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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student bands back in action, played live at WoodstocKDE

Students gathered in the rain last weekend for live performances by student bands at annual outdoor concert held by KDE.

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About a hundred and fifty students flocked to Webster Avenue and braved the rain on Saturday, July 17 to enjoy a delayed spring-term tradition: WoodstocKDE. The backyard concert captured the spirit of the original New York music festival — from which the event takes its name — held over five decades ago. 

Students in Hanover left behind the impending stress of week five midterms to attend the live music festival held annually at Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, which was headlined this year by student band Moon Unit, made up of rising seniors Max Barrett ’22, Crawford Crooks ’22, Andrew Culver ’22, Tom Flynn ’22, Charlie Pike ’22 and Cooper Zebrack ’22. They took to KDE’s back porch to play a setlist of fourteen songs, including Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA,” during which the group slowed down the bridge and broke into a three minute jam before playing through the rest. 

Though it wasn’t Moon Unit’s first performance since COVID-19 — they played gigs at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity and the Panarchy undergraduate society this term — last weekend’s event marked their first outdoor show since the loosening of pandemic restrictions this summer. The last live outdoor event they played was almost eight months ago, in the fall of 2020, for HarFest, during which the group had to mask up in order to follow College guidelines. 

“Our first show back was at Chi Gam — when we stepped on the stage, I got chills immediately. Walking out onto the porch at KDE was a similar feeling — I was just so happy,” said Pike, the lead vocalist for Moon Unit. “It’s kind of spellcasting when you’re up there playing music for people and watching people dance to it. It’s my favorite thing in the whole world.” 

Holding an outdoor performance is a whole different undertaking than an indoor concert. WoodstocKDE proved to be an example of this challenge; Saturday was peppered with rain showers on and off throughout most of the day. But the rain didn’t stop masses of students from gathering in a crowd to watch the bands play on the back porch of KDE. 

“Darties aren’t usually as much fun as night shows,” said Crooks, the bassist for Moon Unit. “But Saturday was definitely a lot of fun.” 

An impromptu group of sophomores who are still deciding on a band name opened for Moon Unit at the event. Members of this newly formed student group included Maxwell Blum ’23 on keyboard and backing vocals, Zahni Khin ’23 on guitar, Kendall Milender ’23 on lead vocals, Noah Portnoy ’23 on drums and Will Toth ’23 on bass. 

Saturday was the first time the group played for a live audience. 

“We were nervous, especially since we were given short notice and only had a week and a half to prepare our set,” said Blum. “We told ourselves we were doing five songs and we wanted them to all be really strong.” 

The group’s setlist included Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun,” Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” and Sublime’s “Santeria.” 

The bandmates had been looking forward to playing together live — something they hadn’t had the opportunity to do until this term. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the event, according to Blum. 

“A lot of my bandmates had been looking forward to making music together since freshman fall, so it was a great experience for all of us to come together under that common goal and just jam out and have a good time,” he said.   

Crooks said he was elated to have the sophomore group open for his band, noting that Moon Unit had support from more established bands when they were getting started. 

“It’s been two and a half years now since we started playing our freshman winter,” Crooks said. “[Dom Repucci ’20] of Read Receipts totally showed us the ropes when we started — like how to set up audio equipment and all that — so we were really hyped to help a band play their first show and teach them some things.” 

“Plus,” Crooks added, “the crowd’s just always in a better mood when you go on stage after an opener.”

Khin, who performed as the guitarist in the band of sophomores and DJ-ed for the remainder of the event, said the performance was a new experience for him. He noted that it was only the second time he had performed for an audience that big, but said it “went super well.”

WoodstocKDE proved to be a momentous event for bands and spectators alike, kicking off the live concert scene of summer 2021. The event’s energy was quintessential of what sophomore summer is supposed to feel like, according to Toth. 

“It’s been kind of impossible for something like that to happen in the past year or two — it was really just kind of amazing,” Toth said. “It was pouring rain, but no one cared. Everyone was just having so much fun”

This is only the beginning for both bands. Pike says Moon Unit is slated to play again this weekend at Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity. He’s excited to continue performing throughout the summer and into the fall of his senior year. 

“I’m playing music with my best friends again, and nothing else is better than that,” he said.