Late Night Vinyl returns with introspection and groove


Mark Mandarano at Late Night Vinyl. Photo taken by Felicity Rosa-Davies ’26

Long after classes were over for the day on Wednesday, Oct. 5, Mark Mandarano wheeled a turntable onto the Mairs Concert Hall stage. At 10:30 p.m., nearly 50 Macalester students gathered in the venue for Late Night Vinyl.

Mandarano, the director of instrumental activities at Macalester, has held Late Night Vinyl three times a semester since 2013. Every session, he chooses an album to play on vinyl and invites students and faculty to attend. For the first late night spin of the semester, he chose Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album “What’s Going On,” a record that Mandarano has looked forward to featuring.

“[‘What’s Going On’] is deep and rich, and is one of those albums that is a unit,” Mandarano said. “It works as a suite, as a progress from moment to moment, all the way through. There’s a lot to be gained from listening attentively to this album.”

Standing on the stage, holding up the record, Mandarano began the event by introducing the historical context behind the album’s conception.

“Marvin Gaye was affected by the letters home from his brother who was in Vietnam asking: ‘What’s happening at home?’,” Mandarano said. “If you’re experiencing anything today where you’re asking ‘What’s going on?’, [the album] is just as relevant.”

After the introduction, Mandarano took the album out of its cover, placed it on the turntable and meticulously brushed the disc. The crackle of the needle dropping on the record prefaced the horns of the first song, ‘What’s Going On,’ filling the hall.

Mandarano has observed that the experience of listening to an album with a group of people is an increasingly rare way for young people to engage with music in the streaming era, something he hopes to reignite with Late Night Vinyl.

“I saw people listening to music all the time,” Mandarano said. “[They listened] on headphones, by themselves, [to] their own curated playlists … while doing other things. The idea was to have a shared, group experience where you give over your choice to the artist who has already programmed a whole sequence for you.”

Over the concert hall’s sound system and grand acoustics, “What’s Going On,” became a striking work of sonic depth and lyrical intrigue. Some stared straight ahead, seemingly focused on all the details the record has to offer. Others gave in to the fun of the album; the auditorium filled with nodding heads and tapping feet during the title track and “Right On” especially. In the audience, Sara Gregor ’23 found herself physically moved by Late Night Vinyl’s communal atmosphere.

“At first I was a little self conscious because [I was] moving my body along to the music, but then I realized that everybody else was doing the same thing,” Gregor said. “It was surprisingly comforting.”

Similarly, Luna Johnston ’23, the student coordinator for Late Night Vinyl, reveled in the feeling of pause that vinyl events provide.

“I like having moments to sit in silence and be around people that I care about,” Johnston said. “[Mairs] is a beautiful space and it’s a nice time of night when I’m winding down. [Late Night Vinyl] is a unique way to engage with music, and I like listening to albums all the way through. So to have time set aside to do that [is] lovely.”

As the last track “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” faded, Mairs quickly cleared out. Walking out of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center onto a mostly placid campus, a few attendees put in their earbuds and went back to their chosen curated and digital music. But if all went according to Mandanaro’s plan, this retreat was complemented by a shared experience that transcended genre, historical moment and individual taste for something

bigger. Something that calls us to ask of our increasingly reclusive lives: “What’s going on?”

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