Students surf the crowds at Fall Fest


Sarah Connor | Contributing Editor

Hundreds of students and Pittsburgh residents showed up for Pitt Program Council’s 2018 Fall Fest on Bigelow Blvd.

By Elizabeth Donnelly , Staff Writer

Students might not expect to see their peers body-surfing on a typical Sunday afternoon, but with multicolored beach balls flying through the air and students hoisting themselves onto the tops of their classmates’ shoulders at this year’s Fall Fest, that’s exactly what happened.

Sponsored by Pitt Program Council, this year’s festival featured four different performances by Blue Shift, Vundabar, Public and Young the Giant.

The stage was located toward the Fifth Avenue side of Bigelow Boulevard, with students spilling down the street and others packed closely to the stage.  

Blue Shift kicked off the day with a lively performance of original hits and covers at 1 p.m. The psychedelic funk-rock band is comprised of five members, three of whom are Pitt students — Michael Stolarz, Evan Rubin and Ari Wynn. The group won Pitt’s Battle of the Bands in early September — allowing them to serve as the opening act at Fall Fest.

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer
Fans cheer for Blue Shift — the psychedelic funk rock band that won the Pitt Program Council Battle of the Bands competition earlier this month.

Valeri Natole, a junior math and biology major, enjoyed Blue Shift’s sound.

“I saw most of their performance,” she said, “and they were pretty good.”

Next up was Vundabar, an American indie-rock band based in Boston. The group replaced Petal, a band originally on the Fall Fest lineup which pulled out for medical reasons. Vundabar put on an amusing performance, with the members stopping occasionally to joke with the crowd — at one point, they even had everyone turn and face away from the stage just for fun.

Feindt said Pitt Program Council takes steps to ensure that Fall Fest goes off without a hitch.

“The biggest thing is to make sure you’ve thought of every single possible scenario before the event actually starts,” Feindt said. “That way when it does come to the event, everything runs smoothly.”

Cincinnati-based indie-pop group Public took the stage around 3:30 p.m. The up-and-coming group featuring Ben Lapps, John Vaughn and Matthew Alvarado was easily one of the most energetic performances of the entire afternoon.

Lead vocalist John Vaughn ran around the stage, dancing and singing with full energy. He also jumped off the stage at one point and ran through the gap between the stage and crowd. Bassist Alvarado even did a backflip while holding his bass.

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer
Lead vocalist and guitarist John Vaughn performs at Pitt Program Council’s Fall Fest with PUBLIC.

They got the crowd warmed up by hosting a sing-along to “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “Sweet Caroline” — and were surprised when Pitt students cheered the classic “Lets go Pitt!” during the song. Lead vocalist Vaughn stopped the song to ask if he had heard the crowd correctly.

Public performed many of their hit originals, like “Pretty Face” and “Heartbeating,” but they also took the crowd by surprise when they covered Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”

Nick Caggiano, a junior neuroscience major, had not heard of Public before Fall Fest, but still enjoyed the band’s set.

“They have a really cool sound, it’s kind of pop-rock, but something tells me they have a lot more unique lyrics than just general pop,” he said. “They seem like a really cool band, and I don’t know how popular they are, but they should definitely get some more recognition.”

After a short break, headliner Young the Giant took the stage. The indie-rock group based in Irvine, California, was the main draw for many students, seen by the many Young the Giant T-shirts dotting the crowd.

First-year undecided student and long-time Young the Giant fan Andrea Walsh, who has bright purple hair and wore a Young the Giant Tee, said this year’s Fall Fest was particularly special to her.

“Their music means a lot to me,” she said. “When I was going through some rough times last year I listened to them a lot, so it’s really exciting to have them be right here.”

Young the Giant performed many of their well-known songs like “Cough Syrup” and “America.” Along with the crowd surfing, students were belting out the lyrics and showing off their best dance moves throughout the entirety of the songs.

Junior molecular biology and French major Elizabeth Crinzi enjoyed seeing the different group members’ stage presence.

“The lead singer, Sameer, is one of the best vocalists and dancers, in my opinion,” she said. “He has the weirdest but best dance moves and I love watching it.”

Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer
Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia performs as the main act at Pitt Program Council’s Fall Fest Sunday afternoon.

Sameer Gadhia’s stage presence was captivating, as the singer danced all over the stage. At one point in the show, he even pulled out a mini-sized red megaphone to distort his voice.

But music wasn’t the only dimension to this year’s Fall Fest — festivities also included Arts Fest, featuring a Tee press, a caricature artist and a photo booth.

Pitt Arts hosted the arts festival aspect of the event, offering multiple information booths about artistic opportunities at or near Pitt like the Pittsburgh Folk Music Society, City Theater, the Heinz History Center and more.

The combination of the art booths and the performers created an environment dedicated solely to appreciating the art located all around us. The informational booths provided information and education to those who visited, while the musical guests thoroughly entertained the crowd.

“Having a campus concert is such a big part of the culture and student life,” Feindt said. “Pitt is big and it’s good to be able to serve a lot of people in this fun way.”