Macalester students headed to Shaw field last Saturday for Springfest, the College’s annual music festival. Grammy-winning bassist Thundercat headlined the show, preceded by a performance by DJ Sango. Student band Fidel and Brazilian drum group Zabumba performed earlier in the day.
Concerns about the weather did not faze the Macalester Concerts and Festivals board, which posted on their Facebook page the day before the festival, “Springfest 2k16. Will. Be. Outside.” Their determination to keep the concert outside was rewarded with a warm and sunny day. Students and members of the public spent the afternoon dancing, buying Springfest t-shirts and enjoying the food trucks and shimmering gold face paint. Sango’s trap-inspired beats sampled from Kanye West and even a Portuguese version of Hotline Bling.
Following Sango’s set, Thundercat took the stage with his three-piece band, treating the audience to his unique jazz and funk-influenced set. The audience cheered and danced, and were especially enthusiastic to hear his hit song, “Them Changes.” Thundercat, who was especially amused by a group that began doing the electric slide during his set, joked and bantered with the audience throughout the concert.
Following their performances, both Sango and Thundercat took time to interact with the student body taking pictures and chatting. Sango even spoke with a student in Portuguese, complimenting her on her natural accent.
Kavya Shetty ’19 enjoyed the opportunity to relax at Springfest. “I also think it’s really fun to listen to music and enjoy a nice summery, spring day. It’s nice to enjoy the weather before we start studying for finals.” Tillie Pederson ’19, also a first year, agreed, “It’s a good stress relief.” Shetty and Pederson also enjoyed the food trucks, especially Chopsticks. “It’s a nice little break from Cafe Mac,” Shetty said. They agreed the food was tasty, but, as with food at any music festival, wished the price could have been lower. “With the vouchers, it’s not bad, but for the people who didn’t get them, it’s more expensive,” Pederson added.
A senior, who wished only to be identified as Rainbow Superstar, offered some constructive criticism in her feedback of Springfest. “I think, honestly, technology has a lot to do with it,” she said. “There is a stage very far away and maybe it’s fun if you’re in the first row, but even at a short distance it sounds kind of like noise, so maybe they should get a better sound system and maybe more lyrics-oriented artists could pick the event up.”
Reflecting back on the event, Concerts and Festivals coordinator Will Siskel ’17 was pleased with how the show turned out, especially given the worries about rain. “I’d say that the real headliner was probably the weather in terms of setting the tone for the event,” Siskel said. “From the time I got up to the time the show ended, it was just beautiful outside, in a way that vibed with the music, and helped create, from what I’ve heard from some people, an overall good atmosphere for a show.”
In getting Thundercat as the headliner, Siskel was experimenting with a new kind of sound for Springfest. “I think the stark difference between Thundercat and artists from years past has been musicianship, and his artistic craft, and how talented of a musician he is,” Siskel said. “That was a huge shift, and obviously one that I was cognizant and aware that, hey, this is a little different from Rae Sremmurd, this is a little different from Danny Brown.”
Siskel was satisfied with his choice to shift Springfest to a more musicianship-focussed festival. “It was a really open, really well-vibed community, and I liked it a lot. I liked the artists; they didn’t have any facade, they were present, and they were invested in that show,” he said. Thundercat’s reception from the student body was also successful, in Siskel’s opinion. “I mean, we had a bassist as our headliner. It was incredible that people received him as such and were open to it just like how the community is open to things other than the norm.”