The crowd pulsated with anticipation as the smooth downbeats to the beginning of “ROCKABYE BABY” trickled in, signaling Joey Bada$$ was about to take the stage. Blue strobes illuminated the evening sky to light the SpringFest headliner’s entrance, electrifying the stage and audience that swelled forward to meet his awaited verses. Students filled the lawn and scattered across the steps to gain a better vantage point. As Joey Bada$$ rapped “feel the energy surge through my veins when I flow,” energy in the Greek Bowl rose upward, eventually peaking during fan favorites “DEVASTATED” and “TEMPTATION.”
The Brooklyn-born rapper’s performance followed fellow founding Pro-Era member CJ Fly and student DJ Funky Mar for SpringFest 2019 April 6. Programming Board (PB), the student service that manages SpringFest, first announced Joey Bada$$ as the headliner March 1.
The first thing on PB Manager Eli Plvan-Franke’s mind when he woke up the morning of SpringFest was ensuring a smooth and enjoyable day for all students, especially seniors, given the last-minute GoldLink cancellation of 2018.
PB member Isabel Geddes (junior) started her day preparing the greenroom, located in Treehouse, for Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly and their team’s arrival. The night before, Geddes said managers alerted PB that they would arrive at 11 a.m., earlier than anticipated.
After receiving a list of requests for the greenroom from the team’s writer, part of an artist’s team tasked with making requests on their behalf, PB worked to fulfill Joey Bada$$’s specific requests. Geddes said all artists’ lists reflect specific needs, but the one consistency is alcohol.
“They’re always asking for a lot of alcohol, which we have to strike from the writer because we can’t use ASOC money for alcohol,” Geddes said.
Despite the lack of PB-provided alcohol, Joey Bada$$ did receive a number of his other requests, including artisanal Manuka honey (found, after several tries, at Trader Joes), Gillette razors (requested last-minute the day of), fresh fruit and sliced cheese. PB members Anna Holm (senior) and Maya Crawford (senior) spent multiple days prior to Saturday working to purchase his requests, as well as day-of additions. Crawford noticed Joey Bada$$’s list leaned toward the use of all-natural products in place of other brands. Instead of a more mainstream brand of toothpaste, Joey opted for Tom’s.
After the PB team transformed Treehouse Building into a greenroom and provided the artists’ requests, Plvan-Franke (senior) met Joey Bada$$’s manager and crew to show them around and get them situated when they arrived in the early afternoon. PB then reconvened, turning their attention toward the SpringFest afternoon pre-show.
The sun beat down on the quad while KOXY music harmonized with the chatter of students in line for catered local food or the beer garden. Others relaxed on benches or took advantage of the large inflatable bouncy-house provided by PB. Crawford noted the pre-show as a moment of collaboration between Occidental organizations, including KOXY and Occidental Dance Team, who were both featured at the event.
Kevyn Kovesdy (junior), PB event coordinator, said toward the end of the pre-show, they noticed a group of students holding a table over their heads, attempting to leave the quad with it. According to Crawford, fellow PB member Zach Solomon (senior) had to run after them to retrieve the table.
PB Event Coordinator Rhea Bhatia (senior) flew in from a 20-hour flight the day of SpringFest. Despite many hours spent on an airplane, she said she was still excited to help when she arrived to campus at the end of the pre-show. The team then regrouped to prepare for concert setup accompanied by a dinner of Chipotle.
Water coolers, barricades, tables and trash cans were stuffed into golf carts and driven up to the Greek Bowl and set up by PB. The stage was constructed the day prior by an outsourced staging company, according to Plvan-Franke. Although the barricades were the most difficult to set up, their importance became evident when Bhatia characterized her biggest concern leading into the night: the mosh pit.
“I’m always stressed about the mosh pit,” Bhatia said. “We got extra security and the security was so on top of it the whole time. We had five or six security guards just at the barricades looking out for students, which is so important because you can see students getting hurt.”
In fact, a student was injured during the concert. About 20 minutes into Joey Bada$$’s set, Adnan Shihabi (junior) fell to the ground, immobilized due to a leg injury. Although the instance was frightening, Shihabi said people in the crowd made an effort to block anyone from trampling him while other students tried to get him out.
“It all went by so fast,” Shihabi said via email. “Essentially, I was standing at the outskirts of the crowd to the right side of the stage (somewhat near where the moshpit was happening) and I do not think I was surrounded by too many people. Unexpectedly, I see in a blur, a figure moving towards me at a high speed that collides into me and sends me twirling to the ground.”
Shihabi was helped by paramedics, who remained by his side until he left for the emergency room. Despite the injury sustained to his kneecap, Shihabi stayed for the remainder of Joey Bada$$’s set.
“Although the injury brought me a lot of physical pain during the concert, I still tried my best to enjoy the rest of the show by attempting to dance as I sat to the side, injured,” Shihabi said via email.
PB divided themselves among check-in duties, guarding the greenroom and working the front of the concert during the show. While working check-in, Bhatia noted the small interactions between students and staff with a smile.
“You get to see people’s attitudes as they’re coming in which is really fun,” Bhatia said. “We had a student trying to walk in through the bushes — that was interesting.”
