SpringFest fills campus with sound
Student Events and WBRS brings four great acts to this year’s concert
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 23:04
On Sunday, the slope of Chapels Field was sprinkled with beach blankets. Despite the 57 degree temperature and the relentless breeze, the sun was high in the sky and students were taking full advantage of spring.
And they kept coming. The pathways that wind through campus were dotted with movement as groups of friends and classmates made their way toward the sound. It permeated the walls of the Shapiro Campus Center and the Goldfarb Library. Occasional thumps and electric shimmers reached as far as the Charles River apartments.
After months of anticipation, it was finally the afternoon of SpringFest 2012. Members of WBRS and Student Events had started preparing on Saturday night and had been up that day since 5:30 a.m., putting together booths and equipment for the four musical acts that had strayed from the well-worn venues of Boston to this grassy field in Waltham.
First up was Ramona Gonzalez, who performs under the name Nite Jewel. With her long dark hair and powerful voice, the singer-songwriter from Los Angeles performed a set that was a mixture of techno and electronic. Donning a ’90s-style vest and cropped top, Nite Jewel played keyboards and sang with the members of her band providing a background of synthetic beats.
Phantogram followed, and while both Phantogram and Nite Jewel had similar styles, it was clear that Phantogram was the crowd favorite. Made up of duo Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter and their accompanying instrumentalists, the group released its first studio album, Eyelid Movies, in 2009. The pair’s haunting vocals soared in the open air, and the strange combination of mystical and electric instrumentation blended seamlessly together.
About halfway through the afternoon, New York City-based fun. took the stage, and there was a stampede of excited students who all wanted to get as close to the band as possible. Nate Ruess, the lead singer, interacted with the crowd, and the band’s lighthearted minimalist sound was perfect for the outdoor concert atmosphere of SpringFest.
Although they did not bring songstress Janelle Monáe with them, backup singer Emily Moore’s vivacious vocals contrasted nicely with Ruess’ signature rasp. The upbeat “All The Pretty Girls” and the band’s newest single, “Some Nights,” had people humming along and cheering. Those who were familiar with the band’s music either mouthed the words to themselves like a prayer or screamed the choruses loudly to show their true fandom. Others waited patiently for the moment that would soon come.
When fun. finally sang their most popular single, “We Are Young,” Ruess urged the audience to sing louder and louder, giving the impromptu sing-along the feeling of an anthem. The whole crowd moved as one, swaying and bouncing and raising their cell phones to snap pictures of the band or record a snippet of “We Are Young” to show off later. The build-up to the performance of this song, which I heard twice in two hours on the radio later that same night, was worth the wait.
After a long interim, headliner Childish Gambino commanded attention. Famous not only for his music but also for his Community role on TV and YouTube cameos, Gambino, whose real name is Donald Glover, drew the largest crowd. By that point, many of the student groups had abandoned their cotton candy and bracelet-making booths, and WBRS was long out of giveaways, but there were more people milling around than there had been all day. Armed with snacks, laptops, homework or whatever else they needed for the long haul, hundreds of students, alumni and other community members were determined to witness the excitement of the final performance for themselves.
Childish Gambino was charming. Up close, his personality really came through in his speech and ability to entertain. The moments of melody in his songs were quite nice, showing off his strong vocals. His rapping was okay, but his overall performance was definitely enhanced by his commitment to strong showmanship. With a mixture of live and recorded backup music as well as a digital display with interesting graphics and lyrics, Childish Gambino’s set was a great way to end the afternoon.
— Tess Raser contributed reporting.