Review: Homecoming Concert Pepper

Emily Bloch

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“The Villains should be here in a half hour,” announced Mike Burdman, the event coordinator, to the sound crew. Burdman’s talking about The Supervillains, an Orlando based punk/ska band, who were now a half hour late and scheduled to open for Pepper.

“They’re lost on our two mile campus,” joked Eric Marmer, the Homecoming director, about the band.

It’s almost 20 minutes later and Burdman’s on the hunt to track down The Supervillains.

Tonight’s FAU’s second annual Homecoming Concert. Headlining band, Pepper, traveled the world playing many large scale shows such as the Jägermeister Music Tours and the Vans Warped Tours. They’ve been active since 1997 and now they’re playing at FAU.

The members of Pepper never attended college. However, the band has played college circuits before. “It’s like our little Van Wilder fantasy we can live out,”  said the band’s drummer, Yesod “Yee” Williams. Vocalist and guitarist, Kaleo Wassman added, “we have a lot of collegiate experience for not going to college.”

***
At 4:00 p.m., the sound crew lied on their backs solemnly across wooden drum platforms. They were surrounded by large amps, sighing in exasperation among the occasional strobe light flickers and the low hum of sound equipment.

The bands were late due to Tropical Storm Sandy’s rough weather. Sandy was also the reason why the Homecoming Concert, which was originally supposed to be held at the outdoor stage, was moved indoors.

The Supervillains tour bus pulled in and everyone pitched in to unload gear. Meanwhile, Marmer made sure Pepper’s green room was ready to go. “We have about 3 pounds of turkey right now,” Marmer laughed. The band’s rider (the band’s requests before they agree to play) consisted of Vita-coco water, organic fruit, Naked juice: orange carrot flavor, Boar’s Head honey maple turkey, and avocados.

After all the equipment was set up, Pepper’s guitarist gave it a test run.

***
Kaleo Wassman has two personalities. 1) Sound Check Kaleo, and 2) Stage Kaleo. Before the show, Wassman, the lead guitarist and singer for Pepper, tried out his guitar for the first time all day.

First off, 1) Sound Check Kaleo. He serenaded the crew for approximately 20 minutes, slowly roaming the stage back and forth, playing a bluesy, kind of soulful riff on his sanded down Fender Stratocaster. It’s a dark color, with a rough texture, bits and pieces of its old sunburst finish still left behind.

After turning his amp off, he sat on a speaker, strumming rhythmically and tapping his foot on the floor. He humbly introduced himself to crew members, shook their hands and thanked them all for having Pepper here to perform. All men were greeted with a friendly handshake, the ladies with a kiss on the cheek.

Wassman definitely wreaks of “Aloha” spirit.

During his calm soundcheck, it was as if he was the only one inside the auditorium. But all around him, the other bands were preparing for their performances.

***

At 8:00 p.m., the crowd started piling in from both sides of the auditorium toward the center seating. Reggae opener ARTIKal Sound System’s lead vocalist Redlyte was popping Lifesavers Holes backstage. “[This] is a big opportunity. Pepper’s a big band, they tour a lot,” said Redlyte.

“It’s always a pleasure opening up for these guys, hoping that one day somebody grabs you on to keep opening up for them.” ARTIKal Sound System has only been a band for nine months, but they are already planning to tour the East Coast and South America and are working on a full-length album.

ARTIkal Sound System says their music applies to anything people are dealing with in their life. “From hiphop, to roots reggae, to R&B” said Redlyte.

ARTIKal Sound System’s reggae had the crowd vibing quick, students’ hands moving up and down with the beat — they were under the band’s spell. The six-piece band had a reggae/funk-fusion sound going for them, and the crowd was eating it up. As the co-vocalists bounced off each other’s energy, they yelled to the audience, “all the ladies, if you need your mouths cleaned right now, SCREAM!”
Spoiler alert — they screamed.

***
Before the show, about 30 early-bird fans were whisked backstage by Eric Marmer, where they got to meet Pepper. The band took pictures with the students and signed autographs. They even managed to combat comedian Ralphie May’s performance the night before, with a joke.

“So guys, you know as a band we’re getting a lot bigger. We’re almost as big as Ralphie May,” joked bassist and vocalist, Bret Bollinger, as he pointed at May’s picture.

“I’m so happy right now, I could seriously die,” exclaimed Carly Burdick, a sophomore communications major, as the musicians signed her stomach in black and silver sharpie. “I got my signed poster, got my signed stomach.”

