Kendrick Lamar, Nicky Romero energize sold-out Juice Jam crowd

Two stages and six artists offered a diverse concert experience at this year's Juice Jam Music Festival

Neither the dancing nor the music paused for even a moment at Sunday’s sold-out Juice Jam Music Festival at Skytop Field.

Smallpools kicked off this year’s festival on the Indie Stage with a dynamic set that had people eagerly clapping and dancing from minute one of the first song.

The band’s energetic pop sound set the tone for the day, with a receptive crowd of students — in various shades of neon and patterned headbands — already lined up to see the first performance of the afternoon.

Photo: Chris Janjic

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“I’m very impressed with this audience for 12:30 p.m.,” said Smallpools frontman Sean Scanlon from the Indie Stage.

The four-piece indie pop-rock band formed in early 2013, releasing a four-song EP in July. Juice Jam Music Festival was one of the first shows they booked as a new band.

The Indie Stage was a new addition to this year’s Juice Jam, which took a festival format for the first time. The added stage reduced wait times in between sets and allowed for a packed afternoon of live music.

“The smaller stage was sort of ignored, but it was good to have music continuously playing,” said history sophomore David Buzby. “I felt engaged. It gave us time to move around.”

“I just thought there would be two huge stages,” said retail and supply chain management senior Hannah Bibighaus. “So, I don’t know that it feels like a festival.”

Overall, students were pleased with the addition of the Indie Stage, even though it didn’t match expectations.

Following Smallpools, The Neighbourhood opened the Main Stage with a high-contrast set which paired sultry vocals with a powerful performance.

“People are confused by us sometimes because we have a certain energy on stage, but if you hear us on record, it’s very moody and relaxed,” said lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford in an interview after the show.

Video footage above the stage appeared in black and white, adhering to the alt-rock band’s distinct and calculated image.

“We live in a different era now, and it’s not all just about the music, as much as sometimes we’d like it to be,” said Rutherford of the band’s style and how this image interacts with their music.

The band hit their stride early in the set with “Let It Go” from their debut album “I Love You,” and finished the set with their recent hit “Sweater Weather,” which produced the day’s first full-crowd singalong.

Students kept their energy up, moving between the two stages early in the afternoon to catch Ab-Soul’s set of crowd-pleasing hip-hop. The set included a mix of 2013 viral video hit “The Harlem Shake,” which — of course — prompted convulsion-like dancing per the video trend.

Nicky Romero gave festival-goers one last afternoon of summer, remixing hits including Icona Pop’s irresistible “I Love It,” and 2012 Juice Jam headliner Calvin Harris’ “I Need Your Love,” spinning the crowd into classic EDM-style euphoria under the afternoon sun.

By the end of Nicky Romero’s set, students began guarding their spots in front of the Main Stage in preparation for the festival’s headliner, but didn’t fail to give EDM artist Robert DeLong a warm welcome on the Indie Stage next door.

“I do something that’s pretty different from most electronic artists in the sense that it’s very vocal-based, it’s very song-based. It’s indie music meets electronic music in that way,” said DeLong in an interview before his set.

DeLong distinguishes himself from other EDM artists by both creating and mixing tracks live, incorporating game controllers and looped vocal tracks into his intricate live performances.

While he works to separate himself in the EDM world, he certainly knows what makes for a well-received set at Juice Jam.

“If I do anything that’s vaguely dubstep or anything like that, people are — you know —getting pumped up,” he said.

While the crowd tirelessly bounced through every bass drop Sunday afternoon, when headliner Kendrick Lamar took the stage, it was undeniable who students were eager to see.

“I was really here just for Kendrick,” said retail management sophomore Shayne Sebro after the show. “The other things, I was getting through them, but I was here for Kendrick,” he said.

And the hip-hop artist’s performance was no disappointment, according to Sebro.

Kendrick Lamar worked the crowd throughout the final set of the day, testing their fan loyalty in between tracks from his 2012 album “good kid, m.A.A.d city.”

“This right here will convince me, and I will come back again. I will come back again,” Lamar said.

Kendrick Lamar finished his headlining set with “Swimming Pools (Drank),” followed by a powerful a cappella performance of interlude “I Am.” 

Lamar returned to the stage after the relentless crowd request for an encore.

“The energy is right,” he said, perfectly encapsulating Juice Jam 2013.

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