After compensating for what has become a familiar last-minute turn of events, Fall Fest drew a small but devoted following to Alumni Arena Monday night, giving those who postponed mid-term studies an energetic, nearly flawless show.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Student Association and Sub-Board I Inc. postponed the show originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14. Although attendees said they would have attended despite the attacks, SA officers instead arranged for buses to transport New York City residents that Friday.
Staging the Fest Sept. 14 would have been "too soon after what had happened," said George Pape, Sub-Board I student president. As a result, the show "was pushed into mid-term territory, which was obviously a problem for some students," Pape said.
After headliner 3 Doors Down extended their tour by a day to accommodate Fall Fest coordinators, the event was moved indoors, as was last year's Spring Fest featuring Outkast and Mya. That show drew an estimated crowd of 8,970; this year, approximately 3,035 passed through the gates. Student response to the poor turnout was almost universal: "Well, it's a Monday."
As local stalwarts Mexican Cession kicked off the night's music at 5 p.m., a slow but steady stream of students began trickling onto the arena's floor and bleachers. Booths for WBUF 92.9 and Kiss 98.5 were set up outside but drew few onlookers. Bored security staffers even bantered amongst themselves, in addition to their usual duties.
Two separate groups of students wearing sweats were seen asking whether athletic facilities would be open.
Mexican Cession, who have been playing the Buffalo area since its members attended local high schools, launched into their usual groove of funk, hard rock, hip-hop and ska, along with stage antics. Keyboardist Joe Sweeney pulled out the stops rapping through "Kung Fu Joe," and the band's take on Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" impressed many in the crowd, if not local music enthusiasts.
"I've been out four times in the past week, and I've seen [Mexican Cession] four times," said Mindy Story, a junior in computer science.
"It's not like we even sought them out or anything, they just play everywhere," added Story's friend Evan Stinson, an Amherst local.
Those new to the Cession experience gave mixed reviews.
"I dunno, they're kinda weird, I guess you gotta be into them," said Jason Murphy, a Cheektowaga resident. "But they're really the ones putting on the best show, they're trying damn hard to get the crowd moving."
As Shades Apart took the stage, the empty space between the stage-front crowd and the island of mixing equipment on the floor's center began to fill in. The punk trio played a strong set of three-chord pop, raising a few fists in the audience and getting the up-front crowd jumping.
Although Shades compelled the crowd to sing along to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," the arena's acoustics, often cited as a reason to move shows outside by both students and show planners, kept audience feedback buried under the bands' heavy sounds.
At breaks between sets, a few students crowded Alumni's main hallway, but concession worker Kristin Smith said her night had been "kind of boring."
"It's not really busy, there's just not a lot of people here," said Smith, a freshman studying mathematics education. "We worked the football game [against Rutgers], and there was never a dead moment, there was always a line. ... This has been pretty slow."
"It's a different crowd, there was a little more of an ethnic turnout for Outkast," said Pat Comerford, a freshman pharmacy major.
"It's kind of a small show," said Brian Graf, also a pharmacy freshman. "But, I mean, it's a Monday."
Even if Everclear were not the show's headliner, they created the most significant change in crowd size and activity. The band moved quickly through the hits "Everything to Everyone," "Santa Monica," and "Father of Mine" with an expanded group including keyboards, a percussionist and rhythm guitarist, and lead singer and guitarist Art Alexakis drew big responses from the crowd during set breaks, during which bassist Craig Montoya burned through cigarettes while he stood offstage.
"We were supposed to be here a few weeks ago, but some people tried to put an end to that ... but that's bullshit," said Alexakis. The singer even raised some school pride, saying "You guys are the best crowd we've had on this college tour. ... Just so you know, you kick Connecticut's ass."
The band never let up during their show, alternating hard numbers (such as a more hard-edged take on their "A.M. Radio") with the sophisticated pop-rock of their last two-part album, "Songs From An American Movie." At the end of the show, a group of local fans, "The Everclear Dancers," were brought out for the set's conclusion, after which a noticeable number of students began to leave.
"I thought [Everclear] was the best show," said Chris Wallin, a civil engineering junior. "The crowd pisses me off, though, when not a lot of people show up like this, it just shows what a commuter school we really are."
"The ones that are here are real fans, though," added Wallin.
Audience members near the front during Everclear's set agreed. "It's crazy, we've lost a pair of glasses, a watch, a shirt or two, it's just general chaos," said Tim McKenna, a sophomore engineer. "It's a great crowd to be in."
Main attraction 3 Doors Down came out to a diminished crowd, with the previous gap on the floor now wider than before. After the band ran through the hits "Duck and Run" and "Kryptonite," many in the audience headed for the door. Those who stayed for the remainder of the show, which included a lighter-waving acoustic "Be Like That," were visibly enthused by singer Brad Arnold and his band's approach to modern rock.
SA President Christian Oliver said although the change in date contributed to the sparse attendance (with a beer tent, a "Miss UB" contest, an outdoor setting and Nickelback's performance missing from the show), the Fest itself was nearly flawless.
"I think under the circumstances, the show turned out great," said Oliver. "If Spring Fest could only run as smoothly as this, we'd all be very happy."
Oliver added that from his position behind the stage, "I could see about 20 people deep, and it was really loud and crazy. All the bands were really great, and though Nickelback couldn't be there, Shades Apart was a real surprise."
After the show, freshman Jacquie Smith commented, "More people would have come if it was outside. Outside is just a better atmosphere, if it's set up right, it's great with the sun setting right off the stage."
Louis Salerno, a finance transfer student, said compared to other Fests he'd attended. "This fest is awesome. UB gets better bands than Colgate or Brockport, Colgate had Funkmaster Flex, and nobody there knew who he was anyways."
Maggie Bach, a UB law student, said the best part of the show was "The only reason I came here: Kryptonite."
Would students have shown at the original Fest date?
"I would've gone, I think, it would've been a good idea just to get everything behind you ... I wasn't disappointed when they canceled, though," said Comerford.
Wallin agreed. "I mean, music's supposed to take your mind off things."