For many students, the freshman convocation signifies a formal entrance into the GW community. While perhaps much less of an official or traditional welcome to GW, the University’s annual Fall Fest, or concert on the quad, is also an important, albeit different, major college experience for incoming students.
Fall Fest 2006 kicks off Saturday, Sept. 9, on University Yard. In the past, students have flocked to the daylong event for an impressive line-up of national and local talent and student performances. The free t-shirts, amusements and food are also key crowd attractions to the quad, which packed nearly 5,500 attendees last year (that number includes students who exited and entered the quad more than once).
The official line-up for Fall Fest 2006 is expected to draw an even greater crowd than years past, with Chicago-born hip-hop artist Common as this year’s headliner. Common will be preceded by sets from singer/songwriter Emily King, student bands The Sunday Mail and Speak No Evil and various performances from other student groups.
Zach Pentel, Concerts Chair for Program Board, which organizes Fall Fest, said increasing student involvement in choosing talent for Fall Fest was a key goal.
“Facebook was actually an incredibly useful tool for determining student music preferences” he said. After noting some of the more popular artists listed by students, Pentel began the search for national talent to bring to Fall Fest.
“It was incredibly hard to book Common, and it definitely involved some luck,” he said. “The Program Board was looking for artists for about two and a half months. When we realized that Common was available, we were pretty excited.”
Pentel said that Common was one of the top choices to headline the event and added that since Common is not on tour now, “GW is actually one of his only relatively public events in a while.”
Common, who has previously been billed as “Common Sense,” was nominated in the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album and has toured in the past with fellow Chicago-based artist Kanye West, who headlined Spring Fling 2004.
Pentel said that the Program Board strives to book talent that might be on the cusp of really hitting it big. “Common and Emily King definitely appear to be at that point themselves,” he said.
In addition to Kanye West, past GW Fall Fest and Spring Fling performances have included Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Guster and John Mayer, all of whom have been at pivotal points in their careers when they came to GW.
Twenty-one year old New York-based singer/songwriter Emily King is at a particularly important career stage herself as she prepares for the release of her first studio album on J Records in October. King is the daughter of two singers-one African American and one Italian. Her music blends an eclectic range of influences, and has been described as a fusion of hip-hop melodies and soul infused vocals. “Many people may not have heard of Emily King yet, since she has not yet released a single, but she has toured with Common in the past,” said Pentel. “King was actually Common’s recommendation for an opening act for Fall Fest.”
The entertainment line-up for Fall Fest promises to be diverse, with additional performances from GW groups Capital Funk, Troubadours, Aatash, the Vibes and GW Bhangra, who will take the stage at 3:15 p.m. Musical sets from bands The Sunday Mail and Speak No Evil will follow at 4:30 p.m. Final performances from Emily King and Common are scheduled for 6 and 7 p.m., respectively.
Throughout the day, events will include a gladiator joust, a Velcro jumping wall and airbrush tattoos. In addition, the event will provide students with free T-shirts, food and activities presented by corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Zipcar, STA Travel and PNC Bank.
A new addition to this year’s Fall Fest is a Coca-Cola sponsored VIP area to watch the concert. Students can win an opportunity to sit in the VIP area by bringing Coca-Cola products to sponsors.
“I remember Fall Fest as my first real introduction to GW,” said Pentel.
Fall Fest 2006 kicks off Saturday, Sept.9. The event is free to students, staff, and faculty who may bring one guest with every GWorld.