Saturday, Nov. 11 marked a bi-annual tradition at Conn: a casual concert in the Arboretum, aptly named Arbofest. Wondering about origins of Arbofest, I asked several Conn students if they knew how it came about, but it seemed that no one was aware when the tradition began or whose idea it was. All the students I asked, however, said they would not refuse free music, free food, and free drinks in the arboretum on a Saturday afternoon.
Two popular bands on campus, Orca and Free Beer, performed at this year’s Arbofest. Despite an hour delay due to technical difficulties, Orca kicked off the festival with its own take on popular songs such as Drake’s “Passionfruit” and the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The audience loved these covers, as they both sang along with the band and took out their phones to record the performances. The band, comprised of Oliver O’Neill, Meridan Cavanaugh, Josh Hausman, Luke Pacilio, and David Batten, succeeded in creating a relaxing atmosphere and positive vibes with their slow-paced music. Orca is a heartwarming band that soothes the mind, allowing the listeners to detach from the struggles of the physical world. As people laid down in the grass and talked softly with one another, Orca worked their magic and did wonders. The bassline created a funky environment which caused the crowd to move their bodies along with the beat.
After Orca’s familiar-sounding but defining performance, Free Beer took the stage. Having just performed the day before with College President Katherine Bergeron in Larrabee house, they opened their set with a bang. The band has been rising through the ranks to become one of Conn’s most popular. Their members consist of Jack Pacilio and Will Logan on guitar, Enzo Cerrutti on bass, Matt Allen and Josh Gorin on the keys, and Naveen Gooneratne on the drums. Each brings their own personality to the table; hence the band appeals to a wide group of people. One of the band’s defining features is its clever name, whose origin Cerrutti explained by posing: “Who would not want to go to an event with Free Beer?”
Free Beer’s repertoire has become well-known to frequent concert attendees, and at Arbofest, their set consisted mainly of classics they’ve played before in the Barn and at Winchester apartment parties. Free Beer manages to perform the same songs in different ways that outdo each other every time, while keeping their friendly attitude present through each show. They do have their own songs that they perform at every single event, but something changes every time, whether it be the vocal performance, the bass, or the overall pace of the song, signifying that the band is open to experimentation and adaptation. They have a faster pace compared to Orca, which fills the listener with the life and energy to follow the beat and sing along with the band. The band displays this attitude by smiling and making eye-contact with the listeners, simultaneously lost and embedded within their own music. This attitude is observed to a greater extent in the breaks in between their songs, when they actively and enthusiastically engage with the crowd. This occurred during Arbofest, as the band expanded their break in between one of their songs to cheer on a student doing backflips, drawing the crowd’s attention to the student as well, which was then followed by the entire crowd cheering on the student for a brief period of time.
While Orca and Free Beer satisfied the with their music, Arbofest did not exactly go off without a hitch. At the beginning of the event, technical issues deducted from the overall experience. On a cold November day, technical difficulties prolonged the concert’s start time by a full hour, so the event started at around 2 p.m. rather than the advertised start of 1 p.m. During Orca’s set, one of the band members announced in between songs that one of his guitar strings was missing. Throughout both sets, the microphones on stage did not function with consistent quality, which resulted in the crowd’s inability to hear performers’ vocals, leading to confusion. The hour-long delay also annoyed some students, resulting in them leaving the event early. Even if the music was enjoyable, the shortcomings of Arbofest definitely affected participation and the performances themselves.
These challenges may have been related to Arbofest’s hasty planning, as the Student Activities Council (SAC) typically schedules the event earlier in the year and organizes it further in advance. This year, however, SAC neglected to coordinate the mini-festival in time, so Class Council (2018) coordinated it in a last-minute attempt to provide students with a fall Arbofest. Though the results may not have been perfect, overall, they succeeded.
In the end, it was definitely a good couple of hours spent in the Arboretum. While the bands performed, people enjoyed free donuts and large boxes of coffee provided on a small table near the stage. There was only one type of donut and the coffee was nothing special, but I found these details unimportant. For a limited amount of time, attendees were in a bubble where they socialized with each other without stressing over assignments and meetings. The weather was cold indeed, something that caused many people to consider leaving early, but once everything started to fall into place, people stopped noticing the cold. They were too busy creating an unforgettable memory in the Arboretum.