When Fall Fest first began in 1978, it was a two-day festival of “hours of partying and lines of beer, a tradition that would die out a few years after the drinking age increased to 21 in 1984.”
While the tradition continued in the following years, some say the SA events lost their origins now that they don’t have the festive-like spirit from vendors, beer tents or activities.
Marc Rosenblitt, SA Entertainment Director, remarked in 2012 that he would like to see a return of the carnival-like atmosphere that was prevalent in the early '90s yet it’s unrealistic given how “incredibly high” the costs are.
After the cancellation of this year's Fall Fest, SA has been narrowing down the performing acts for Spring Fest to Denzel Curry and JID.
While there have been notable artists who have visited since 2012 like Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert and Pop Smoke, the concerts have been missing a consistency and it’s not new. SA’s goal of giving the students their top choice on a budget seems like it’s become a distant dream.
One thing that’s telling is that rap and rock have reigned as the genres that have appealed to the collegiate masses — something that SA has remained loyal to in previous years.
And if we take a look at the record of artists that have visited within the last 40 years, dare I say, there is hope for the future of our campus entertainment.
The Goo Goo Dolls (Fall Fest 1991)
Long before the breakthrough of their song “Name” in 1995 and the unprecedented success of “Iris,” the Goo Goo dolls took the stage at Baird Point in 1991. SA’s booking of the band could be considered premature as there was seemingly more anticipation surrounding the annual beer tent and the vendors than the multiple bands set to perform. In fact, The Spectrum reported students’ disappointment over the unpopular choices and there was no mention about the performances.
Alyssa Hantke, a junior sociology major at the time, remarked “It seems like they [SA] didn’t make much of an effort” since previous years had a better selection of bands.
The previous year’s Fall Fest hosted Queen Latifah, student band Monkey Wrench, Israel Vibrations and Savatage which was accompanied by the beer tent as well as the rare addition of a carnival.
The Fall Fest in 1992 hosted a “Rock the Vote” voter registration drive, a movement prompted by MTV to encourage voting amongst the 18-24-year-old demographic.
Nirvana (November 1993)
This month marked 30 years since Nirvana’s performance where over 7,000 students, faculty and locals showed up to see the band after its recent album release, “In Utero,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. “In Utero,” was an album that followed two years after the release of their album, “Nevermind,” which features their most notable song today, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” According to The Spectrum, this was their only official college stop at the time.
When a pit formed, Kurt Cobain advised “If you don’t like it go the f—k home. We got your money.” The ecstatic energy of the mosh pit and people jumping up and down had Alumni Arena “literally shaking”, according to a YouTube comment.
The Spectrum reported that “Heart Shaped Box,” “Rape Me,” “Territorial Pissings,” “Come As You Are,” and “Breed” were evidently the crowd favorites from the “clouds of steam form[ing] above several mosh pits.”
Fans tried to climb onstage and were met with a rough security response which prompted Cobain to yell at security. But after security explained the situation, Cobain apologized. Four people were arrested for possession of marijuana. One out of two people were escorted out for swinging at a security guard.
Twitter user @Jason1411 recalled dying his hair with KoolAid for the performance. A picture in The Spectrum’s issue from the week after captured a fan crowd surfing.
According to The Spectrum’s November 8 issue, the music coordinator for UUAB at the time, Kathleen Duffy, one of Nirvana’s requests in preparation for the show was a massage therapist.
“Some requests sound bizarre” said Duffy, “but if you have to make a living like this you have to take care of yourself.”
Nirvana also ended the show with the opening acts, the Meat Puppets and the Boredoms, “in a slap-stick musical orgy full of destruction and sounds of the accordion, cello, guitar feedback, electronic drums, and of course, screaming galore,” according to The Spectrum.
