A sold-out crowd anxiously awaited the doors of Elting Gym to swing open for this years installment of SUNY New Paltz’s annual SpringFest.
Students and guests alike packed into the transformed gym that felt like a venue in Manhattan and were greeted by Brooklyn-based indie rockers Active Bird Community.
The band, who’s been playing basements in New Paltz for years, got the chance to perform on a much bigger scale and in response serenaded the audience with delightful and spring-like tunes that captivated fans and reeled newbies into their music.
Relatable lyrics such as “Sometimes I just feel like a stupid loser wasting time,” and “I had two weeks of bad dreams / now I’m living off caffeine,” deal with feelings everyone experiences growing up, especially at such a diverging point like college and the years following.
Active Bird Community lead guitarist Andrew Wolfson said that as a recent graduate of SUNY New Paltz, the performance was especially sentimental to him since he has always enjoyed the myriad of acts that play every year at SpringFest.
“My senior year of college I was approached by a peer about the possibility of Active Bird Community opening that year’s SpringFest,” Wolfson said. “Unfortunately this idea did not come to fruition, but a year later we received a text from our booker letting us know that we would be playing SpringFest at SUNY New Paltz and needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise.”
Following Active Bird Community was the artist formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., now abbreviated to the more straightforward JR JR.
The lights dropped as the indie-pop outfit from Detroit decked out in New Paltz garb took the stage and built off the performance before them, incorporating many different elements into their music instrumentally, while having a groovy stage presence that made you like them even if you had never heard their music before.
“When I had the other four artists on the bill already booked, I wanted another alternative rock band to complete the lineup,” said vice president of programming and concert organizer Jay Brown. “Getting JR JR was the last piece to complete the puzzle.”
The show changed its pace after JR JR completed their set, as up to bat next was Englewood, New Jersey-based Rashard Bradshaw, better known by his stage name, “Cakes da Killa.”
Cakes acted as a perfect transition from the two genres of music present at the show: alternative and hip-hop.
The outspoken, funny and charming artist was perhaps the most interactive of all the performers, often talking to the audience and cracking jokes between songs.
With sweat dripping from his brow that he regularly shook off, Cakes performed one of his most popular songs, “New Phone (Who Dis).” He shouted “new phone!” and the crowd yelled back “who dis?!” which would get louder with each response.
“Originally, we tried to get Princess Nokia to play, but she wasn’t able to,” Brown said. “However, Princess Nokia’s booker also represents Cakes so we were able to get him and he really worked as the perfect transitional act.”
Brown added that while they weren’t able to have a woman of color on stage, it was great to have a LGBTQIA+ performer of color in her place.
The Underachievers and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie rounded out the rest of the lineup and delivered back-to-back strong performances to close out the evening, which for a little while was concerning, as The Underachievers ran into some problems off-campus which forced them to be 15 minutes late for their set.
According to Brown, this was the first time that the winner of the artist survey sent out annually for potential performers won and was able to play.
“Everything went really well, despite a few hiccups which is to be expected,” Brown said. “This was the first year we had five artists and I think it set the tone for future shows which is really phenomenal.”
Brown, who has been involved in the music scene and has booked shows since she was a teenager said that the feedback she got was exceptional.
“The lineup of this show is what my brain looks like,” Brown said regarding the eclectic bill. “Even if I can’t have all 8,000 students there, I was able to provide a little something for everyone.”