Vince Staples, Taylor Bennett mend raps with dance, rock during 2018 Fall Fest

Students impressed with concert format changes, intimacy in Center for the Arts

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Despite a change of scenery, the Student Association’s annual Fall Fest found an unlikely and comfortable home in the Center for the Arts on Friday.

Roughly 600 undergraduate students attended the first of three Fall Fest concerts. Friday’s show focused on rap and R&B performances, headlined by West Coast rapper Vince Staples. The show received support from opening acts Blaise Moore, an alternative R&B act, and Taylor Bennett, a Chicago genre-fluid rapper.

SA Entertainment Director Sandeep Chakravarthy did not provide the first Fall Fest show’s budget to The Spectrum in time for publication. On August 20, SA allocated $86,200 toward “concert talent for fall programming” and $57,000 toward “concert production for fall programming” — a grand total of $143,200. The fest was funded through the mandatory student activity fee of $104.75 per semester.

The roughly 600 students in attendance comes in light of SA’s changes toward the annual fest format, a move based off declining attendance numbers. Between 2016 and 2017, the festival attendance dropped by roughly 2,000 students. All three shows will be held in the CFA, which has a capacity of 1,744. Last semester, 3,281 students attended Spring Fest.  Chakravarthy did not provide an official student attendance number to The Spectrum in time for publication.

Most students The Spectrum talked to appreciated the CFA’s enclosed space, although the venue’s screwed-in seats forced students into confining themselves to their rows. The event also had no major crowd disturbances, police incidents or ambulance runs, according to Chakravarthy.

The show started at roughly 8 p.m., with Blaise Moore’s airy aesthetics veiling her love-induced lines. The singer did her best to set the mood with an electropop feel, backed by a lone emotionless producer behind a synthesizer. The singer displayed much of the same qualities as 2015 Spring Fest alternative R&B singer Banks, despite not having Banks’ more feeling-heavy standards.

Through the snoozy tone set by Moore, she contorted herself and her audience into a bit of a musical trance. It worked for some, while others weren’t as engaged.

A number of students laughed at times during the performance, but it didn’t shake Moore, who closed to moderate reception from the student audience.

Taylor Bennett followed the opening act, introducing a higher level of energy to the audience. Students rose out of their seats at his entrance and filled the small, open space in front of the stage. Bennett’s set featured a guitarist and drum kit, which grounded his music’s tone in rock.

Bennett jumped between low and high energy songs, leaving the audience audibly confused. The performer attempted to keep the energy high throughout his set by interacting with the audience and commanding a reaction. Student energy peaked during his set with his performance of “Broad Shoulders,” Bennett’s single featuring his brother, Chance the Rapper.

John Genovesi, a junior environmental science major, said he was still disappointed in the notoriety of the lineup.

“In previous years we have had way more popular artists. I’m just here to see Vince Staples,” Genovesi said. “The combination of artists is really weird, too. I didn’t enjoy the first act at all, and the openers should really compliment the headliner.”

Jordan Wright, a sophomore aerospace engineering major, said he loved how “loud and close” the venue was during Bennett’s performance.

“It was incredible, I’ve been listening to Bennett since 2016, so I loved every minute of his performance,” Wright said. “I’ve got a list of so many artists I want to see perform at Fall Fest, so I’ll have to recommend them to SA.”

The audience filed to the front of the stage and up the center aisle in anticipation for Vince Staples’ set around 9:50 p.m. Staples appeared on stage through a sea of smoke and opened with his most recent release, “Get The F—k Off My D—k.”

His theatrical performance was filled with pumps of heavy fog and lighting effects. The performance also featured an erratic abundance of strobe lighting, which sent multiple audience members back down into their seats. 

Fan favorites, such as “Blue Suede” and “BagBak” drew heavy crowd participation, as the rapper’s bars harshly leaned on rapidfire dance beats and deafening bass tactics. Staples maintained a high energy throughout his performance, only trailing off to perform a slower song once.

Staples’ set reached the pinnacle of energy throughout the night and left fans in a frenzy. Students sat on each others shoulders and climbed onto seats to compensate for the restrictive venue. Fans danced and sang along to the entirety of Staples’ performance.

Staples ended his performance on a wholesome note, reminding the audience to stay in school and follow their dreams.

Despite most students showing appreciation toward the Fall Fest changes, some students, such as David Reuveni, compared the new venue to a “middle school auditorium.”

“I’m a senior right now, in years past I’ve been to fest when it was in Alumni Arena in a larger space where you could move around,” said Reuveni, a senior accounting major.

“I feel robbed, this is not fun and it’s not fair. You just can’t take $100+ from me and do something like this. For me, fest has been getting progressively worse.”

Reuveni said he suggests SA should “think like young people” and consider venues with “more room” for students “to dance.”

Other students, such as Mike Cunico, a junior civil engineering major, loved SA’s musical selections. Cunico said he was “super stoked” to attend his first fall fest and was excited to see Bennett and Staples in person.

“My favorite part of Vince’s [set] was the closer, ‘Yeah Right,’ that was one of my favorite songs he did as well as ‘Norf Norf,’” Cunico said. “For Taylor, I felt like he was really engaged with the audience and I had a lot of fun listening to him tonight.” 

The next concert in the Fall Fest Concert Series will feature rock acts American Authors and duo Matt and Kim on Oct. 6 at the CFA. Students can register for tickets now on SA’s website.

Samantha Vargas and Benjamin Blanchet are editors and can be reached at samantha.vargas@ubspectrum.com and benjamin.blanchet@ubpsectrum.com and @SamVargasArts and @BenjaminUBSpec on Twitter.