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Corefest 2019: Rutgers' DIY scene pokes its head above ground

If you’re in the know, you’re familiar with the vibrant and historic do-it-yourself (DIY) music scene that exists here at Rutgers. Week in and week out, there are shows held by students that run the musical gamut of hard rock, funk, punk, rap and more. Raucous, passionate and bold, there’s an egalitarian quality to playing for and among your peers. The stage is never a vaunted platform, increasing the distance between audience and performer. In a New Brunswick basement, the artists are front and center, live and direct. 

This past Sunday the underground ventured upward a bit, as Rutgers’ two radio stations – The Core and Rutgers Radio (WRSU) – teamed up to host this year’s installment of Corefest, an annual celebration of New Brunswick’s music scene. DJs and members of both stations are among the most loyal patrons of the DIY community since they’re always looking for new music to enjoy and share with others, so it makes sense that these groups collaborated to bring this program to fruition.

Local art vendors were on hand, selling everything from customizable buttons to comic strips and zines. With strobe lights flashing, local band Flycatcher kicked things off. 

The four-piece warmed things up well, playing alternative rock with crisp vocal harmonies and razor-sharp transitions. Used to playing in less space on worse equipment, performing in a much larger space through a professional sound system illuminated the band’s best qualities. Cohesive arrangement paired with striking lyrics made Flycatcher the perfect opener. 

Singer and guitarist Greg Pease, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, described his experience playing in and around New Brunswick. “New Brunswick is great — tons of different places to play, tons of different faces to play in front of. It’s nice that the basements are always poppin' every weekend,” he said.

There’s also the community, which is what ties the music, the shows and the people all together. What’s evident from even a cursory glance is that the DIY scene is full of people willing and ready to support up-and-coming bands. There’s little to no elitism, since no matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it with your classmates.

“The people at the Core and WRSU, between the two groups, I know so many different kids that are a part of it. I honestly don’t know who exactly i doing what, but I know that everyone’s doing something,” Pease said.

The concert continued with another Hub City band, Bathing In Chunks, who took to the stage next. Clearly the heaviest band on the lineup, they played a set that toed the line between metal and, as their Bandcamp reads, “negligent dadcore.” For the self-proclaimed “worst band in New Jersey,” they didn’t live up to their imposed low standards. To say their performance was intense would be an understatement. 

Afterward, Brooklyn-based group Gabby’s World played a brief set of bright indie rock. With a buoyant voice, leading lady Gabrielle Smith kept the audience captivated. Then, it was time for the main event.

Flying in from Kansas City, The Greeting Committee lit up the stage, playing a set that was heavy on all the hallmarks of concert crowd participation: dancing, coordinated clapping and crouching down to the ground. If the set sounds like an aerobics class, that’s because it was. The indie pop outfit had a contagious exuberance, likening the gig to past experiences playing basement shows. Oddly enough, they also gave out cans of LaCroix. All quirks aside, they were a suitable choice to close the event.

At the event, Jordan Adragna, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and incoming music director at The Core, explained why he appreciates the chance to hold this event every year. “What I enjoy most about Corefest is the opportunity for more local bands to get more of a professional setting. New Brunswick's mostly known for throwing shows in houses, so bands are usually used to cramped spaces, bad gear. At least here, now they’ve got a big stage, they’ve got lights and everything.”

Even better, the event had a professional look with a genuine DIY feel. It was so evident that in the middle of their set, Brandon Yangmi, guitarist for The Greeting Committee said, “I feel like I’m playing a friend’s basement, but the basement’s really f*cking big.”  

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