They played the bash — it was a backyard bash
East Campus Courtyard
It was frosty outside in the East Campus courtyard. The crowd didn’t seem to mind it one bit, though. We ended up dancing under the cover of darkness, rock music filling the air. The venue was small — a solitary stage with simple spotlights in the courtyard. Fredfest’s audience was even smaller, but that made the experience more intimate.
The audience’s chatter quieted to the first strums of Fred Desk, a band comprised of EC residents. The deep, ominous voice of the main singer (Jacob Miske ’20) seemed to echo across the EC courtyard, enclosing us with the heavy beats of the drums (Hadrian Merced ’20). The music began with a slow, almost Russian polka-like rhythm, and escalated to a spirited alternative punk vibe with electric guitar solos. The audience, previously resembling Stonehenge figures frozen on the lawn, began to loosen and sway with the emotional tremor of the lead singer’s voice. Fists pumped, heads bopped, and hips swung to the inky, almost eerie energy of their notes. Thirty minutes flew by, final cheers were shouted, and the stage was cleared for the next act.
Without Fred Desk, the courtyard began to feel cold again as the audience waited under the moon. Finally, a group of lumberjack-esque men entered the stage; this was Valleyheart. And oh, did they capture our hearts. For those looking for a song to shout passionately in the midst of midterms (“We’re All Gonna Die”) or to whip your hair to when you’ve had one too many cookies from the dining hall, Valleyheart has got you covered. Their act was a roller coaster ride of emotions, cruising forward with the smooth harmony of the band’s voices and the strident rock pulse of acoustics and drums. As the pink and aqua lights shined across the musicians, it seemed as though they were channeling notes from another world.
Once Valleyheart faded into an outro, there was a short break before Bathouse came on. The night came alive again with the sound of droning guitars. The band pushed the envelope of prog-rock. Unorthodox methods was the name of their game. At one point, they were fiddling with their pickups just to hear a wickedly delicious drone. Fusing together elements of punk, jazz, and psychedelic rock, Bathouse’s performance was a moment to catch our breath after the intense dancing of Valleyheart. This was when blankets were carried down from people’s rooms and spread out on the dark grass. The crowd sat down, immersed in ethereal music.
And then it was all over, just like that. One final guitar solo concluded their set powerfully. Air Traffic Controller was up next, and this was an experience that really highlighted Fredfest’s ability to make an intimate setting. Unlike previous bands, Air Traffic Controller played a tune more akin to folk and electro-pop. The lead singer switched between an electric banjo, to an electric guitar, to an electric acoustic. His energy became contagious.
In the background, a group of friends had started dancing to their catchy tunes. In an instant, the blankets were tossed to the side to make an impromptu dance floor. We were swinging our arms and pumping our fists. The mood of the concert had never been any higher than it was at that moment. So much so, that we were able to get Air Traffic Controller to do one last song for us.
The end of the concert once again reaffirms how special Fredfest is for East Side Culture — a love letter to the quirkiness and the rock that fills its many halls.
Update 11/4/2018: A previous version of this article spelled the band name Fred Desk as Freddesk.