The lead-up to Springfest, planned annually by Program Board’s Concerts Committee, is always a time of intrigue, mostly because of one question: Who will perform?
This year’s headlining act, Wolfgang Gartner, inspired divisive responses that ran the gamut of reaction. There was wide-smiling excitement from fans of Gartner’s throbbing, club-flavored brand of electronic dance music who knew the house-music veteran would put on an impressive show.
Then, there were those less familiar with the performer — “Wolfgang who? I hear they’re electronic?”
But Springfest isn’t just about the headliner. The event flaunted a long string of musicians that performed from noon on, including Jonny Come Lately and Black Crystal Wolf Kids. The show really got started, however, with alternative-rock band Anberlin. Though the quintet didn’t garner a particularly large crowd, the group of fans that did show up was a dedicated, feisty one that pushed up against the stage barrier with glee.
Crowd interaction was at a high, including a humorous incident involving a heckler — “Get outta here!” frontman Stephen Christian yelled at him after stopping a song midway through. And at various points during the show, guitarist Christian McAlhaney leaned out over the raucous crowd, pointing his mic stand out to those who were singing along.
The performance ended with a big grin from frontman Christian as he dropped the mic to the ground, sending a yelp of feedback as the last note. Almost immediately, the crowd started chanting: “One more song! One more song!” Predictably, the band — sans bassist Deon Rexroat — came back for an encore with the slow-burn ballad “The Unwinding Cable Car.” Christian’s voice shined in the finale as he held out a impressively long, perfectly in-tune note, his cuttingly clear tone reverberating across McCarthy Quad.
Offering a change of pace, dance crew I.aM.mE stepped up with a performance that featured sharp, impressive choreography. The sixth-season America’s Best Dance Crew champions lived up to their pedigree: Solo moments were particularly impressive, with a few highlights, including Di “Moon” Zhang’s intricate isolations and Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb’s expert contortions and popping.
And could anyone have delivered better dance moves to dubstep? Some of I.aM.mE’s most impressive moments came timed with the shuddering, hammer-like boom of bass and synth screeching; the full-body twitching of the dancers elicited hoots and cheers from the crowd.
Though some of the group choreography lacked perfect synchronicity, the dance crew still left quite an impression and did so on an unfortunately small stage.
Seattle-based rapper Macklemore took the stage next with his producer Ryan Lewis and trumpetist Owuor Arunga, and nearly stole the show with his blend of whip-smart lyricism and a jagged, conversational flow.
Equally notable were Macklemore’s lengthy stories that he addressed to the crowd. Funny, honest and perfect as transitions between songs, Macklemore’s tales — including one involving his “drunk-ass Irish uncle’s” early support and a monologue in which he pondered the positive effects of dry-humping — showed off the rapper’s ability to connect with his crowd.
Not that he needed the dialogue — Macklemore’s rapping and incredible stage presence would’ve been enough to enthrall the audience, especially with tracks like “Otherside.” He might as well have been dripping swagger, not sweat; the crowd took note, swelling to fill the now-darkened quad.
Macklemore wasn’t the only star onstage: Lewis and Arunga were essential to the show, the former mixing and yelling rhymes with Macklemore as the latter blew trumpet cries into the night, swigging from a gallon container of Arizona Iced Tea. Arunga also couldn’t help but keep chuckling at an audience member’s pink panties (“Oh. My. Word,” noted a grinning Macklemore) that the rapper had hung from Arunga’s mic stand.
Considering Macklemore’s humor and outrageous stage antics, it’s no surprise that rapper’s last song, “And We Danced,” was a riotous bit involving a British alter-ego, a gold-sequined cape and a messy, mop-like blond wig. The crowd twisted and danced in an overflow of energy as Macklemore hip-thrust the stage floor with a sexual fury — a perfectly odd sight and fun beyond imagination.
And finally, it was time for the headliner. Gartner rose from behind the DJ booth and immediately jumped into his set, unleashing wave after wave of crackling synthesizers and the whooping yells of syncopated sirens.
The quad was packed, a frenzy of lights and lasers marking the silhouettes of slender girls in sheer T-shirts riding on the tops of male shoulders. The pervasive, humid scent of sweat-laced bodies wisped in the air, mingling with the char of marijuana and Marlboro Lights as Gartner effortlessly mixed drop after drop of thrumming bass.
Further away from the stage, glovers with sparkling LEDs on fingertips entranced small groups of people as others danced to the beat. Gartner’s set inspired even the most unlikely of people to join in the festivities: A Contemporary Services Corporation guard in full work dress burst into a bout of prodigious shuffling madness, drawing whoops and cheers from the circle that had formed around him.
Unsurprisingly, Gartner drew the biggest reaction for his remixes of well-known songs, including a catchy take on The Ting Ting’s “Hands” as well as a crafty melding of new beats with the Daft Punk classic “The Prime Time of Your Life.”
As Gartner’s final song hummed to a close, the crowd started chanting: “Wolfgang! Wolfgang!” With a gracious smile and clasped hands, Gartner saluted the audience and departed. The audience slowly trickled out of the quad, tired bodies illuminated only by the soft yellow of a full moon and the orange glow of Parking Structure X.
Then, from the night: “Everyone to Leavey to study!”