Occidental students flowed into the Upper Soccer Field March 19 for the annual SpringFest, headlined by rapper Flo Milli and opened by student performers Cole Tremblay (junior), also known as Bond., and Alexis Chang (first year), who goes by DJ Lexos.
Artist Flo Milli, 22, who is from Alabama, performed a handful of hits including “In The Party,” “Beef FloMix” and her recently released single “PBC” — meaning “pretty, Black, cute.”
Occidental Programming Board organized the event, at which there was a Kogi BBQ food truck that provided free food for the first 300 students that arrived. The board’s programming manager, Katie Benmar (senior), said the board has been planning for SpringFest since November 2021, and experienced some challenges during the process.
“We hit a lot of roadblocks along the way, the biggest one being that the Greek Bowl couldn’t be used this year because it was being renovated,” Benmar said. “But I think it kind of worked out in the end because I think the vibe was really good. It felt more like a festival, rather than like you’re going to a school concert.”
Benmar said Flo Milli has been atop Programming Board’s list of desired artists since after FallFest in October 2021.
“We specifically wanted to highlight a female artist for SpringFest,” Benmar said. “So we thought [Flo Milli] would be perfect for a high-energy show.”
Up first, Tremblay performed his original songs, which he described as alternative pop, drums and bass.
Tremblay was joined onstage by his best friend of 13 years and musical collaborator of five, Kyle Stone, who flew in from Boston for the show.
“It felt like it all paid off, all the work we put in,” Stone said.
Tremblay said he fed off the crowd’s energy as he started the night.
“I really couldn’t ask for a better crowd,” Tremblay said. “There were certain chants and clapping. They pulled out their phone flashlights when I asked them to.”
Tremblay said the audience was so loud that he did not have time to talk in between songs — but he liked the interruption.
“I had planned this whole thing, like what I was gonna say between songs and explaining the context of each song,” Tremblay said. “But [the crowd] just kept yelling. That’s a good unexpected thing to happen.”
After Tremblay, Chang was joined onstage by her partner Shae Campbell (first year) and manager, Kaila Spearman, who is Chang’s close friend from home in Connecticut. Campbell and Chang recently performed together at Apollo Night and came in second place overall.
Chang said SpringFest was the biggest crowd they had ever performed for, but having Campbell and Spearman alongside them made everything feel more normal.
“Kaila and Shae are both people who are extremely grounding to me and very supportive,” Chang said. “I felt like I was just in my room with my DJ set with Shae dancing.”
Campbell, who typically dances to Chang’s sets in one of their rooms, said she initially did not want to dance during Chang’s set. But once she was on stage, she decided to go for it.
“My dancing, that’s something that I do to Alexis’ sets, when we’re just having fun in a room and also when we’re just hanging out with our friends, so doing it for a crowd was just crazy,” Campbell said.
Chang described their DJ style as having many different types of upbeat music.
“I DJ a lot — from 90s hip-hop, to hip-hop today, to Afro beats to R&B,” Chang said. “I’m just trying to carry positive energy. What I love to do is bring people together through my music and my mixes.”
Chang, who has been listening to Flo Milli since 2017, said performing on the same stage as one of her idols added to the excitement.
“I’ve been such a big fan for so long, so this is very crazy for me,” Chang said.
Chang said seeing their friends in the crowd cheering them on made them even more excited to take the stage.
“I’m just excited to be able to get exposure within this community but also just to see so many people that I love a lot at this school [in the audience],” Chang said.
When Flo Milli took the stage at 10 p.m. donning an all-red outfit, attendee Matthew Vickers* (first year) said the crowd took it to another level.
“The crowd was pulsing. It was roaring at the sight of Flo Milli,” Vickers said. “[It was] quite a sight to see people atop of shoulders, people launching themselves from the ground to see the show. Everyone was having a spectacular time and everyone was having a ball.”
Chang said she felt Flo Milli was a natural performer and had a good time interacting with the crowd.
“She came right in front of us,” Chang said. “She’s just really interactive with the crowd. Yeah, just super special because not all artists do that.”
Maddie Dieffenbach (junior) said Flo Milli took her phone and recorded herself singing during the song “May I.”
“I just kind of reached my hand out with my phone in my hand and I didn’t actually expect her to take it,” Dieffenbach said. “It happened so quickly and suddenly, my phone was in her hand, and she was taking a video and I was just in shock.”
Kenya Sterns (junior) said she was in the front row, screaming and cheering during the show when Flo Milli did the same with her phone.
“I was losing my mind,” Stearns said. “I know that everyone on campus was so excited for [her performance].”
Dieffenbach said she feels Flo Milli embodies Black female empowerment.
“It’s really admirable to see a Black woman my age on stage and talking her talk,” Dieffenbach said. “She said what she came to say and I just love the whole unapologetically herself aspect of her — just obsessed.”
Benmar said she feels really good about how SpringFest was received by students, especially after all the hard work and planning that went into the event.
“I’m just happy that the tradition of SpringFest is renewed,” Benmar said. “A lot of student organizations are having the same issue as Oxy students, sort of not understanding the presence that they had on campus.”
*Matthew Vickers is a staff writer for The Occidental.