LUaroo provides welcome respite from Spring term chaos

Paul Smirl

LUaroo, Lawrence’s “only two-day party” took place over the weekend, transforming campus into a chilled-out, sun-soaked music festival. With a tented stage anchored in the north side of the quad and students lounging about, dancing, playing volleyball and drinking in the beer garden, LUaroo was a summer utopia amidst the chaos of late Spring Term.

However, LUaroo, like its namesake in Manchester, Tennessee, Bonaroo, would be nothing without the music. Indeed, LUaroo, which ran from 3:50 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, hosted seventeen musical acts, showcasing Lawrence’s party circuit mainstays, while dropping in a dash of rap, folk rock and some Rage Against the Machine.

Furthermore, after long days in the sun, LUaroo provided two nightcaps of professional music, as Chicago’s Inspector Owl and Ashville, North Carolina’s Papadosio headlined Friday night, while Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Stepdad closed things down on Saturday.

While each of LUaroo’s headliners have touring experience and at least one release, there were obvious differences in the three group’s musicality, songwriting and ability to perform. Certain acts struggled to stand out amidst a festival dominated by talented Lawrence musicians.

Opening for Inspector Owl and Papadosio on Friday were Lawrence favorites, The Dilla Gents. Forced to deal with a shortened set time due to technical difficulties, LU’s hip hop troupe wasted no time getting into their grooviest jams. Sporting a full ensemble including three rappers, The Dilla Gents took full advantage of their open-air arena, exhibiting a balanced sound that is seldom heard amidst the pandemonium of a house party. Casually laying down the funkiest tunes heard all weekend, The Dilla Gents instrumentalists wowed the quad crowd with impeccable tightness and the group’s MCs coupled wise lyricism with laid-back flow.

Next up, was the festival’s first headliner, Inspector Owl. Having performed at Lawrence a handful of times in the past, IO voiced their excitement about playing LUaroo. Yet, despite their undoubted enthusiasm and appreciation of the festival, the Chicago post-emo outfit missed the musical mark at times. Putting forth a number of upbeat, catchy tunes, Inspector Owl definitely knows how to write a hook, but their appropriation of ’90s alternative radio-isms made the aging guitar-pop band seem inauthentic.

Gearing up for a slew of festival dates this summer, Papadosio hit the stage just after dark on Friday, exhibiting a whirlwind set of groove-oriented music. With three band members playing a number of different synthesizers and the group’s drummer hooked in to some electronics of his own, Papadosio put on new spin on the classic jam-band format, creating highly textured atmospheres and laying down steady, intricate grooves.

Reveling in their psychedelic soundscapes, Papodosio coupled their improvisational tunes with stoner visuals and a light show. At first glance, Papadosio could be written off as jokey descendants of The Grateful Dead, but their unique combination of Blues and House music, proved that the Asheville band is truly doing their own thing. With complex time signature changes and an a diverse palette of sonic colors, Papadosio kept challenging the audience’s ears, despite remaining completely locked in to a seemingly unchanging feel.

Saturday night, LUaroo came to a disappointing end with Stepdad. With their full-length debut to be released in June and a number of tour dates to follow, one would expect the synth-driven pop group would be set to musically prove themselves. Yet, marred by sound issues, Stepdad dragged through a short set that lacked musical awareness. With the synthesizer inaudible, Stepdad was reduced to their off-kilter and off-key vocals.

Overall, Lawrence students had a blast at LUaroo. Getting a chance to watch and perform music is always a Lawrence attraction and despite the inconsistencies in the headliners, the festival was truly a good time.