***

The building crowd religiously sang along to Sublime’s Smoke Two Joints, as the crew worked to get The Supervillains ready for the stage. When we last spoke with The Supervillains, they told us that “pretty girls, sport drinking and general foolishness” are right up their alley. Looks like they weren’t kidding. The band opened with their song Drinking Tonight to a huge crowd response.

The lively upbeat, ska/punk band had the crowd on the edges of their seats. No really though — they were standing on seats. “Steer clear of the chairs, be nice to the chairs,” instructed guitarist and vocalist Scott ‘Skart’ Suldo to the crowd to avoid getting the show stopped.

Thanks, Sandy.

Despite the chair issues, being inside actually helped the show space-wise, according to the event’s sound crew from Garret Sound. According to crew members, the outdoor stage would’ve been way too small to fit three bands and a DJ comfortably.

As The Supervillains’ set continued, the chair dilemma arose yet again, this time with a new twist — crowd surfing. As students glided across the wave of bodies, Mike Burdman tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m not letting this one get shut down” he said, and proceeded to rush the stage and pull divers out himself.

“If you see a crowd surfer, punch them in the neck,” Suldo said to an applause. “And if it’s a girl, punch them in the vagina!” It didn’t help.  As the band played songs like Be Alright and Johnny You’re too Bad, the crowd continued to surf. “God damn chairs,” said drummer Dominic “Dom” Maresco.

***
As the crowd waited in anticipation for Pepper to take the stage, Eric Marmer and Student Body Vice President April Turner tried to amp them up. “They come all the way from Hawaii, so make some noise,” Turner said.  The band lives in San Diego now, but that fact got lost in her excitement.

Instantly, a Pepper chant broke loose into the audience. Within minutes, Kaleo Wassman walked onto the stage and started playing an ambient reggae riff with lots of echo.

The crowd cheered and the other two members joined. The band opened with Love Affair and Wassman danced around like someone just poured ice cubes down his pants (He does that dance move a lot). The audience started singing along right away to the alternative/reggae songs. As mentioned earlier, Wassman has two personalities. 2) Stage Kaleo. Wassman smiled as the crowd cheered, “chill man, we’re just warming up.” The band transitioned into their song Nice Time and iPhone’s popped up throughout the crowd taking video footage of the Hawaii native band. Wassman transformed from this humble, starry eyed guitarist, into this hyper, dance machine, crotch popping, reggae sex god musician as he flailed his body in opposite directions and strutted across the stage.

As the crowd screamed for Pepper, the bandmates reminisced about their first time in Florida. “Wow, the weather looks a lot like Hawaii over here. Let’s keep going that way,” said Bret Bollinger as he extended his arm as if pointing toward Florida. Going off of this, the band announced that they are not touring that often because they are working on their first album in four years.

The crowd exploded over hearing this. Not only did this make Pepper’s appearance this year special, but it gave all the fans in the crowd something to look forward to. “I thought it was awesome, I’m so happy that FAU got to have this,” said Caity Riordin, an undecided sophomore.

The amount of fun Wassman, Bollinger and Williams were having on stage was no secret. The bandmates would engage in rock, paper, scissors trials to pick the next song they were going to play and encouraged crowd participation to the fullest. “Look at the hooters on her,” one of the band members said about a girl in the crowd, “no, the owls!”

This exposure, was very pleasing, not only to the band, but to the audience members. “A lot of girls showed their parts that were not meant to be shown, but I’m glad they showed it, it was great,” said Thiago Caldas, a sophomore business major.

The band played songs like Point and Shoot and Too Much as girls sat on shoulders and even stood on chairs in a line to dance for the three men. The lights went out and the band walked off, but within seconds of their feet hitting stage right, the audience was already chanting “one more song,” over and over. The band took a good bit of time leaving audience members to question if they actually are going back on or not. Then, Wassman hit the stage with FAU Owl foam fingers attached to his head like a hat. Soon, the other two members followed, also wearing foam fingers on their heads. The crowd erupted and Pepper played a few more songs. “It was incredible. Pepper killed it … I had an awesome time,” said Tyler Stasi, a junior business major.

The band closed with a sing along and encouraged all the crowd members to join in as loud as possible. “You now belong to our Pepper family. Sing along like a god damn owl,” said Bollinger. The crowd complied happily. Sandy didn’t get the last laugh.

No chairs were harmed in the making of this concert.

According to homecoming staff, as of 2:00 p.m., 1,800 tickets were already given away for the night’s concert. By performance time, the event was sold out.