RACHEL SLATTERY / THE EAGLE
It’s not often that Bender Arena gets packed at 9 p.m., but on Sept. 9 the dancing didn’t stop until after midnight. The event was the Student Union Board’s first major event of the year — a free We The Kings concert, featuring an opening act by singer-songwriter Ben Kweller.
Kweller started the night with reckless abandon, hopping between genres almost faster than the crowd could keep up. A lively three-piece pop-punk set gave way to slow acoustic solos, followed by ragtime piano dance numbers and a good dose of bluegrass. Kweller’s musical dexterity did not go unappreciated by the crowd, and the dancing barely stopped throughout his hour-long set.
The only moment when Kweller lost the energy, and maybe even the audience’s attention, was during his 20-minute long piano set. He quickly recovered, finishing it with a rousing harmonica/piano/vocal piece, showcasing his musical and instrumental range, and encouraging, once again, the crowd to get on their feet and move.
The main act, We The Kings, capitalized on an riled-up audience that had been dancing through the filler songs and practically set the stage on fire with charisma.
Frontman Travis Clark revelled in the spotlight, punctuating every song with an anecdote, and often going off on wild tangents throughout his set.
In between songs, with nearly everyone charged with the peppy energy only pop-punk can provide, Clark would dive into stories about making a fool of himself in Jacobs Fitness Center, cute girls on campus (and in Chipotle) and the history of his “frisky pants” worn to the night’s show.
However, his steady, easy-going and occasionally excitable ramble was often interrupted by his looking backstage and asking “How many strikes do I have now?” or apologizing for saying something he was evidently not allowed to say. The seemingly rigid guidelines imposed on what Clark could or couldn’t talk about on stage seemed out-of-place on a college campus.
However, the rules in place didn’t stop Clark from seducing the crowd, and inviting them to party. Perhaps the highlight of Clark’s antics was when the lights went low, the band left the stage and Clark brought out an acoustic guitar. Scanning the crowd, he set eyes on a blonde from the front row.
“You make purple look awesome,” he said, inviting her onstage. Sitting her down on a stool, and turning the lights off completely, Clark proceeded to serenade her with a soulful acoustic rendering of “We’ll Be a Dream.”
Crowd involvement seemed to be a high priority for Clark and We The Kings, as he encouraged multiple sing-a-longs throughout the set. Clark taught the lyrics to some of their lesser-known songs to the crowd and set up several a capella, crowd-only choruses.
By the end of their set, We The Kings had the entire crowd moving up and down, dancing and singing at lung-top volume to their most well known song, “Check Yes Juliet.” The audience noise was deafening as Clark announced they had one last song, “the song that put us on the map,” he said.
Travis Clark and We the Kings seemed grateful for the show, and the audience-band love was nearly tangible throughout the set. Ben Kweller never ceased to amaze, and the technical team and roadies from SUB ensured the show moved quickly and flawlessly. SUB started its season strong, and more concerts like this one could ensure a very successful year.