When Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was released by Ian Dury back in 1977, the majority of todays college-aged students were not even a twinkle in their parents eyes. However, just because the youth of today may not be familiar with Durys song, many are quite familiar with the concepts it broaches. While risking making generalizations, on college campuses throughout the country one doesnt have to stray too far to find sex or drugs, but the rock & roll part can be a little tougher to find (unless that rock & roll is coming from someones iPod or from a little known student band that the majority of the school, save for the bands closest friends, doesnt care about). This is where the universities step in, with many schools throwing exorbitant amounts of money at bands to get them to play private shows (generally in the spring right before finals) for their students. Ah yes, so is the life of the college student…
On May 8th Stony Brook University (a SUNY school out on Long Island, NY) held Brookfest, an annual end of the year celebration complete with a musical act. This year Stony Brook really outdid itself, managing to secure both indie rock duo Matt & Kim and rapper Wale as headliners, with up-and-coming glam-rockers The Frontier Brothers as support.
As having only been to shows at his own university, this reviewer was eager to see how Stony Brook would pull off a show of such magnitude. It quickly seemed apparent that Stony Brook has done this many times before, and has done it well. The show was held in the Stony Brook University Arena, a multiuse sports facility (home of the Seawolves) at the heart of campus. Upon going through a quick security check (which included full airport style metal detectors and the obligatory body pat-down) concert-goers were greeted with not one, but two stages (so the rockin wouldnt have to stop between acts). An ample standing area/dance floor and available bleacher seating for those students too tired (or maybe just too intoxicated) to stand rounded out the setup.
First up on the main stage was Washington D.C. rapper Wale. Risking more generalizations, it would not be too surprising to think that the majority of Stony Brooks student body, way out in suburbia on Long Island, might not have been the most familiar with the rappers music (at least until he was announced for Brookfest that is, at which point many probably ran online to download his whole catalog). Wale took to the stage at 8:45, decked out in a purple #30 Scottie Pippen NBA All-Star jersey. It didnt take long for him to feel out his audience (many of whom may have never been to a rap show before), and by the end of World Tour (one of his more well known songs that he chose to play early in his set) he had the crowd on his side – singing along with the choruses and catchy hooks, throwing their arms in the air, and fragmenting into smaller groups so they could dance more comfortably and openly with each other.
Wale was a true MC and showman; when he wasnt singing he was throwing down freestyles, thereby showcasing his admirable talents as a true rapper. He really seemed in tune with the Stony Brook students, at one point saying how he loves to ‘get fucked up, which elicited a collective scream of exuberance from all in attendance (how apropos). At another point in his set he said how he wanted to bring some sexy Stony Brook ladies on stage, but it was the school who would not allow it (theres nothing like complementing your audience while calling out the proverbial man (i.e. school administration) to score brownie points). He even went the self-deprecating rout at one point, explaining how he used to play football against Stony Brook, and how Stony Brook would always kick his ass. The crowd ate up every minute of this and, after his set was over, they even called for an encore, which he was happy to oblige them with.
Upon Wales conclusion, there was a quick crowd sing-along to Queens Bohemian Rhapsody as it blared from the public address system, and then all eyes were turned to the second stage, where Austin, Texas The Frontier Brothers had assembled to showcase its brand of glam-rock. To preface this, while the dual stage set up Stony Brook employed was a nice benefit for the students, who didn’t have to sit around doing nothing during set-ups and break-downs, as it related to The Frontier Brothers it actually served as a detriment of sorts. You see, while The Frontier Brothers did put on an entertaining half hour set, the better part of the crowd, not willing to give up their hard fought spots near the main stage barricade for Matt & Kim, seemed contented to just listen to The Frontier Brothers without actually making their way to the second stage to get a good view of them. Many more students took this time as an opportunity to go rest on the bleachers and just listen as well. The one upside to all this, however, was that the fans who did choose to go to the second stage had plenty of room to dance, enjoy themselves, and get nice and close to the band.