Kanye West, Keyshia Cole and Fantasia (Fall Fest 2005)
Fresh off the release of “Late Registration,” West stopped at UB on his “Touch the Sky Tour.” The opening acts set for the night were Keyshia Cole and Fantasia. The original lineup included Common until he dropped out a week before. At the time, SA President Dela Yador said it was a fest with a record turnout of over 6,000. 1,100 general admission tickets were sold while 5,000 student tickets were sold, with a few hundred remaining unsold. The last time such a turnout happened was in 2003 when Godsmack and Lil’ Kim had performed.
From high school students to grandmas, West’s up-and-coming stardom attracted anyone and everyone from Rochester and other cities in New York so much so that it overshadowed the talents of Cole and Fantasia.
Not much was reported on Cole’s performance other than her backup singers missing microphones and devising an impromptu grinding routine. As for Fantasia, Sioban A. Counihan, a Spectrum news editor at the time, said “A Green County fifth-grade recorder concert would have been more satisfying than watching Fantasia and her phony cohorts’ cacophonic musical product.”
Meanwhile, West had a purposeful set with a bed onstage where he performed “Spaceship” while lying down. When he hit the alarm clock by his bedside, it triggered a beat switch into classic hip-hop songs including “Get ‘Em High.” At one point, West dedicated a tribute to his grandmother “when he knelt next to a hospital bed and questioned why his grandmother gets denied because she is just a secretary at the local church while an NBA player gets surgery immediately.”
During his performance of “Gold Digger,” West told the audience “To all my white people, this is the only chance you’ll get to say n—a. So join in!” It’s a comment that might not surprise people today given the points of contention that West’s public comments have spawned in the years since his appearance at UB.
For “Diamonds are Forever,” a disco globe emerged and golden confetti rained and while the elaborate set design may have been stunning, some students thought West’s set could’ve ended much earlier. Ben Cassidy, a junior biomedical science student at the time, called his songs “self-indulgent,” but agreed that Mr. West put on a show.
Drake (Fall Fest 2011)
Psych! After the Student Association conducted a survey about who students wanted for Fall Fest, Drake was the students’ choice receiving 1285 out of 3000 undergraduate votes on a list of 19 acts. But that was not who the students got.
Amongst the top eight choices were Nicki Minaj, MGMT, Maroon 5, Deadmau5, Snoop Dogg, Trey Songz, and The Fray. Minaj became out of the question because she was out of the budget range. Four acts were unavailable for the chosen dates and Snoop Dogg had already performed prior in 2007. Although Drake was within the SA budget range, if it rained and they moved the Fest to Alumni Arena, that would mean only 6000 people could see Drake and SA felt like turning people away would be unfair and not worth the expenses. SA was left to announce The Fray as the headliner with opening acts 2AM Club and White Panda to which students erupted in anger because of the outdated and unpopular choices.
At the time, a Spectrum senior life editor called the lineup “nauseating” while a sophomore remarked “Why should I leave class early on a Thursday to see whatever 2AM Club is, a cheap Girl Talk rip-off, and a two-hit wonder from five years ago?”
Yes, Fall Fest used to take place on Thursdays.
According to students, the turnout was noticeably smaller than previous years. The only mention of the Fray’s performance in the Spectrum was that “During the deeper tracks, the crowd was stagnant, but when the band got to their hits the crowd responded with a deafening sing along.”
A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg (Fall Fest 2013)
When the SA resident Nick Johns announced “We’ll release the lineup ASAP,” on Sept. 1, 2013, campus was buzzing with rumors of A$AP Rocky performing. These rumors were then exacerbated by 20 fake Fall Fest posters with mention of A$AP Rocky as a headliner alongside Drake and Big Sean. Within 12 hours, the posters plastered between Capen Library and Student Union by a sophomore who was “bored” were removed by SA. But with rumors lingering, SA released the lineup shortly on Sept. 12, revealing A$AP Rocky as headliner with A$AP Ferg, along with Ace Hood and Super Mario Bros.