With a high turnout and levels of excitement around Joey Bada$$, PB Events Administrator, Kyle Costello (senior), witnessed the powerful crowd surge forward at the start of the headliner’s set, where he was working at the front of the stage.
“I looked down at one of the crash barricades in front of me and one of the legs on it was just buckling,” Costello said. “I’m like. ‘Oh no, this is going to get bad.’ So we had to call out one of the Campus Safety [officers] to come out and fix it in the middle of the performances. It was pretty funny, and overall pretty smooth.”
Although PB members were working during the concert, Geddes said she would be lying if she said they did not also have fun at the concert. Holm previously saw Joey Bada$$ perform while she was abroad in South Africa and has been a fan since. She was excited to be in the front because she could see the faces of people enjoying the show.
According to Plvan-Franke, this was one of the most highly attended SpringFests in his four years. The full Greek Bowl, according to Geddes, was incredibly gratifying as a culmination of the years worth of work leading up to the event.
“It’s in our heads since September,” Geddes said. “We’re just imagining things, kind of picturing it. To see it all come together, it’s a really cool moment.”
Costello said he couldn’t help but be concerned about another artist cancellation similar to SpringFest 2018. After the artists and their teams arrived on Saturday, Costello’s concerns subsided.
“It’s really just the things that you really can’t account for that pop up, and then you just deal with it,” Costello said. “You just got to roll with the punches.”
Once the music hit, Costello felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement rush over him. The show was his senior send-off as a member of PB, which he reflected on with bittersweet satisfaction.
Plvan-Franke said he was impressed with Joey Bada$$’s technical talent and ability to connect with the audience. A long-time fan, “Paper Trails” was his favorite song played and when cleaning up the greenroom post-show, Plvan-Franke scored a sweaty t-shirt the artist left behind.
In reflecting on his third and final year on PB staff, Plvan-Franke expressed gratitude to the number of fellow board members and Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLICE) staff that assisted in the production and execution of the show.
“I think that all in all, I’m really satisfied with how SpringFest went,” Plvan-Franke said. “I’m looking forward to next year to see how they build off this and improve.”
As the show concluded, Kovesdy overheard two students talking, one enthusiastically attributing the night to be the best of their life.
“It really touched my heart,” Kovesdy said. “That’s why we do it.”
After the show, Bhatia noticed single shoes left behind at the concert. She chuckled at the assumption that multiple students left the venue with one shoe on — disillusioned with their single bare foot after the concert.
“We have a bucket of single shoes at the end of the day,” Bhatia said. “I think people are moshing so hard that they are just like, losing their s— everywhere.”
In lieu of rowdy celebration, PB members opted to rest their feet and return to their beds for a night of rest following their highly anticipated 12-hour work day.
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: FUNKY MAR
Catching up with student DJ Mariana Martinez (senior), known on the stage as DJ Funky Mar, I learned more about Funky Mar’s experience at SpringFest as well as reflections on her Occidental student career.
Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals? How do you prepare for a show?
A: I usually spend a week or two before planning out what kind of tracks I want to play and outlining the set. I always want to set a certain vibe that goes with the event I’m playing, I try my best to cater to the crowd but also try and introduce them to new music. Usually before a set I like to listen to more relaxed stuff before I have to go out and play out a more high energy performance.
Q: Where did your stage name, Funky Mar, come from?
A: Since high school friends have always called me Mar. I remember when I first started DJing a friend said I should come up with a name. I’ve always been drawn to funk and house music, and in general am just a funky person. Since then, Funky Mar has stuck!
Q: Are you hoping to continue DJ’ing post-grad?
A: Yes, I’m hoping to become more involved in LA’s scene and beyond when I graduate. Already got a few things lining up, so super stoked for the upcoming opportunities.
Q: If you had to recommend one class for Occidental students, what would it be?
A: Sociology 101!
Q: What’s been your personal anthem for the past semester?
A: Toro Y Moi- Who I Am. A funky track by one of my favorite artists who always reminds me to stay true to myself and my craft!
Q: How did you feel about your SpringFest set? Did you enjoy the sets after you?
A: I felt really good about my set and I had the opportunity to play a variety of tracks from house to disco. I was really pleased with how receptive people were to my set; my goal is to always introduce listeners and the audience to something different but still keep it funky and danceable! Both CJ and Joey brought great energy to their sets and I was really happy to be part of such a great Springfest.
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: JOEY BADA$$
In the chaotic moments after the show, I got a few words in with Joey Bada$$ and his manager. I was still buzzing with energy from his set when we managed to throw together a quick pseudo-interview as the artist introduced himself and interacted with PB members.
Q: If you could teach a college course, what would it be titled?
A: Forensic Science.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom to young aspiring artists?
A: Sharpen your swords!
As Joey Bada$$ met the organizers of the event, he asked them what they enjoyed most and if there was anything he could work on to get better as a performer. Plvan-Franke joked with the artist that his favorite song wasn’t played, to which Joey Bada$$ responded that you have to “leave em’ wanting more.” As the interaction concluded, the headliner encouraged everyone to attend his upcoming July concert in Los Angeles.
“You know the Greek Theater? We’ll be there in July. You know what I’m saying? Come catch it with the fire and all the s—! Much love, catch y’all next time.”