Posted by Matt D'Ippolito on 05/02 at 12:28 PM
Movin’ On 2012 was easily the best one Penn State has had in at least the last four years, speaking from experience. After a long line of lackluster headliners and poor or mediocre lineups, we finally got the well-balanced lineup we deserve. So how did it pan out?
Well, while little-known acts like David Mayfield Parade surprised the audience with great sets and rising stars like Young the Giant were equally well-received with incredible jam sessions, the headliners sealed the deal with an excellent show. Whereas Less Than Jake sounded washed up two years ago and The Spill Canvas was largely ignored by students before that, Ludacris pumped up the crowd with a strong set, despite DJ problems, and the Avett Brothers put on one hell of a show. But let’s start at the beginning.
I’m pretty sure the local openers’ sets were shortened because Movin’ On was running about 10 minutes late. Organizers also forgot to factor in time for setting up and tearing down equipment for each act. So Keegan Tawa’s and Wondershop Showdown’s half hour sets were more like 20 minutes, which I don’t think was fair to them. It also didn’t help them that the festival started so early, because many students were still in class at 3 p.m. on a Friday.
So, unfortunately, Keegan Tawa played to a small crowd that wasn’t moving much. I’m still not sure that mid-afternoon at a music festival featuring mostly folk and rock acts was the best atmosphere for EDM, but Keegan but on a fun show that sounded pretty good. Wondershop Showdown had a very high energy set despite the still mostly unresponsive crowd. There were some slight timing issues during one or two songs, but that’s to be expected with a nine-piece band. They’re stage presence also could have been a little better, based on what I saw at the Battle of the Bands, since their hornline didn’t move much. That’s understandable, though, as anyone who’s ever played a wind instrument can tell you it’s hard to move a lot and play at the same time. I’d rather have a good sound anyway.
The only other problems during this set were minor feedback issues from the sound guys. By the time Wondershop closed with Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out,” the crowd was finally responding a little more. Overall, they provided a fun, rocking atmosphere to start off the evening.
David Mayfield Parade exploded on stage next with indescribable energy. Clearly I didn’t have him pegged quite right when I wrote my preview. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the band, or Mayfield himself, but he turned out to be quite the performer, making seductive faces and striking provocative poses to add a little comedy to his act. The surprised crowd immediately drew closer to the stage, loving it. During a rendition of “Trapped Under the Ice” by his sister’s band Cadillac Sky, he went into a call and response with the audience over the phrase “I am a monkey in a cage!” and occassionally throwing in “I do not need a microphone,” since he was shouting from the edge of the stage. One woman shouted “Give it to us David! Come on, baby!” during a lull in a song, to which he responded by dropping his guitar pick, pulling a face and making a big show of bending over and showing off his posterior as he picked it back up. It drew big laughs.
“How many of you, this is your first time seeing us?” he asked. Most hands went up. “How many of you this is your last?” he followed up with a wink. Then, to a solitary hand being raised by another beardy fellow, he shouted, “My own brother raised his hand!”
The man clearly knows how to work a stage. But after the first few songs, he lost a lot of energy and dove into slower ballads and sad songs. To close, the rest of the band left the stage as he launched into a solo electric-acoustic act with an incredibly long wail. He sprinkled in some crazy guitar maneuvers accompanied by vocals that reminded me of the Soggy Bottom Boys.
Young the Giant got a huge reaction from the now-sizable crowd when they took the stage. Frontman Sameer Gadhia used two mics for the set, a typical dynamic mic and an old-timey looking one with some pretty intense reverb effect that gave his voice an ethereal, echoing sound. After their first song, Gadhia began pumping up the crowd for the upcoming acts before adding a casual, “Oh, we’re Young the Giant, by the way.” Then they launched into their second song, “Guns Out,” which had girls screaming for the singer as he girated and shook to the beat. The third song built into a wall of sound made up of thrashing guitars and vocal screams, before starting to violently pound his tambourine on one of François Comtois’ cymbals.
The crowd perked up even more at the start of “Cough Syrup,” but the cold and wind caused more huddling than dancing. The band also played their new song, “Camera,” a mellow, drifting piece with thick guitar and keyboard floating over a relaxed drumbeat. It lent itself well to Gadhia’s carefree vocal style. The band closed with their hit, “My Body,” which got the biggest reaction to that point with people jumping up and down or clapping in time to the music. At one point, the entire audience began waving its arms back and forth in the air along with Gadhia. By the close of their set, the crowd had ballooned, and swarms of the kids looking for a rock show left as the hippies and hip hop heads started arriving early for the Franti and Luda sets.
Franti started his set by pumping up the crowd, jumping off the stage and climbing atop the barrier in front of the audience with his bare feet, spitting rhymes in their faces. The distinct smell of weed began wafting about the front of the audience no more than five minutes into his set. After bouncing around the stage some more, he came back down the center aisle of the audience to jam on his guitar with the Spearhead guitarist during “Sound of Sunshine.”