Despite the four hours of rain that ensued on the stage at Lake LaSalle, the A$AP Mob had used it as an opportunity to invite fans who “were wild enough to join the crew” to rock with them on stage. 30 members from a crowd of over 3,500 students had joined the Mob. Devoted fans could be spotted with essentials to A$AP attire like Comme des F***down hats, A$AP t-shirts, gold grills and chains. Rocky and Ferg played most of their popular songs and given the release of their albums from that year, “LONG.LIVE.A$AP.” and “Trap Lord,” respectively. SA utilized $159,000 from their $390,000 budget.
Bob Dylan (April Concert 2013)
The legendary artist made the first stop of his “Never Ending Tour” at Alumni Arena with Dawes, a four-piece band from Los Angeles, as his opener. According to the April 8, 2013 issue from the Spectrum, reviews of Dylan’s show in the years preceding 2013 reported Dylan appearing drunk on stage where he would be unable to string a sentence together, but that was unfounded on the arena stage.
He moved to and fro his piano with incredible suave in his shuffling and swaying motions like Elvis with “less hip action.” The times he played his harmonica garnered the loudest crowd reactions and there was nary a finger seen plucking the strings of a guitar that night. He entered the stage without any verbal greeting and left the stage without a verbal farewell. His rare “enthusiasm and vitality” at his age coupled with his strong, charismatic presence was enough for attendees to overlook the absence of his speaking voice.
One attendee, Paul Bergwall, 60, who saw Dylan perform 27 times and attended the show with his daughter, Hannah, 25, called his performance refreshing for the addition of newer releases.
Out of the 4,500 free tickets reserved for undergraduates and 2,000 tickets reserved for the general public by SA, 2,097 students and 1,846 non-students attended.
Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki (Spring Fest 2013)
In 2013, Lamar and Aoki embarked on the “Karmaloop presents Campus Verge Tour,” a tour stopping at 13 colleges. Despite the fests in the last year heavily featuring rap artists like Childish Gambino, French Montana, J. Cole, Rick Ross, and Tyga, the student body remained content with Lamar in the lineup and SA received no negative feedback. Alumni Arena reached capacity with 6,500 in attendance.
Lamar beautifully blended songs from “g.o.o.d. kid, m.A.A.d city” like “Money Trees,” “Backseat Freestyle,” and songs from his 2011 debut album “Section.80.” The stench (or aroma, depending on the person) of marijuana was extremely present during Lamar’s performances of “B—h Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Cartoons & Cereal” and “HiiPower.”
When Lamar had disappeared from the stage to cue Aoki’s set and fans began to leave, they were stunned when he reemerged wearing a UB Bulls basketball jersey. The jersey had his label and collaborator, T.D.E (Top Dawg Entertainment) stitched with the number three.
Besides Aoki, EDM artists, DJ Rosado, 5 & A Dime, Bad Rabbits and Krewella commanded the crowd of the Lamar fans and left them surprised.
Mac Miller (Spring Fest 2016)
This year also rang in the maximum capacity of 6,500 at Alumni. According to the Spectrum, there was a significant increase in attendance compared to the Fests in 2014 and 2015, so much so that the line had to be cut off leaving 500 people outside. This was a considerably more diverse lineup than previous years.
Mac Miller’s presence at UB was kismet as he performed “Donald Trump,” just a week after the Republican presidential candidate had spoken in Buffalo. He also performed other songs like “Loud,” and “Nikes On My Feet” and the crowd’s excitement persisted despite his mic issues. His performance followed Icona Pop’s who performed their most popular hit “I Love It.”
Surprisingly, the Chainsmokers were the headliners of the event despite many students attending to see Miller. There couldn’t have been a better time to book the Chainsmokers as this was their prime time because of their hit songs “Roses,” “Until You Were Gone,” and their most recent release, “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Cyndi Lauper (1984)
Stevie Ray Vaughn (1984)
The Clash (1984)
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1987)
Pat Benatar (1988)
The B-52’s (1989)
George Clinton (1998)
Nas, Lil’ Kim and Godsmack (2003)
Snoop Dogg (2005)
All Time Low (2008)
Travis Scott (2016)
Lil Uzi Vert (2017)
Pop Smoke (2019)
Tenzin Wodhean is an arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com