UF ditches country and rAP for the indie sounds of joywave and young the giant
By Mackenzie Patel and Cameron Rivera
Historically, the University of Florida Student Government doesn’t bring alternative rock or indie rock bands to UF – the closest they’ve come is X Ambassadors or One Republic, which are more pop rock than indie. To score a free show with Young the Giant and Joywave at Flavet Field on September 7th didn’t match our bland love of country and rap. This “indie invasion” for one Friday night felt similar to the Wetlands festival that SG put on last semester – the headliners for which were A$AP Ferg and Saint Motel (which could be considered pop indie), but it included local music such as Retrolux and flipturn as well. Why did SG decide to book older indie acts? Jugding by talks with UF students and the RSVP counts on Facebook, indie acts are gaining popularity and aligning more with the University of Florida demographic. Educated hipsters love a throwback to their Young the Giant high school days (at least we do).
As doors opened at 6 p.m., a couple dozen people flowed lazily through the gates to secure their spot at the front of the stage. Many of them wore indie band t-shirts or accessories. It would be a little more than an hour before Joywave took the stage - an hour on a humid, buggy late afternoon at Flavet Field that flew by quickly as the crowd became denser and the DJ played everyone’s favorite emo hits. We’re talking the likes of Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte and Panic! At the Disco, to name a few.
Joywave gained notoriety through their collaboration with Big Data in 2015. Their lead single, Dangerous, is a stadium-sized anthem with a heavy, breathing bass line. One of the co-creators of Big Data, Daniel Armbruster, broke away to form his current band, Joywave. At first listen, their aura is dark electronic, but that quickly changes once the lyrics, bizarre music videos and samplings from Fantasia wash over you. With eight successful years behind them and a lookbook of hairstyles, Joywave reaches our inner alternative phase and drags it to the surface. Their latest album, Content, was a 2017 plate of bops – It’s A Trip! is my favorite song, slinky and twisted around a great beat.
We spoke with Daniel Armbruster (vocals) and Paul Brenner (drums) before their show Friday night, sweating in humid clothing and wondering if our lack of Legend of Zelda knowledge would make this interview a disaster. But judging by their casual “Hey!” and animated facial expressions, we had nothing to worry about.
Considering Joywave’s previous venues (i.e. Madison Square Garden, House of Blues Chicago, Red Rocks Amphitheater), Flavet Field seemed like a backwater swamp. This switch in demographic - from all ages, all people strictly 18 to 22 years old - makes performing at universities a gamble for Joywave.
“We never know if there’s going to be ten people or a thousand,” Brenner said.
This wildcard crowd is augmented by being young, impressionable and mirroring our actions based on those around us (not to mention the lack of alcohol at university events).
“People can be very unsure of themselves;they look around to see how engaged they’re supposed to be,” Armbruster said. Calling this phenomenon an “anthropological fascination,” Brenner put a label to something ingrained in college students: fitting in.
And as for the students who defy, squeeze uncomfortably in or otherwise break the mold, the duo said immediately, “leave college.” Although Armbruster finished a degree in economics and history at the University of Rochester and Brenner started a geography degree, their advice for creative students was to quit school ( ironic, given their venue for the evening).
“College is good for being exposed to people who aren’t like yourself,” conceded Armbruster, “but as far as doing something creative, you have to do it yourself.”
Their words weren’t surprising - just look at iconic dropouts like David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen. It’s almost as if lack of traditional education is requisite for “being great” or escaping the box college places most of us in. This double-edged sword - meeting new people, but also experiencing creative stagnation - is sharp, although it was quite real hearing it from successful 31 and 32-year-olds.
These guys chase after “reckless creativity,” which is defined as “doing things that push people’s buttons,antagonize, [and] straight scare people.” And although their set wasn’t terrifying, it was 45 minutes of energy and gator chomping while chanting “JOY-WAVE, JOY-WAVE.” Frontman Daniel Armbruster came out with the same whimsical personality that true fans know and love. He conducted the band like it was an indie electronic symphony, and Brenner’s face was a halo of sweaty hair. Their keyboardist, Benjamin Bailey, had the best leg dances I’ve seen, and his treatment of the synthesizer was first-rate.
The crowd was still flooding in during their set, but their last song, Tongues, was infectious. The drunk adolescents were at their apex, everyone knew the lyrics, and we felt that “reckless creativity” in Armbruster’s voice, in the crowd’s sway. Atwood Magazine said that Joywave would ““single-handedly be the salvation of alt-rock,” and we believe them. In between head-banging rock songs and chilled electronica tunes, Armbruster’s audience interaction and comic relief kept crowd engagement high. Late stragglers were still trickling in when Joywave’s set ended, and the crowd chanted their name. But the show was just beginning.
Although Reprise wasn’t able to interview Young the Giant, we were able to boogie to Silvertongue and Cough Syrup. We also were interested to see if the UF student body likes indie concerts over the usual rap and country ones.
Students kept a high energy with anticipation for the headliner. Julia Kolbasuk, a second-year International Studies major, was one of the many excited students. Kalbasuk was preparing to see her favorite band for the sixth time live, even willing to miss work for the show.
“At every concert, [Young the Giant] brings something new to the table. Seeing the same old songs that I’ve grown up listening to and loving doesn’t get tiring,” said Kalbasuk. “Everyone can come out to a hip-hop artist and be together and have a good time, but the indie and alternative scene also brings out new groups of people.”
The alternative scene has an unusual ability to connect people from all different backgrounds - we could be bibliophiles or Call of Duty fans, cheerleaders or botany majors, and yet something about “Mr. Brightside” makes us all scream “He takes off her dress, Now, Letting me go.” Not to discount the emotional power of other genres like rap or classical, but indie and alternative jams are the sound waves of growing up. Everyone is angsty until their late 20s, and the alternative scene creates a diverse community around our (often exaggerated and petty) misery. This community bleeds deep in Gainesville, our heavy punk history fits in perfectly with the college demographic and community native to Alachua County.
In between sets, students involved with the planning of Gator Growl announced the headliner would be WALK THE MOON, which resulted in an eruption of cheers and applause. Soon after, as excitement was high in wake of the announcement and in anticipation for Young the Giant, event staff spoke of a severe lightning and thunderstorm warning in the area that could result in postponing the event.
Thankfully (and without any lightning strikes that are particularly privy to “Rainesville”), Young the Giant took the stage minutes after the announcement. The six-member group brought a charismatic and electric performance to Gainesville. It was easy to forget that this was a free concert for college students, as the California band showcased the same energy that you would expect to see at a festival or a sold-out venue. Frontman Sameer Gadhia stole the show with a voice just as powerful as the records and infectious dance moves throughout the entire 60-minute set.
A giant screen behind the stage displayed colorful and sometimes trippy visuals to accompany each song (think of Feels Like We Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala). The chemistry that the bandmates had onstage was palpable. The whole crowd was disappointed to hear the announcement of the last song, My Body, and even more disappointed when chants of an encore led to no results. But, nearly everyone in sight left the show with high energy and toothy grins.
Joywave sang “Never good enough, never satisfied with nothing” in their 2017 track, Doubt. But without a doubt and with the highest satisfaction, Reprise can say they and Young the Giant are more than good enough, especially for a rainy Friday night and a bunch of 19-year-olds. Even though the show was orchestrated by UF Student government, its implications and the amount it resonated with other community members was easily seen. People of all ages crowded around in the dirt, equally impressed with Young The Giant and equally bitten by mosquitos. Indie music does have the power to sew a community together, especially when themes like growing up and relationships are involved.