DePaul students let loose at FEST

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Students pack the Quad Friday, May 23 for Childish Gambino at FEST. (Photo courtesy of DAB)

On Friday afternoon, DePaul’s grassy Quad was transformed from a study space to music venue for the highly anticipated FEST. Walkie-talkies incessantly buzzed on the hips of DAB volunteers while equipment and lighting crews prepared for the festival.

Grills were loaded with hot dogs, coolers were packed with drinks and fryers crisped funnel cakes to perfection. After a tormenting week of midterms and unpredictable weather, a sunny Chicago day filled with music and food was just what DePaul students needed.

Earlier this month, DePaul Activities Board (DAB) announced to an energetic crowd in the Student Center Atrium that Washed Out, Local Natives and Childish Gambino would make their way to Chicago for the concert.

Lauren Eisentraut, a junior and marketing coordinator for DAB, explained how much planning and budgeting must happen for FEST to be successful.

“We spend the full school year planning for FEST,” Eisentraut said. “At the first meeting in Fall Quarter, we basically shout out the artists who we want to come. After that, we we figure out who fits in our budget, who isn’t touring and then we give the survey to the student body so they can vote.”

In addition to the three main acts, Bill, The Pony, winner of DAB’s Battle of the Bands, was set to kick off the festivities. The band, consisting of DePaul students Eric Richardson, Ethan Fang, Jake Garcia, Danny Taki and Matt Rodriguez, was energetic during sound check. Students ran from security toward the front of the stage as Bill, The Pony opened up their set.

Their sound is full and summery with an occasional twangy guitar rift, especially the band’s track “Ilsa Lund,” from an EP the band released in December 2012. Bill, The Pony sounds like an experiment between Kings of Leon and Vampire Weekend gone terribly right. As the Quad filled, students danced and clapped along with the opener.

Lead singer and guitarist Eric Richardson said the band was extremely excited to be chosen for FEST. “Our experience was amazing, we had a blast up there,” Richardson said. “We were pretty surprised at the amount of people that showed up for us so early.”

To prepare, the band won two-hour time slots at Music Garage to rehearse. In addition to rehearsal space, the band puts Magic, The Gathering playing cards in their instruments and yells “Pizza!” before they perform.

“We played at After Taste earlier this year, but [FEST] was definitely the most active crowd I’ve ever played for,” Richardson said. “And we have our friends to thank for that.”

Shortly after Bill, The Pony energized the crowd, Washed Out took the stage. Ernest Greene, frontman for Washed Out, is supported by a four-piece band. The singer/songwriter from Perry, GA opened up his set with “It All Feels Right,” arguably his most popular track from his most recent release “Paracosm.”

DePaul students swayed and danced as the set progressed through “New Theory,” “Feel It All Around” and “Eyes Be Closed.” Between songs, Greene laughed as he told the crowd that he’s never seen people crowd surf to chillwave music.

After Washed Out’s short but sweet performance, Local Natives took the stage. The band, reigning from Los Angeles, opened with “Breakers,” the fifth track on their sophomore album “Hummingbird.”

The five-piece band played a wide variety from both their debut and sophomore album, which included crowd favorites “Warning Sign” and “Airplanes.” As the sun began to set behind the stage, lead vocalist Kelcey Ayer said the crowd felt more like a festival in Los Angeles than chilly Chicago.

The band energetically played through the rest of their set, and ended with a loud and passionate rendition of “Sun Hands.” Supporting vocalist and lead guitarist Taylor Rice jumped down from the stage during the finale, and held onto the barricade to sing the last two lines of the track. Students supported Rice as he dangled the microphone in the crowd for everyone to sing along.

With the sun finally down, a smoke machine and strobes were turned on for FEST’s final performer, Childish Gambino. The rapper wasted no time and dove into “I. Crawl” and “II. Worldstar,” both from his 2013 release “Because The Internet.” The now completely overflowing Quad bounced and danced with raised arms to Glover’s genius lines.

According to Rolling Stone, the “actorturned- rapper Childish Gambino wields his nerdiness with newfound confidence, spitting meditations on Internet culture with fluency and ease.”

Regardless of labels for the artist, Childish Gambino’s stage presence on Friday was incredible. Glover jumped around stage and constantly thanked DePaul throughout his set. To finish off, Gambino perfectly performed “II. Earth: The Older Computer” and a crowd favorite, “Bonfire” from his debut album.

As the Quad emptied, students chattered about the artists they saw, and which songs were their favorite. Rain or shine, chillwave or rap, DAB always produces a festival sure to please, and this year was no exception. With FEST’s 30th birthday coming up next year, we can only expect a bigger and better concert in 2015.