College takes a break at fun.-filled fest

Nate Ruess, lead singer of fun., has no problem getting up close and personal with the crowd. (Tim Lee / Staff Photographer)

Riding the Ferris wheel or chowing down on a funnel cake may be the usual sources of carnival merriment, but patrons of the College’s “fun.ival,” sponsored by Student Government and the College Union Board, were treated to a bit more Friday night — a spirited and passionate performance by the indie-pop band, fun. — as the sun set over campus.

The band, partially rooted in Teaneck, N.J. played nearly its entire debut album, “Aim and Ignite, an upbeat soundtrack to a day devoted to all things lighthearted. Led by singer Nate Ruess’ strong and fervent vocals, the crowd in Lot 5 chanted in unison to the refrains of several tracks, including the opener, “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be),” and “Barlights.” The repeated lyric, “I feel alive,” from the “Barlights” chorus echoed from an audience full of life … and cotton candy.

The band’s set varied between the bouncy melodies of “Walking the Dog” and “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” and slower, acoustic ballads included “The Gambler” and a new track called “Carry On.”

Fun. played two new songs — “Carry On” and “We Are Young” — which will appear on a new album to be released later this year.

“The album is different, and that’s all I’m going to say. We are trying to keep it secret for now,” said pianist and flugelhorn player Andrew Dost.

Dost noted the College’s generosity in helping him avoid an instrumental catastrophe.

“My flugelhorn got left behind in San Francisco, and it’s a disaster and I don’t know if I’ll ever see it again, and within five minutes of asking somebody, they had brought me a flugelhorn, which is an uncommon instrument,” he said.

Putting the "fun." in "fun.ival," these headliners pumped up the crowd on Friday, April 29. (Tim Lee / Staff Photographer)

Prior to going on stage, Dost was excited to play for a college audience that may not have been familiar with fun.’s music.

“Typically, you get a lot more people who just hear some noise and wander over and aren’t necessarily fans of the band, but that’s cool because it’s a good chance for a random smattering of people to hear the music that wouldn’t otherwise,” Dost said.

Opening for and sharing members with fun. was Steel Train, a Garden State-based rock band fronted by Jack Antonoff, who was on double duty as both singer in the opening set and guitarist for fun.

“I should make a work-out video,” he said. “Performing live is like fighting, or being a ping-pong champion. You just kind of turn everything off and give it your all and when you’re done, you feel like you are going to throw up.”

Steel Train’s energetic sound pumped up the crowd as it played songs from “Trampoline” and the band’s self-titled album, released in June 2010. Heads bobbed throughout the set, especially to well-known tracks “I Feel Weird” and “Bullet.”

Preceded by a juggler, Antonoff mentioned his unfamiliarity with a circus act opening for his band.

Jack Antonoff and the rest of Steel Train kicked off the musical portion of the College's festival. (Tim Lee / Staff Photographer)
Jack Antonoff and the rest of Steel Train kicked off the musical portion of the College's spring festival. (Tim Lee / Staff Photographer)

“I’ve never had to follow a guy on a unicycle in a straight jacket juggling machetes,” he quipped.

Before the show, Antonoff was ready for a comfortable atmosphere.

“There’s a different vibe when someone pays to go see a show. There’s a more serious vibe to get their money’s worth, and with these shows it’s a good opportunity to kick back and have a good time.”

Concert coordinator and senior journalism major Jillian Polak was content with the event’s turnout.

“The ‘fun.ival’ concert was a great success and I am enormously pleased,” she said. “Both Steel Train and fun. played fun (for lack of a better word), energetic sets. It was evident that the many attendees enjoyed themselves, as did the bands.”