The University of Connecticut received a warm welcome to the semester at the WHUS “Sounds of Summer” concert held at the Student Union terrace on Thursday, Sept. 7. The concert, which also commemorates the 100th anniversary of WHUS —UConn’s student-run, noncommercial radio station — put Storrs and Connecticut-based musicians centerstage in a celebration of the local music scene.
“Since it’s our 100th anniversary, we wanted to do something new,” said WHUS event coordinator Sophia Curran, a second-year finance student. Curran, who was in charge of planning the concert, explained that WHUS is passionate about supporting local bands and the alternative scene at UConn, hence why they were the highlight of the radio station’s centenary.
East Windsor-based band The Jawns was the first act of the night. The seven member group, missing their keyboardist, blasted out of a bustling soundcheck with a stunning confluence of guitar-saxophone riffing, effortless vocal harmonies and a fast-paced rhythm section. The Jawns set a cool tone for a night pushing 90 degrees with covers of “Never There” by Cake, “This Charming Man” by The Smiths and their original “Infinite University.” Students settled on the Student Union lawn and lined up for merch supplied by WHUS and participating bands.
The Storrs based act Solgyres followed with a massive wall of sound, fusing reggae, ska and progressive rock together with impressive vocal and guitar effects. Students and fellow musicians lifted off the lawn to form a makeshift mosh pit at the base of the terrace, elevating the heavy bass and percussion section setting the beat. The band flexed their crowd working chops with a cover of “54-64 that’s my Number” by Toots and the Maytals, and proceeded with three songs commanded by the synthesizer, played by Skylin Bernier.
“UConn was the place where we really started playing shows,” said Bernier, a keyboardist and vocalist for Solgyres. Bernier says the band started almost underground, playing condo and house parties. With Solgyres and their predecessors, a contagious subculture emerged.
“We just came out to chill and listen to some good tunes,” said Antoine, a first-semester film major. Their friend group attended early partly because they were familiar with Solgyres and had attended pop-up shows around the community.
Mercer, a first-semester digital media and design major, joked that the group had nothing better to do, since their class had been canceled due to sweltering heat that had persisted throughout the day.
“I think this is a strong start,” said Claire Flanagan, a third-semester environmental studies major who had heard about the event a week prior and took a liking to the bands’ music after exploring them. “It’s setting a good mood for the semester and the stuff that comes after this.”
“It’s amazing how things lined up,” remarked operations manager Lee McAndrews, a seventh-semester student studying nutritional sciences, about the first WHUS show of the season lining up so closely with the station’s centenary.
“We can just use every event as a reason to celebrate.”
According to Curran, organizing the event was a highly collaborative effort between different members of the organization beginning at the start of summer, involving communication between board members, organizing auditions and reserving space on campus. But despite challenges organizing remotely with people, WHUS members were eager to put on a concert early in the semester. “We liked the idea of putting on something while it’s still warm out at the beginning of the year, right as people are coming on campus,” said promotions director Erin O’Neill, a seventh-semester student pursuing an individualized major in visual media.“At the beginning of the summer, we always kind of struggle with getting it together.”
But O’Neill feels that WHUS overcame that challenge. “This year, it was really good. All the new board members we had were on top of it and everything was planned out before the semester even started.”
New Haven based rock band Keep Off the Grass kept the Student Union mosh pit moving with songs like “Gonzo’s House” and “C.I.A.” that mix playful, narrative lyricism with a rhythm section who are as tight in the pocket as classic punk bands like The Minutemen and Dead Kennedys.
Headlining the event as the sun set on the Union was hardcore group Dash Cam, whose heavy-hitting punk sound filled the pit with hopeful moshers before soundcheck was over. Students at the bottom of the terrace took their cue from the UConn basement shows where Dash Cam cut their teeth and immediately began colliding with their peers, kicking explosively and forming a running merry-go-round of bodies – this time unconfined by walls and pillars.
This was Mercer’s first mosh pit experience. “It was good, it was really cool,” they said, still processing the rapid movements and a small fall they took during the mosh. They simply shrugged it off with, “No blood, no problem. Would do it again.”
Dash Cam closed out the concert with new, unreleased titles combined with nostalgic favorites like “Concrete” and “Final Crisis.” Ushering the crowd “five steps forward,” Dash Cam played their final two songs inches away from a no-less volcanic pit occupying the stairs and terrace.
“We’re not the first band to do this,” said Dash Cam frontman Zu, about the “do-it-yourself” basement shows where bands in the local music scene often get their start. Zu said that the alternative and DIY scenes are an alternative to frat parties.
“All your homies are right in your face, you know most of the people you’re performing with,” he continued. Zu added that even though university venues often have higher production value and safer spaces, the DIY scene gives students a unique entryway to a small, vibrant community outside of their comfort zone. Curran praised WHUS’ collaborative and supportive culture. She said it’s their goal as a radio station to make new and local music accessible for the UConn community. She would later call it a resounding success. “It’s beyond important, we’re all broke college students,” said Curran. “I think live music should be free for everyone to enjoy. I find so much satisfaction in helping the music community and doing something to facilitate a space for things I love and enjoy.”
Curran said WHUS is always planning something and offering opportunities to get involved, from a centennial documentary to the annual “Mischief After Dark” concert, held around Halloween. “Get ready for some mischief,” Curran presaged.