Editor's Note: This piece was edited on Sept. 8 to note the partnership between VTU and the Class of 2021 in putting on the kickoff concert.
Friday was a hot, dry day on the Drillfield, the grass still yellow and straw-like from the summer weather. The heat was holding at a steady 80 or so degrees, a far cry from the cool overcast days that dominated the week, and I was genuinely afraid that it would be too hot to enjoy a concert in an open field. The stage for the 2019 Welcome Home Kickoff Concert was set, and the wind was right for two solid hours of music.
At first it almost seemed like attendance would be sparse since the space in front of the stage was mostly empty, and one usually expects a crowd to form long before the concert even begins. However, when accounting for everyone who was actually within earshot of the stage, there was a substantial audience already waiting for things to kick off. When the event finally began, the crowd formed in earnest.
This year’s lineup included the groups Fordson Labs and Daddy’s Beemer followed by Kate Bollinger, with each act bringing something unique and interesting to the stage set in the shadows of Burruss Hall. Fordson Labs gave the audience more than a few rapid fire breakdowns backed by a trumpet and even an impromptu rendition of “Enter Sandman” in honor of the upcoming football season.
Daddy’s Beemer rocked out like there was no tomorrow, performing as a power trio consisting entirely of a drummer, bassist and guitarist. By the time Kate Bollinger got up to the stage with her band, the sun had set just enough to provide the last leg of the night with the right atmosphere for some slowed down grooves as the air from a blistering day cooled to perfection.
And all the while, the student staff of the Virginia Tech Union and volunteers from the Class of 2021, in their orange t-shirts, ran around making this all run smoothly.
“My job is putting out fires,” said Tyler Blankenship, director of concerts for the VTU, by way of explaining his role in planning and running the Kickoff Concert. “Everything from making sure the acts have their dressing rooms ready to placing the trash cans as effectively as possible goes into making an event like this happen.”
Even then there are plenty of things that can’t be controlled like weather and heat. Blankenship himself could be seen running around the crowd with armloads of water bottles, making sure his staff was properly hydrated on what ended up being a very humid day, as summer was just not quite ready to call it quits yet.
The Kickoff Concert is an important event in our campus culture; it’s a way of pumping up students for the new semester, and it provides some much needed accessible entertainment to a potentially huge part of the student body. Deciding to hold the event outdoors on the Drillfield was an excellent way to maximize the audience for the event and project out to as many listeners as possible. Live music is a way to bring people together, and the huge semicircular crowd that gathered at the event was a testament to that.
All things considered, the event was a smash, and the perfect beginning to the semester. An open field concert that could be heard clear across campus is a fantastic introduction to the new academic year, and the mix of musical styles ensured that there was something for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully this event marks the beginning of an exceptionally good year here in Blacksburg.