At first glance the four members of The Frontier Brothers seemed almost undistinguishable from the Stony Brook student body (except, perhaps, for Marshall Galactic, the lead singer and guitarist, who’s dapper suit and metallic silver eye makeup harkened back to The Killers’ Brandon Flowers). Being young up-and-comers and with feelings that they had something to prove (i.e. that they were worthy enough to share a bill with Matt & Kim), Galactic and Co. kept their stage banter to a minimum, opting instead to showcase their style by rattling off song after song in their abbreviated set. The Frontier Brothers’ songs were just as peculiar as their sound, with topics ranging from political (“Don’t Try and Take My Gun”), to college lowbrow humor (“Burning Panties”), to just plain strange (“How Do You Make Movies When You’re Under The Sea”). Overall, the quartet had a charming awkwardness about them, and while they might not be ‘there’ just quite yet, it would not be too surprising to hear more from them in the coming years.
As soon as The Frontier Brothers had finished, everyones attention turned back to the main stage. Student workers came out from the back carrying monstrous beach balls and bags filled with balloons. After Stony Brook Universitys concert organizers exchanged pleasantries on how awesome the night was thus far,the house lights dimmed and Matt & Kim took to the stage. For those unfamiliar with the indie duo, Matt & Kims music is almost exclusively made up of only percussion (by Kim Schifino) and electronic keyboards (by Matt Johnson). As such, and given the rather limited movement available due to the nature of the instruments, the stage set up was rather basic, with only a drum kit and two keyboards set up next to each other in the middle of the stage. This is not to say, however, that the Brooklyn duos set lacks excitement or flair simply because movement was limited, because, as the lucky Stony Brook University students in attendance would quickly see, this could not be farther from the truth.
Matt & Kim chose to open their set with lesser known Its a Fact (Printed Stained), off the groups 2006 self-titled debut LP. While the album and song may have been unfamiliar with the crowd, at a minimum they were kept entertained with the aforementioned beach balls and balloons that were now bouncing throughout the arena. Matt took an opportunity to introduce himself and his equally lovely band-mate before launching into familiar Grand territory with Good Ol Fashion Nightmare. What became immediately apparent during Matt & Kims set was that even though they were not on the grandest of stages, the duo was genuinely enjoying itself. At one point in the night Matt beamed that this was the first show they ever played on Long Island (which was surprising considering the band hails from Brooklyn, NY) and that they were so happy to be there. Matt & Kim seemed genuinely down to earth and had a certain disarming characteristic to them if you had never heard of the group before you would have never guessed that these same individuals up on that makeshift Stony Brook University stage, playing to maybe one thousand college students, had just recently played in front of tens of thousands of people at Coachella three weeks prior.
Even though, as mentioned earlier, by the nature of the duos instruments they were required to spend most of their set smack dab in the middle of the stage, both Matt and Kim did find plenty of opportunities to interact with their adoring fans. Right before a fun rendition of Better Off Alone (an Alice Deejay cover), Matt emerged from behind his keyboards and jumped off the stage to interact with the crowd near the barrier. A couple of songs later Kim did one better, actually going crowd surfing (while Matt, oddly enough, screamed at/encouraged the crowd to touch her butt). Unfortunately, as quickly as Matt & Kim had taken the stage it was time for them to go. The band closed its set with the always enjoyable, sing-along worthy Daylight. Even though the show was over, both Matt & Kim took an opportunity to thank the Stony Brook University crowd, with Kim personally going up to and hugging every student pressed up against the barrier, while Matt did likewise (although he traded hugs for handshaking and arm grabbing it seemed).
Overall, Brookfest 2010 seemed to be a great success. With three diverse acts to listen to, all in attendance were bound to find at least one they liked, and everyone seemed to go home happy. One Stony Brook University student worker said that this years edition of Brookfest was the best, most grand Brookfest in recent history. Although this reviewer is not a Stony Brook student and doesnt have any prior Brookfest experience for comparison, based on this years concert it is safe to say that that statement is probably not too far from the truth.
Wale Set List (selected):
– World Tour
– Fly Away
– Back in the Gogo
– Sexy Lady
– Pretty Girls
– Beautiful Bliss
Matt & Kim Set List:
– Its a Fact (Printed Stained)
– Good Ol Fashion Nightmare
– I Wanna
– Better Off Alone (Alice Deejay cover)
– Lessons Learned
– Rock and Roll Part 2 (Gary Glitter cover)
– Ready? OK
– Jesse Jane
– Yea Yeah
– The Final Countdown (Europe cover)
– Its Bigger Than Hip-Hop (Dead Prez cover)
Additional photography by Quinn Pennea
Commenters: Has your university held its own spring concerts (or any concerts in general for that matter)? Think your schools’ lineups can top Stony Brook University’s Brookfest 2010? Let us know in the comments!