Students lined up more than three hours before Fall Fest’s scheduled start time and waited for hours in relentless, drenching rain as the line to get into Alumni Arena stretched around the University Police Station. They donned plastic ponchos and huddled together under umbrellas in sub-60 degree weather.
But it was all worth it to see openers Isaiah Rashad and Tink, a stellar performance by Jeremih and the headliner and clear man of the night, Big Sean.
Standing in all white, Big Sean performed track after track seamlessly as more than 6,000 fans waved and jumped along to every word in a sold-out Alumni Arena. He ruled the crowd, leading them through chants, waves and middle-fingered salutes – proving why he is one of the biggest rappers in the industry with his commanding performance.
UB students came out in droves Saturday night, filling Alumni Arena to see a hip-hop and R&B-themed show – the fourth year in a row the concert has featured that genre.
The line to get into Alumni Arena began forming hours before the show and wrapped around the University Police Station before the doors even opened at 5 p.m. – an hour before the show’s 6 p.m. start. It moved excruciatingly slow on a day where Buffalo set a new record for inches of rainfall.
Jason Rayle, a freshman computer science major, was near the front of the line when doors opened. He said he had been waiting for about an hour and 45 minutes and had already had to run back to his dorm to drop off his bags after security told him he would not be able to take them in.
In addition to bags, many students brought umbrellas to stay dry in the snaking line. But neither bag nor umbrella was allowed in Alumni Arena. Students had to discard their umbrellas, ponchos and half-drank bottles before entering the arena. Discarded items lined the gated pathways to the doors.
But the weather did not dampen the energy inside Alumni Arena, where Big Sean stole the show and effortlessly entertained a packed crowd.
Matt Ferrer, a freshman chemical engineering major, and his friend, Conor Brosnan, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said Big Sean was hands down the best performer of the night because he knew how to get the crowd going.
“He was the most hype by far,” Ferrer said. “Compared to Rashad or Tink, Big Sean was definitely the best.”
After an action-packed performance by Jeremih and his featured dancers, Big Sean took the stage by storm. He started off with “Paradise,” turning the crowd up and immediately picking up where Jeremih left off.
His biggest hits included “Blessings” and “All Your Fault” from his newest album Dark Sky Paradise, but Big Sean also made sure to play some of his old classics like “Dance (A$$)” and “High” from his first album Finally Famous, to the delight of his fans.
Luis Siguenza, a senior civil engineering major, agreed Big Sean was noticeably the best performer on stage.
“He was most involved with the audience,” Siguenza said. “He talked to us about his past and his life. That helped the crowd connect with him.”
After the performing “One Man Can Change the World,” Big Sean gave his thousands of fans a pep talk.
“Growing up, my family had a lot of debt,” the rapper said. “But look at me here, on stage. If I can do it I know all of you can do way better.”
He also dedicated his track “Blessings” to his grandmother, whom he said played an influential role in his life.
Big Sean’s constant, personal interactions with the crowd were what set him apart as the night’s fan favorite, with Jeremih coming in a close second.
When Jeremih took the stage, he gave the crowd a much-needed energy boost. Concert-goers had grown noticeably restless after the performances of Isaiah Rashad and Tink – students were seen lying on the floor, using selfie sticks and some kids even had a push-up contest in the middle of the arena.
But within the first few beats of Jeremih’s set, the crowd was back on its feet, dancing and singing along to hits “Don’t Tell ’Em” and “Down On Me.”
Samantha Banker, a senior physical therapy major, and Melissa Ebbing, a senior biology major, said Jeremih was their favorite because of his flow.
“Big Sean started and stopped too much; Jeremih played full songs,” Ebbing said.
Jeremih was, perhaps, the most spontaneous of the artists – he surprised the crowd by bringing Natalie La Rose on stage to perform “Somebody” and during his hit “Birthday Sex,” he brought a member of the audience onstage to serenade.
Isaiah Rashad and Tink were not as well received, if only because not many people knew who they were.
Maggie Elliott, a junior nursing major, and Alexa Verra, a junior communication major, said it was just more fun if you could sing all of the words to every song.
“That’s why I liked Jeremih,” Verra said. “I could actually sing along.”
Danielle Endres, a senior administration major, said she thought it would be tough for anyone in the crowd if an hour went by without knowing a song.
Being relatively new artists, Isaiah Rashad and Tink just didn’t have the same crowd harmonizing power like Big Sean and Jeremih do.
The day’s projected weather prompted a venue shift from the parking lot at Baird Point to Alumni Arena on Tuesday. Crews worked for days ensuring appropriate safety procedures were in place and the technical aspects of the show were set up. The arena was dimly lit by the pale ceiling lights and a soundboard stood across from the stage, wedged between two large projectors on either side. The two projectors were welcome new additions since the last indoor concert, Electric Tundra, was held last spring, helping all members of the crowd see the action.
The performers cost the Student Association $163,700, nearly half of SA’s $390,000 entertainment budget. Fall Fest and its spring counterpart, Spring Fest, are funded by undergraduate students through the mandatory student activity fee of $104.75 per semester.
Additional reporting by Kenneth Kashif Thomas.
Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com.