Kate Koenig, Arts Editor
When the selected performers for OH-fest were announced by CUAC this year, the news was met with the familiar howls of discontent by those who disapproved. The howls, however, were a bit more vocal than usual this time around not only because students were upset with the concert being moved to campus from downtown, but because they were going to be charged for tickets for what was once a free event. In response, members of WONY organized a free alternative: NO-Fest.
NO-Fest was held in the Hunt Union Waterfront last Friday and featured comedian Kurt Braunohler along with musical acts Mad Mule, Life Among the Trees, Samurai Pizza Cats, and as a last-minute addition, the SUCO New Orleans Brass Band.
Braunohler, best known for his work with Kristen Schaal, kicked off the night shortly after 7:30 as the remainder of the audience trickled in. “I slept like a baby last night,” he said: “I woke up every two hours screaming.” Using a handful of props including a heat-detecting ray gun which he sporadically tested on the groins of unsuspecting audience members, Braunohler kept the crowd in a state of glee throughout his set, effectively warming up the audience for the full night of music ahead.
The first band to go on was Mad Mule, a local noise rock act whose garage rock-tinged originals are typically littered with off-the-wall antics and a bit of organized chaos. During one song out of this performance, frontman Joe Lindberg created distorted noises with his guitar while lying on his back and bicycling his legs in the air, while bassist Sean McKee momentarily abandoned his instrument to leap repeatedly in place. Lindberg also wore a ski mask at one point, introducing his aerosol can “date” to the audience; McKee screamed backup vocals through a WONY sticker, and their set came to a close with another dramatic leap from McKee, this time off of an amplifier and onto several snack-sized bags of Cheetos.
The far more mild-mannered middle act, Life Among the Trees, is a group from SUNY Albany, who presented a series of ambient and layered instrumentals. Along with traditional rock instruments, they used electric violin, xylophone and reverb effects to get their point across but in the end, their style felt displaced and dragged in the excited Friday night setting.
Attendance, though relatively small, remained steady for the entirety of the night. Most people seemed to be having fun, but not everyone was a fan of the event: “Such a hipster thing to do,” commented one anonymous audience member.
Luckily, the local ska favorite Samurai Pizza Cats took over next, and pumped life back into the room with their upbeat horn-driven sound. The Pizza Cats played through their album “Cheers,” which they’re aiming to release sometime this May, and includes some of their more popular tracks “Mirror, Mirror,” “Peanuts” and the first single off the album, “Aries.” The band will be performing several shows throughout this month, and will be playing in the LiveLIVE! Sendoff Party at the Oneonta Theatre this Friday.
Finishing their set with a dub reggae jam, the Pizza Cats gradually exited the stage, leaving only trombonists Frank Stark and Mike Reilly carrying the groove. As a segue into their set, the New Orleans Band joined and the jam was transformed into “Rasta Funk,” originally by the Hot 8 Brass Band. Added to the bill just a week before the show, the New Orleans Band added a unique flavor to NO-Fest—a sousaphone plays the bass line—and finished the night with Hot 8’s energetic “What’s My Name.”
WONY Program Director Andrew Lowden, who was responsible for organizing the event, declared it “a great success,” and hopes that “the spirit of NO-Fest will continue.” “College radio is special because it allows you the freedom to challenge the norm and be different,” Lowden said. “I think we did that, and I hope when I’m gone we still do that.” It’s yet to be determined whether or not NO-Fest will continue next year, but those at WONY hope to see it thrive as a healthy balance and potential remedy for the OH-fest malcontents.