Photo by Antonio Mochmann.
At the base of the Staller Center steps, five artists prepared to perform for a crowd awaiting the sweet sensations of live music to fill their ears on Oct. 15. This is The Bash — the second installment of the freeform outdoor music festival hosted by Stony Brook University’s radio station WUSB. For this festival to become the event that has amassed crowds at both its spring and fall installments, WUSB executive board members Nadia Kuban and Lauren Canavan begin planning months in advance. Canavan is also a news and music editor at The Stony Brook Press.
The lineup consisted of bands that span across multiple genres. As the sun shined down on the audience’s backs, listeners got tastes of punk, rock and funk music on the warm Saturday afternoon. The Bash was a repeat success — participating bands had nothing but rave reviews.
Punk rock band Strange Neighbors, founded in 2017 by lead singer and co-songwriter Aidan Strange, was first to take the stage. The band was tabling on the grass with merchandise on sale for fans to purchase, including funky hair clips with multi-colored eyeballs attached.
“It was great,” said drummer Tracey Andronaco. “You guys are excited to be here, to listen to new music and be exposed to a lot of new different bands. I think the college crowd is more open.”
Members of the audience soon started trickling down to the base of the stage to dance freely during the performances. The energy was high for the festival’s duration. Whether you looked at the dancing mass of people busting a move down on the grass, or the listeners on beach blankets flocking the steps, it was clear each festival-goer was enjoying the music however they pleased.
Dana Bennewitz of Strange Neighbors, clad in a vibrant dress to match her lightning blue bass guitar, said the energy of the crowd was exciting. “It’s really well-attended,” she said. She described the event as “fucking awesome.”
Next in the lineup was Crooked Arrows, a band of four — two are current Stony Brook students. They expressed that there was some pressure being in front of an audience on their own campus. “[It was] exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” said lead guitarist Tyler Chatterton.
Based in the New York City area, shoegaze band The Shining Hours hit the stage with a surprise instrument: an electric violin. The crowd cheered when lead singer David picked up the instrument to accompany their cover of American singer-songwriter Clairo’s “Bags.” The electric violin added a unique sound element to the day, complementing the soft indie hit. The cover fit perfectly with the rest of the group’s setlist — with songs from their most recent EP, Wasted Time. During their set, a kickline of fans formed at the base of the stage, ramping up the vibe at the Staller Steps.
Jazzy funk band Big Stuff came on stage with a set that kept the crowd on their toes and brought some boogie to the show. The energy felt tangible. The timing was perfect when the BeReal notification went off between songs. The audience jumped at the opportunity to capture the moment for the app’s time-sensitive post. The Bash served as one of Big Stuff’s first college gigs together, making the performance extra special.
“I feel like the lineup was really nice because it wasn’t the same genre, which I always think is great to have,” said Grace Mann, lead singer and co-leader of the group. Mann noticed that even with the variety of genres, each band still fit cohesively in the mix. “I feel like we all worked really nicely together — we fit really well in our lineup,” she said.
Returning performer Arahmus Brown and his band brought the electricity to close out the show as the sun started to descend past the steps. Even by the time the last act came up, the audience was still ready to rock out as more people swarmed the stage. Brown reminisced on his previous performance at the first ever Bash, where he was called back on-stage to join the final set and helped close it out with fun and memorable audience engagement. “I already knew what I was going to expect. It was just going to be fun and full of great people and amazing energy,” he said.
“You guys got together and people stayed all the way to the end… Everyone was beautiful,” Brown said about the crowd’s energy. He even pulled a few crowd members onto the stage to dance during the last song.
The act brought the house down with their closing set — to say Brown was just dancing would be an understatement. The audience was captivated as he bounded across the stage. When he fell back flat onto the stage for a breather after an energetic track, someone from WUSB checked on him in a panic. Brown said he feels “possessed” when he’s dancing and performing, and the audience can feel that, too. Cheers from the crowd brought him back to life to close out the festival.
“You come to an Arahmus Brown show, you’re going to get the same energy,” said Robbie Prevete, bass player and musical director. “Every show is going to be different, but you’re going to get the same energy if there’s 3 people in the audience or 300 or 3,000.” The band agreed, saying that’s their “money-back guarantee.”
Aidan Strange of Strange Neighbors made it a point to discuss the community that comes from performing art. “There’s something really special about organizing events like this, about running small radio stations — it’s not easy,” Strange said.
They also expressed what it can feel like to share art with the people around you. “I don’t think people realize how vulnerable you are when you’re making stuff and showing stuff,” Strange said. Even though it is a vulnerable experience, the singer highlighted the connections that can be made with others through sharing the arts.
The origin of the band’s name goes along with their philosophy of community and welcoming others. “We really like it to feel like a little neighborhood, like a community — everyone really is taking care of each other,” Strange said. “We really believe that the most punk thing you can do is help people.”
Before the end of the band’s set, Strange called out into the microphone stating that music and arts are being silenced. Sitting down after the performance, Strange explained how big institutions and industries can shut down creativity. For instance, cutting classes and closing museums that celebrate art to disperse funding to other areas. “What that looks like is events like this just being canceled because they don’t care to fund it,” Strange said.
Canavan and Kuban also discussed the obstacle of adequate funding for creative events like The Bash. One of the duo’s challenges when planning the event was the lack of finances to compensate the artists who traveled to Stony Brook University to perform for the community.
“One of the main goals of The Bash has always been to elevate new and upcoming artists,” Canavan added. “You also want to be able to financially compensate them.” She expressed that although this event was a great success, more funding would allow for further improvements to be made, making the festival even better.
The biggest theme of the day was the importance of the arts in college. Especially at a mostly STEM-oriented school, sometimes it can be difficult to find events that cater to the niches of the diverse student population.
“I think there’s very much an underground music-arts scene at Stony Brook, but, like Lauren said, we’re such a STEM-heavy school that it almost feels like these people are so separated from the general population that they have no idea the different groups within it,” Kuban said.
The community at the festival is what made The Bash a standout event. It was clear to see the bands connecting with one another, enjoying shared passions during the energizing performances. Anyone was welcome — students, faculty and members of the community were all free to come and go as they pleased, resulting in positive feedback from the audience. Canavan attested to the audience’s excitement, and shared that people came up to her and Kuban after the event to tell them how amazing it was.
The Bash has an anticipated return planned for April 22, in which Canavan and Kuban will be implementing new ideas to help the event run more smoothly. Kuban, a sustainability studies major at SBU, is setting in motion some new designs to address environmental concerns she is passionate about. The two co-coordinators want to implement more sustainable changes in the next Bash, and potentially collaborate with other clubs and organizations interested in environmentalism to see what ideas are possible and make it happen.
“I want to bring awareness to the fact that sustainability and environmentalism doesn’t just come from the clothing you wear, the cars you drive — it comes from absolutely everything around you,” Kuban said. She expresses how these ideas are growing within the music industry, especially because the industry is responsible for large amounts of pollution. Kuban said that she wants to be a catalyst in creating these sustainable alternatives, and she hopes to make them possible at the next edition of The Bash.
Decisions for the next lineup are already in the works — Canavan and Kuban shared that they are in contact with some artists that Canavan has had her eye on since the fall semester. “We’re going to try to bring diversified artists, genres [and] styles back to the stage, so we’re excited for it,” Canavan said. Have your beach blankets and dancing shoes at the ready, The Bash will return, and it is slated to be the best it has ever been.