Meet SALT, an RSO providing an alternative set of weekend plans

How to hear live alternative music right on campus


By Isabel Levin, Collegian Staff

A struggle that one would not typically expect a “ZooMass” student to face is finding something fun to do on a Friday or Saturday night. As someone who isn’t enticed by the Greek life scene, my friends and I too often opt to watch a movie and order Insomnia Cookies on weekend nights as we grapple with our frustrations over our lack of exciting plans. For this very reason, I am thrilled to showcase a registered student organization that does not often get the spotlight. They provide an alternative (no pun intended) set of weekend plans, as opposed to classic fraternity parties, which aren’t for everyone.

Students for Alternative Music, or SALT, acts as a medium through which local and on-campus musicians can coordinate performances on and around campus. SALT has been around for five years. President Michael Hanson, a senior political science major, told me the group began in 2013, when a local band looking to revive themselves expressed interest in utilizing space at the University of Massachusetts to perform. Since then, SALT has continued coordinating performances with a goal of exposing people to music they may have not previously heard.

Regarding group structure, like meetings or member commitment, SALT does not follow a strict meeting schedule and group membership is loose, meaning that different, and varying numbers of people show up to each meeting. As Hanson put it, “Group meeting are casual, shows are not.” Freshman Eleanor Rose, an active member of SALT, has hope for the sustainability of strong leadership within the organization. Potential shows are discussed along with logistics at group meetings.

When it comes to booking artists, SALT utilizes their connections and DIY, an international website utilized by indie musicians to gain exposure and coordinate shows. As Hanson told me, the DIY scene in Western Mass is booming, making the website a great way for the group to bring shows to UMass. SALT gravitates toward booking lesser-known acts with alternative qualities in an effort to achieve their main goal as an organization: expose people to music that they typically would not be exposed to, or “what the cultural moment needs,” according to Hanson. The group does not seek to solely book alternative acts, as Primary Show Coordinator Nick Jones told me, he hopes to organize shows featuring electronic artists in the future.

Prior to meeting with Hanson, Rose and Jones, the bulk of my curiosity regarding the organization was rooted in venues. As someone who did not know about SALT until extremely recently, I obviously had never come across one of their shows, which is interesting considering the fact that they’ve put on shows in places like Greeno Sub Shop in Greenough Hall and the Peet’s Coffee in the Integrative Learning Center.

After bringing up the topic of venues to Hanson and Co., I was informed a lot of “pretending that there are options” for venues goes on, and there is not one dedicated space. As an organization, SALT values and uses connections to their utmost advantage. As Hanson said, they are always open to forming new relationships to book a good venue and/or group. Shows scheduled in an off-campus location are never too far away, so UMass students don’t have to travel to a far-off venue.

As a group with dozens of members, SALT inevitably faces challenges when it comes to holding people accountable for attending meetings and sustaining active membership. Without definitive roles for members and a consistent meeting schedule, the organization faces challenges when defining rules for the group, as the large number of members makes it so people do not have to fully commit.

In addition to the electronic shows that Jones hopes to see SALT put on in the future, the organization is hosting a show on Dec. 9 featuring Harmony Tividad from the band Girlpool.

Isabel Levin can be reached at [email protected]