The giant room that once hosted Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray, Steve Miller Band, Incubus and Bob Dylan reopened on Thursday night with a series of alternative bands and artists like Cal Poly has never seen.
It all started when two-man band IAmDynamite took the stage, opening the night with a set that was over all too fast. Crowds were still filling the auditorium, filtering into the bleachers and shoving past peers in attempts to catch a glimpse of the stage.
After the brief IAmDynamite set, Robert DeLong wasted no time introducing himself.
“San Luis Obispo, how you fucking doing?” he shouted with a tribal-painted face and headphones over his ears as his experimental dubstep reverberated through the crowd. The electro-pop sound and heavy beats seemed to wake up the audience, and once Robert DeLong began hopping around the stage in his black skinny jeans to “Where We’re Going,” it marked the OK for the crowd to join in by dancing, bobbing and hopping along.
As “Global Concepts” pulsed through the speakers, Robert DeLong was clearly in his own world, splashing the cymbals of the drum set, facing away from the audience (though he did some self-marketing mid-song to announce, in a distorted, musical voice that his album was available for purchase in the lobby).
The final song revved up the crowd and seemed like the favorite of his set. He smacked a tamborine, hopped across the stage, smacked the cymbals, spun back to the other side of the stage as the music slowly built up, louder and deeper until a massive, distorted bass drop shook the speakers.
It was the perfect build up to the next band, Wavves — a total change of pace from the electronic sounds that carried the first half of the concert. This rock band turned the crowd from jumpy to wild within seconds of the guitarist’s fingers hitting the strings.
Suddenly, small bottles of booze and silver flasks were being passed around, bodies slammed against each other and the entire front half of the crowd was trapped in the kind of mosh pit you’d find at a Metallica show. A Converse sneaker flew through the air as the first crowdsurfer of the night rode the chaos for a brief moment, kicking until the pit of bodies swallowed him up once again. Then, a few more crowd surfers tumbled on top of the crowd, and a few more, until people were everywhere, hands rolling them across the auditorium like tracks on a treadmill.
As head-banger music roared from the speakers, a voice from the band paused to warn the crowd, “You’re about to break the fucking barrier. Be careful.”
But the barrier held, and Wavves finished its set with just as much gusto as the start, leaving the crowd covered in sweat and amped to keep the night going.
Fitz and the Tantrums jumped onstage with the best energy of all the groups — the funky, ’80s-style, six-person band interacted with the crowd more than any of the preceding performers.
Frontman Michael Fitzpatrick kicked off the set with “The Chains of Love,” a baritone saxophone wailing to his left, and a soulful sound from Noelle Scaggs to his right.
The wild body slamming inspired by Wavves morphed into a joyous frenzy with Fitz and the Tantrums onstage. But the crowdsurfing didn’t stop. In fact, Fitzpatrick himself leaped offstage and rode the wave of hands.
Fitz and the Tantrums’ third song was a newly recorded cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” originally sung by Eurythmics in 1983. Fitz and the Tantrums also performed “Out of My League” and the band’s (arguably) biggest hit, “MoneyGrabber.” During the set, the band convinced the entire 2,000-person audience to get really low, and the crowd consequently went into a rapturous frenzy.
And then came Awolnation.
Clearly, singer Aaron Bruno didn’t realize that Fitz and the Tantrums had already left the stage, because he looked like he was having a tantrum while singing “It’s Not Your Fault.” But the band’s stage presence was unparalleled — Bruno knew how to work the crowd.
“It was awesome,” graphic communication senior Andie Hodgson said. “I really loved Awolnation.”
Hodgson said that while the concert got crazy at points, Awolnation was her favorite set of the night.
The group’s set was full of songs from its latest album, but the hit of the show was clearly “Sail.”
Bruno ended the night with a philosophical takeaway for his fans:
“We are Awolnation. We are all Awolnation, ladies and gentlemen. We are all Awolnation.”