 -- competed with powerhouses like Iowa State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Nebraska and countless others. Lucky for the cadets, the contest was based on the number of votes submitted relative to student population, and the USMA student population was up to the challenge.
The initial voting began with only a few cadets. Cadet 2nd Class Jeff Caslen, a "Dave" fan who found the contest, recruited his classmate Luke Gebhart to start sending text messages and set out to spread the word through the Corps of Cadets.
During the second week of the contest, Cadets Caslen and Gebhart approached the director of Cadet Activities, Lt. Col. Craig Flowers, about what would happen if the cadet corps was successful in winning the contest. Once the DCA was on board, the rest of the corps got heavily involved. The DCA and the USCC Chief of Staff's office began sending e-mails out to the brigade reminding everyone to vote and West Point jumped from 12th place to 2nd place overnight.
"I think we were pumped to win this competition because West Point isn't a big college like the other ones," Cadet Caslen said. "We've gotten looked over on things before, and this fired the Corps up even more."
Thanks to the sheer tenacity and competitive nature of the cadets and the Long Gray Line, West Point was in first place within two days of the first brigade-wide e-mail.
When the other service academies saw Army's success, they jumped on the bandwagon. The Air Force Academy even managed to edge into first place for three days, mid-contest. But by the close of voting Oct. 15, West Point was solidly in first place and Air Force and Navy were 2nd and 3rd, respectively. And while the cadets are excited about their victory, they aren't the only ones with high hopes for the "World's Loudest Pep Rally."
"To be invited by a school in this sort of way is unusual, and I think all of us are just really excited about it," Dave Matthews said during an exclusive interview. "I think it was the cadets who are the ones who brought us here and the reason we're coming is because it was the cadets who made it happen.
"When the audience is responsible for you being there, it's different than just having tickets available," he added. "Everyone shares the same humility and awe and eagerness to put on a hell of a [show], well, as good a show as we can."
In 2003, Dave Matthews gave an acoustic performance at West Point, but this was his first Ike Hall performance with the entire band.
"The whole experience last time, from top to bottom [was great]. [I was so impressed with] just how gracious everyone was," Dave Matthews said. "It was just unusual how respectfully we were treated.
"It was really inspiring to us," he added.
"As a kid, I grew up and spent some of my life upstate -- in Ossining, which isn't too far from you guys," Dave Matthews explained. "So we used to come up and visit West Point, me and my family, because it's just so cool.
"Being up here the last time reminded me of when I was younger," he added.
Performing on college campuses across the United States is nothing new for Dave Matthews, but with his appearance at the academy twice in five years, he was asked if he intends to become another tradition of the Long Gray Line.
"I'm not sure... I don't know how long I'm going to live!" he said. "I don't know if I'd fall into the category of tradition, but it's a beautiful place and it's attended by exceptional minds and just to entertain that demographic is a great honor. If it became anything of a tradition, I don't know, but I certainly won't turn down the opportunity to do it again," he said.
(Cadets 2nd Class Garrison Haning and Roderic O'Connor wrote this article originally for the Pointer View newspaper at the U.S. Military Academy.)