Later in the set, he invited two kids out to jam with the band, introducing them as Mitch and Bridget, as the guitarists all drove into a shortened rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” In the middle of another song, the band would slip in and out of Train’s “Soul Sister.” When other bandmembers would join in for backing vocals during the set, there were occasionally some pitch problems. But the audience didn’t seem to mind.
When Ludacris came on, though, the hip hop fans started arriving in swarms, filling the space on the field well past the sound system control boards. Luda decided to test the crowds early on, shouting “I don’t think y’all are real Ludacris fans. I think y’all are just sayin’ that ‘cause I’m in front of y’all. I think I’ma have to test you out.” The audience went wild for this, as well as plenty of other quotable moments. After the next song he admitted “It looks like y’all are Ludacris fans!” Other crowd favorites included, “I’ve got too many hits to remember sometimes,” and the point at which he and his partner on stage, Lil Fate, each picked a side of the audience and had their side flip off the other and shout “F*** that side!” with DJ Infamous playing record scratch beats to each word of the shout. Luda would later put on a Penn State hat to mass cheers.
Most of Luda’s set was solid, with hits like “Blueberry Yum Yum,” “What’s Your Fantasy” and closer “Move Bitch” drawing huge reactions from a largely inebriated audience. He proved that he still has a quick and smooth flow and hasn’t slowed down one bit since Back for the First Time was released more than a decade ago. The only problems with his set were that he kept a lot of his songs short and kept rapping short parts he had in more recent collaborations. More full-length raps might’ve been nice.
The other problem was his DJ. During Luda’s “Break Your Heart” remix, I thought there might be a problem with the sound system because the sound kept cutting out at awkward moments and fading in and out during the song. I soon realized, when this started happening in other songs, that it was DJ Infamous doing it on purpous. Maybe he was trying to get the audience to sing parts a capella or something, but it sounded awful. And worst of all, Ludacris turned the reigns over to him for a few songs and all he did was hit play on a few Top 40 hits. And during the first one, Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” he kept cutting out to shout things at the audience like some sort of awkward hype man.
Despite the lackluster DJ and a few creepy references from Luda about getting “Penn State head” from Penn State girls and asking who wanted to get kidnapped by him, he had a good set. And the best part was when he asked for all the Penn State smokers to raise their hands before “Blueberry Yum Yum” and then asked where all his alcoholics at, at which point one of the drunkest kids I’ve ever seen barely stumbled past me and right into a police officer. There you go, Luda.
After Luda, masses of rap fans left and were replaced by all the folk-heads. Beyond that, not much changed about the audience. The smell of dank weed remained, as did the sounds of beer cans being kicked around.
The Avett Brothers’ set was also really fantastic and energy-packed, so much so that they almost seemed like more of a rock band than a folk act. In fact, Scott went through multiple banjos, shredding the strings on each after every few songs. The beautiful harmonization between the brothers sounded great on “Shame” and their vocal conversations in the midst of songs like “Denouncing November Blue (Uneasy Writer)” really kept the pace of the show lively and pushed them along. Their slower songs, on the other hand, could probably make even the coldest, most jaded cynic want to stare into the eyes of a special someone.
During “Down with a Glistening Shine,” their cellist pulled his usual gimmick of waltzing with his instrument, which was really cool. The guy was crazy to see on stage, especially when he rocked out and his flowing black hair swished about his face. When they played “January Wedding” the lighters came out in the audience, the flames waving back and forth, barely staying lit in the wind.
Despite the fact that it was freezing out, making the environment a little miserable, and a few problems that the Avett Brothers tend to have (such as a slightly harsh falsetto, and a hoarse quality about their voices once they started getting fatigued) it was yet another enjoyable set. And I was able to keep warm by rocking out to songs like “At the Beach.” During “I Killed Sally’s Lover,” the whole audience started audibly stomping along to the sort of backcountry bluegrass-tinged tune.
The band even changed things up a bit by adding a plodding staccato beat to one of the verses in “I and Love and You,” which saw many of the longtime fans doing the hand motions that typically accompany the song: putting up a finger for each word in “I love you” as the title was sung. Seth’s vocals turned into screams in the climax of “Kick Drum Heart” as the passion of the song overtook him. After the shouts of “one more song” from the crowd, the band quickly returned for an encore, saying “We’d love to, Penn State, thanks for asking,” polite as ever. And then they rocked “Talk On Indolence.” They rocked it hard. And as they repeated the line “Because we had to,” they would each thank the students for coming and hint that everyone should see them on tour later, claiming they’d see us all again soon between each repetition.
Author: Matt D'Ippolito
Bio: Matthew D’Ippolito is currently a senior majoring in print journalism at Penn State with minors in political science and music technology. He plans on writing for Rolling Stone or Variety one day. Matt enjoys reading, playing sax, hiking and fishing. He enjoys a wide variety of music, but some favorites are punk, indie rock, classic rock, dubstep, jazz and classical. His favorite bands at the moment are Titus Andronicus, Streetlight Manifesto, Cloud Cult, Explosions in the Sky and ZOX.
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