Spring Fest: an alternative affair with Young the Giant, Banks, more

Alt rock spring concert goes over well with many UB students

Students sporting flower headbands and Ray-Bans packed into the Alumni Arena parking lot Saturday for a music fest extravaganza with nice weather and mellow vibes just two weeks after the Bingo Players rattled the inside of Alumni Arena for an EDM fest.

Spring Fest 2015, hosted by the undergraduate Student Association, featured Young the Giant, Banks, Bear Hands, In the Valley Below and The Royal Tongues. The event was open to the public but free to UB undergraduates who pay the $94.75 semesterly mandatory student activity fee.

The concert began at 5 p.m. under clear blue skies, as the Alumni Arena filled with scores of fans, students and visitors alike. It was a change-up to the usual hip-hop concert and last year’s country-themed fest.

The event’s fashion matched the spread of the line up: a motley assortment of wafer-style sunglasses, tank tops, long skirts and flowered crowns shuffled through the crowded lot.

Young the Giant, the headliner of the event, drew a lot of those in attendance.

Senior psychology major Michelle Otero hoped to hear an eclectic lineup of the group’s work. Young the Giant formed in 2004, reaching popularity in 2010 with songs like “Cough Syrup.” Their most recent release is album Mind over Matter.

“I want them to play ‘Mind over Matter,’ but I also want them to play more of their older music,” Otero said. “I feel like usually the [Spring Fest] concert is hip hop, so it’s nice to go to something different.”

Royal Tongues, In the Valley Below, Bear Hands and Banks’ sets took up the majority of day. By the time they had performed and cleared stage, the sun had disappeared, the moon rose above the concert and much of the crowd was getting cold.

Pockets of concertgoers, from impatience or coldness, left before Young the Giant even took stage.

After 30 minutes of waiting, the stage lights were a deep blue when Young the Giant began playing “Slow Dive,” the first song off of their newest album.

The five-member band showcased its youthful vibes; each member of the band exhibited a solid stage presence. Frontman Sameer Gadhia’s strange and quirky stage antics – from his odd vocal warbles and oscillating dance moves – kept the crowd engaged.

The group’s indie rock vibe was mellow at times and at others exhilarating, bringing concert-goers from a slow, side-to-side sway to full-on dancing in a matter of seconds.

At the peak of the concert, Young the Giant rushed onstage in a flood of flashing red, blue, green and purple lights for a short encore set of three songs: “Ignition (Remix),” “Mind Over Matter” and “My Body.”

Before the group started the R. Kelly “Ignition” cover, lead singer Gadhia announced, “We don’t usually play this song, but we’re at a college, so we figured we’d play it tonight.”

Cara and Heather Calmes, sisters from Rochester, drove an hour to see the show.

“We love Young the Giant,” Calmes said. “We drove all the way to Syracuse to see them and they were amazing. I like all of their music, but their newest album is my favorite.”

Not everyone was so enamored with the night’s big act.

Rohan Sment, a sophomore business major, despite being a fan of the band and enjoying the concert, said he felt the band could have brought a little more life into their show.

“I thought that the music was decent, but they didn’t really move the crowd,” Sment said. “I wasn’t terribly impressed, but I am usually a fan of Young the Giant.”

The band played singles off its self-titled album Young the Giant and its newest release Mind Over Matter.

“Anagram” and “Your Apartment” kept the balance between old and new, proving the band was likely determined to please the fans of not only their first album, but also their second.

A general mood of contentment was in the air throughout the evening: students were lounging on the grass and lining the curbs before the opening act, just soaking in the heat and sun.

But while some students enjoyed the fest, others were inside Lockwood studying for finals, as UB’s classes wrap up May 8.

Jefry Taveras, a sophomore psychology and exercise science major, felt like the concert came at the wrong time, too late into the semester.

“Bad timing – if I wasn’t volunteering here I would not be able to go,” Traveras said, one of many members of the UB AFGSA working Spring Fest to fund their temp club. “I’d have to study. I’m sure there are other people who didn’t go because of work.”

The Royal Tongues, a local band of UB graduates Justin Gammella and Aaron Bonus, opened the music festival.

The alternative rock sound echoed through the lot and the duo seemed to love the chance to show off its sound in their hometown, playing for their alma mater.

Next up was In the Valley Below, an indie band just starting to break through the alt rock scene with popular song “Peaches,” which of course they performed.

Frontwoman Angela Gail donned a Russian winter hat and a heavy topcoat (which she ditched halfway through her set) while frontman Jeffrey Jacob wore bright red leather shoes. The duo wowed listeners, playing its popular single as well as other songs on their debut album, The Belt.

The killer, groovy, indie-rock sound seemed louder because of Gail and Jacob’s large on-stage personas. The fashion-conscious duo rocked the concert with their combo of wavy synth-pop and indie rock.

Even though the band wasn’t well known amongst all concertgoers, many appreciated the fresh alternative sound.

“I haven’t really heard of them before,” said Peter Wilkins, a freshman aerospace and mechanical engineering major. “I listened to them a little this morning, and I really enjoyed their sound.”

Bear Hands, the third act of the day, added a strong post-punk punch to the crowd, attracting lovers of grungier genres. The group played singles such as “Bone Digger,” “Giants” and “Agora.”

Bear Hands primarily focused on its newer album, Distraction, which came out in 2014. Its heavy electric guitar and alternative flair make the sound unique from the rest of the lineup for Spring Fest.

Corey Kline, a junior English major, described himself as a huge Bear Hands fan, with a matching band tee to prove it.

For Kline, the night could not have been any better.

“We were waiting in line to get in, and someone from SA was just walking around with wristbands for meet and greets with Young the Giant,” Kline said. “I asked if she had any Bear Hands left. All she had was one left and she made me name a song, but I got the wristband.”

Between the catcalls and compliments, Banks swayed onstage dressed in all black, matching her, dark broody R&B – performing the most captivating set of the night.

Her performance was simple and powerful. For the majority of the set she stood in the middle of the stage, dancing along to the heavy bass and beats in her music. She sang hits off of her newest album, such as “Waiting Game” and the title track “Goddess.”

She utilized the stage lighting to its fullest, as she was the first to perform after the sun had set, and the hazy, neon lights accentuated the mood.

By the end of the concert, the crowd had thinned out substantially, leaving a small audience to scurry back home and out of the late-night Buffalo chill. The dwindling crowd was caused, in part, by exhaustion.

Five straight hours of dancing and head mashing is tiring for even the most dedicated concertgoer.

Tori Roseman is a senior arts editor and can be contacted at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com. Brian Windschitl is an arts editor and can be contacted at brian.windschitl@ubspectrum.com.