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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Fall Fest Concert Series wasn’t a failure

An unpopular opinion from the king of unpopular opinions

Two years ago and just one week into my college career, I was taking elbows to the face on the floor of Alumni Arena.

I could barely stand up, my now-regrettable oversized T-shirt was drenched in sweat and I was about three songs away from evaporating from dehydration.

I couldn’t believe that Travis Scott was standing right in front of me, orchestrating a massive mosh pit on the same campus I just moved into. It was a dream for a music fan and an unforgettable experience for a future music writer.

But no Student Association festival has since lived up. I haven't felt inspired, moved or even excited by a single SA fest since 2016 – with the exception of Daniel Caesar opening last year’s Spring Fest. 

This all changed Saturday.

Saturday marked the final show of SA’s Fall Fest Concert Series practice run. Many students dismissed the shows for its lineup of former chart-toppers and predicted it to be a failure after SA announced the new three-show series on Twitter.

Those predictions weren’t totally wrong. Attendance didn’t even reach 800 people for the 1,700-seated Center for the Arts at any of the three shows, and the rock-based show only caught the attention of 400 students.

But doubters were wrong about one thing: the format has potential.

Saturday showed it, and the rush into the venue was enough to prove it.

Once SA staff opened doors, we all rushed in, sprinting to the front of the venue and avoided knocking over CFA employees who attempted to moderate the situation.

I’ve never seen this at a UB event before. 

When the show finally started and 700 students filled up the lower section of the venue, audience members sang along to Queen Naija’s entire set, riff for riff, word for word; something that is unprecedented in a UB fest opening act. 

Then Tinashe’s choreography, vocals and overall charm took me completely out of my element. I was more of a fan than a journalist for the first time in a while. I couldn’t find anything to critique. I was on a cloud and sang along to every single song she threw at us.

I didn’t even stay for the entirety of the fest. I stayed for the set I cared about and left.

This made me think.

SA’s fests are meant to attract as many students as possible, even this whole genre and format switch-up had the same purpose. But just like the club’s other events, it should be putting on shows for the students who actually care.  

And the truth is, despite the students that laughed about it and questioned SA’s judgment, a lot of students care. SA just has to find the rest of them.

The students at Saturday’s show were invested and enjoying themselves more than I’ve seen in recent history.

SA needs to catch the attention of those students, and the organization may have just hit the mark on Saturday.

But there’s still two issues in the three-show format: location and talent. 

The Center for the Arts is not meant for general admission concerts. I felt cramped and restricted at my seat when I would’ve rather been squeezed into a general admission pit and tossed around a bit.

These shows would attract much larger numbers outside or in a different general admission venue if Alumni Arena isn’t economically feasible. 

And if American Authors, Ashanti or Vince Staples can’t attract students, maybe more promising small acts can. Maybe we can score Greta Van Fleet, Carly Rae Jepsen or Anderson .Paak. Maybe we can book HAIM, Blood Orange or Pusha-T. The artists are out there to bring more students in, SA just has to find the ones that students care about.

I don’t see this semester’s Fall Fest format as a failure. SA tried something new and now sees its potential. 

I know we’ll never get Travis Scott again, but once SA can hit the mark on talent and location, this format might just be a winner.

And by talent, yes, I mean Carly Rae Jepsen.

Brenton Blanchet is the managing editor and can be reached at and on Twitter @BrentBlanchSpec


Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.



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