“The best way to show people what you do is to show them what you do.”
These powerful words belong to 2014 Nest Fest host Billy Tuggle, who was in command of the audience throughout the May 2 event.
Though the crowd remained sparse for the majority of the event, the performers certainly showed those who attended what they do best.
“Nest Fest the past two years have been indoors,” explained Northeastern Programming Board (NPB) Graphic Designer Tracey Washington. “Our challenge was putting together an event of this size.”
Nest Fest kicked off with Chicago-based indie-funk band Bassel and the Supernaturals. Though they were performing for a very limited audience at the beginning of the day, lead singer Bassel Al-Madoni brought great gusto to the event opening.
Al-Madoni’s energy helped power the sun through the clouds to provide everyone with a brief period of much needed warmth – the sun’s only appearance all day. The band performed a mix of original songs and covers such as Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us.”
As Bassel and the Supernaturals continued their performance, the live art and social justice tables were ongoing, nested behind the stage. Unfortunately, this kept them hidden for most of the event; the only way to find them was to follow the smell of the spray paint.
“I do a lot of live painting,” said NEIU Alumnus Wil Velez, as he stroked his brush on what he labeled “tattoo art” reading “Death before dishonor.”
Clay sculptors, graffiti artists, and other painters also displayed their artwork to the Nest Fest crowd.
Back on stage, youth group Kuumba Lynx showed off their unique mixture of talent. Dance, music, poetry and other expressive art forms combined to create their act, which they described as the “urban arts.”
“We loved Kuumba Lynx; those kids are incredible and everything that’s needed in Chicago” said Rebel Diaz MC G1.
Rebel Diaz followed shortly after Kuumba Lynx. This was the first performance of the day that had people on their feet, singing and dancing.
Leadmen G1 and RodStarz gave the crowd one of the premier performances of the night. Their social justice message is “power and change from within each community”; a message that is clear in their lyrics.
Though they sounded discouraged when commenting on the “October-like weather” multiple times, Rebel Diaz set the bar high for headliners Brother Ali and The Uncluded. Their harmonic sound and mix of singing and rapping was an absolute hit.
After Rebel Diaz rocked the stage, a more defined buzz filled the air.
When asked what his favorite performance of the day was, G1 said “Of course, Brother Ali, one of my favorite MCs.”
Crowd member Dianna Qualizza raved about how impressed she was that an artist of Brother Ali’s kind was performing at Nest Fest.
Al-Madoni said he was “honored to share the stage with such a legend.”
Throughout most of his performance, Ali had his hood up and a hand in his pocket. Seemingly effortlessly, Ali acted as a puppeteer and had the entire crowd bobbing their heads and waving their arms. With each verse and each spoken word, Ali’s passion for social justice grew more apparent.
Feeling too distanced from his fans, Ali moved from atop the stage to the steps in front of the stage a few songs into his set list. Almost simultaneously, rain began to fall from the night sky which seemed to increase the energy in the crowd.
When it came time for Ali to perform his hit song, “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” a special grit and intensity was felt through the microphone. The song’s lyrics very harshly criticize the government and implore citizens to fight for equity and fairness. This was a social justice fair, after all.
Ali controlled the stage for over an hour, and, at the conclusion of the performance, he repeated multiple times, “no me, no you, just us.”
Unfortunately for the other headliner, The Uncluded, the sound system operators clearly grew exhausted when it came time for their act. Even though a sound check had happened earlier in the day, Aesop Rock of The Uncluded was forced to send out an apology tweet because of the poor sound quality.
The band took the stage with the crowd ready to rock, but for 20-30 minutes, it was more of an Aesop Rock standup act. He assertively and sarcastically entertained the fans at the sound crew’s expense.
The few songs that were heard as they were meant to be were great, but the inconsistency and low sound quality fatigued audience and band members alike, creating a disappointing experience for all.
The present food trucks certainly abided by the theme of the day: scant yet impressive. There were only two trucks which seemed to surprise and disappoint attendees.
Husky Hog BBQ and Taquero Fusion were set up for a slow night, as they were placed hundreds of feet from the stage, and completely out of sight. Employees of both trucks said they were surprised at how idle business was at the event.
Taquero Fusion served Mexican food and said their most popular order was the chips and guacamole.
Husky Hog BBQ seemed to be the choice of more people, serving homestyle barbecue food.
“The customer service was great, the food tasted good, and the owner was personable,” said NEIU senior Larry Thigpen of the Husky Hog truck.
Overall, those who attended the event seemed to enjoy themselves. Sadly, a day full of great music, energetic performers, and a positive message was hindered by the lack of crowd, chilly weather and sound system blunders.
“I think next year we’re going to try to do everything really early and make sure there are people specifically signed to logistics of getting volunteers, recruiting people and keeping all of that stuff organized and easily accessible,” said Brittany Higgin, Arts and Entertainment Coordinator for NPB.
“This was my first big event here out of four years,” NEIU Senior Carina Flores said, “It’s great to see something bring students, staff and the community together.”