Nearing the end of a busy October that included stops in several major cities across the U.S., Kehlani visited Occidental Saturday as the headliner for Fall Fest 2015. With a mix of smooth songs, tantalizing dance skills and candid dialogue with the audience, the R&B singer gave students a performance to remember.
Up-and-coming hip-hop trio Code Green opened for Kehlani and ramped up the energy early on in the evening with upbeat songs like “Killin’ My Soul,” “Too Silly” and “One Way.” Code Green set the tone for a night of high energy and ample dancing for the Oxy community.
The anticipation steadily grew in the Greek Bowl until Kehlani finally emerged on stage sporting a white tank top and camouflage cargo pants. The 20-year-old grabbed the mic and emphatically asked the audience if they were ready for her performance, resulting in a shower of screams.
Kehlani opened with the title track off her sophomore album, “You Should Be Here,” often extending the microphone out to let the crowd sing along. The singer-songwriter went on to perform songs from her debut mixtape “Cloud 19” as well, such as “You Should Be Here.”
With her two back-up dancers by her side, Kehlani wowed the crowd with her provocative choreography.
“I had a lot of fun,” Max Gruber (junior) said. “All in all I thought it was pretty good. She’s a very good dancer, and it sounded like the production was very good.”
Audience members danced to Kehlani’s grooves on the lawn and also higher in the stands. Spotlights — and a snapchat from Kehlani — caught a group of students dancing higher on the steps.
“I really enjoyed Fall Fest and I thought Kehlani was a great performer,” Arianna Sue (sophomore) said. “She had great stage presence.”
Organizing on-campus concerts such as Kehlani’s performance begins long before the semester starts. Programming Board initiated the process in June and began looking into specific artists a couple months ago. According to Programming Board manager Kylie Teller (junior), Kehlani was one of the first artists on Programming Board’s list.
“She was clearly someone who people knew about,” Teller said. “Fall Fest and Springfest are two of the biggest events on campus that usually bring out more than half of the student body, and the importance is giving all Oxy students a chance to come together and enjoy a really fun live event.”
In addition to singing and dancing, Kehlani stopped occasionally to pass on inspirational messages about self-love, women’s strength and embracing the struggles that occur in life. In an interview leading up to the show, Kehlani said she enjoys connecting with college-aged audiences because her messages are particularly relevant to them.
“I really want to let students know that someone their age is going through things that they’re going through and has overcome things that they think they can’t overcome,” Kehlani said. “It’s a good connection.”
Kehlani may only be 20 years old, but the messages and themes of “You Should Be Here” are certainly powerful and are reaching her audiences.
“I want to give everybody a lot of fun, a lot of girl power, a lot of anthems and a lot of dancing,” Kehlani said. “I want everybody to leave here feeling inspired.”