Fall Fest changes tune from dance party to rock show

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Carly Stern.

Indie-rock band Cold War Kids electrified the crowd Saturday at this year’s Fall Fest, which featured a rock band for the first time in years.

While past headliners such as Timeflies and Diplo provided high-energy and bass-heavy shows, this year’s main act gave University Yard a guitar-laden performance and a variety of lyrical and melodic ingenuity.

Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett invigorated the crowd with his bandmates Saturday. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Liz Moses, the executive chair of Program Board, said showcasing a rock back over a DJ was both a deliberate and somewhat risky choice.

“We’ve taken our artists in a little bit of a different direction,” Moses said. “We’re testing the waters, trying some different genres.”

Bencoolen, an up-and-coming indie-rock group, was the second student act to open for a University-wide concert. At last year’s Spring Fling, student DJ Haile Supreme kicked off the outdoor show. Moses has said that Program Board is consciously looking to feature more students at its events, with the winner of the first-ever GW’s Got Talent competition to open for this academic year’s Spring Fling.

Hundreds of students lounged on the grass Saturday, taking in the last bit of summer during the performances of Bencoolen and fellow opener Moses Sumney, an R&B-funk fusion solo artist.

Crowds rushed to front of the yard and began pumping fists and singing along as Cold War Kids took the stage. The band’s setlist ranged from fan favorites like “We Used To Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry” to the unreleased single, “Hot Cold.”

Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Student-led band Bencoolen opened for Fall Fest, bringing indie-rock and alternative-rock sounds to University Yard. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The band members presented their tight set with an initial burst of fervor and followed with a steady-spirited, yet relaxed, mood – matching students’ energy and enthusiasm.

Before the concert, tables dotting the yard handed out free food and giveaways. The 9:30 Club offered the chance to win free tickets to shows like Grouplove, while Sweetgreen passed out free salad samples and a mechanical bull gave rides to brave students.

The move away from an electronic set drew mixed reactions from concertgoers. Some, such as senior Nicole Goldberg, wished for the more dance-friendly acts of the past.

“When I was here we’ve had Diplo and Girl Talk. So, yeah, it kind of shifted. I feel, you know, getting ready for the school year, you feel more upbeat with a DJ playing,” Goldberg said.

Freshman Mike Larken took a more optimistic perspective, saying he was grateful for the exposure to lesser-known bands. Larken hadn’t heard of Cold War Kids before, but he said he was pleasantly surprised by the group’s repertoire.

“I didn’t really know the band, and then they came on and played some pretty sick stuff,” Larken said. “I would definitely see them again.”

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