Students hear alternative sounds at WHUS Spring Fling Concert

Michelle Zauner, frontwoman for Japanese Breakfast performs during the WHUS Radio Spring Fling concert Saturday evening. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)    

Though the University of Connecticut’s annual Spring Concert was cancelled last Thursday, students flocked to the WHUS Radio Spring Fling concert Saturday night for an alternative sound, filling the Student Union Ballroom to capacity while headbanging along to the music.    

The mood was more mellow than mosh-pit, with students either crowding by the stage or veering towards the back to converse. However, concertgoers still expressed their enthusiasm for the bands by cheering and clapping with each song’s conclusion.

“Spring Concerts are more rap, and (Spring Fling) is a good way to increase exposure,” Yilan Liang, a tenth-semester pharmacy major, said.

Headliners Japanese Breakfast and Porches, both up-and-coming bands in the Indie and alternative rock world, helped to draw the crowd. Yet concertgoers were just as magnanimous towards more local bands, such as UConn-based group The Merks.

“We try and look for people who match with WHUS content,” WHUS operations manager Kailey Townsend said. “We’re always looking for the next big thing.”

Oregon-based indie solo rock band Japanese Breakfast has already made a name for itself with the internationally-released record “Psychopomp,” released in April 2016. Sprung from the roots of the Philadelphia emo group Little Big League, Japanese Breakfast was lead singer Michelle Zauner’s way of exploring her musical creativity and of coping with her mother’s illness in 2014.  

“I miss Little Big League a lot, but it’s nice to be a solo creator,” Zauner said. “I had a really hard time with my group because I didn’t know how to communicate how I was feeling. Working on this record was a good way to reflect on myself. It was very therapeutic.”   

As such, Zauner’s performance was laced with emotion, as her husky, yet raw voice floated over the crowd. While most of her set stayed true to Psychopomp’s signature moody tunes, other songs were more upbeat (Notably “Everybody Wants to Love You,” which Zauner informed the crowd was about oral sex).

Saturday’s show offered a testing ground for some of her newer creations, in contrast to more high-profile gigs, Zauner said.  

“It’s really different. It’s low pressure, there’s a guaranteed crowd,” Zauner said. “It feels more casual. It’s like an event more than a concert. I feel more open to play new songs.”

At the same time, there is still the need attract new fans.

“You want to play really well because it's a way for new people (to hear you). Touring is really different,” Zauner said. “There's a bunch of people you can connect (with). It’s an art form. It’s a compromise to stay true to the record and to try out new experiences.”

Porches offered a smoother sound than the emo-punk style of Japanese Breakfast, emphasizing synth in their set with a tone similar to Pink Floyd. The laid-back vibe carried over to the audience, which lead singer Aaron Maine appreciated.

“Tonight was great,” Maine said. “Everyone was really respectful of each other, and there was a really good vibe. It was a treat.”

For many students, the concert was a cheap way to spend a Saturday evening, especially for those who appreciate WHUS’ alternative theme.

“I really like the alternative station,” Liang said. “It’s a good time to spend Saturday night, (and) to listen to good live music.”

The headliners were a draw for a draw for many students.

“I really like Porches and Japanese Breakfast,” Kayla Jessing, an eighth-semester psychology major, said. “I’m very impressed. It’s just as good in person.”  

One of the sentiments expressed by students was the lack of alternative music in recent SUBOG concerts.

“I like rap, but this is a concert I want to listen to,” Jessing said. Liang agreed.

Overall, the more laid-back and independent sound of the Spring Fling concert helped bring in the crowd, and keep them there.

“It’s cool. It's different. It’s more intimate,” Scott Hoffmann, a pre-education alumnus visiting UConn for the concert, said. “It was a good lineup. We have this to fill in the gaps that (SUBOG doesn’t).”


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.