On Saturday night, thousands of young, drunk, attractive people stormed State Street for this year’s Freakfest, headlined by Matt & Kim and Chiddy Bang. The event featured four stages and a broad array of artists, both locally and nationally known.
I arrived at State Street around 10:30 p.m. Freakfest, at that point, had been going on for nearly three hours but I, like many others, got caught up in the whirlwind of pregame activities. After being frisked at the entrance to State Street, I began the long walk down the packed road. Like a hamster struggling to cling to a rock in a fast-moving stream, I plowed past a sea of stumbling people, most of whom were dressed as Walter White or Miley Cyrus, but many of whom were dressed otherwise.
At 11 p.m., Alan Palomo of Neon Indian took the stage behind a keyboard and mixing equipment. He delved into dance-heavy cuts, exploring little of his chillwave roots and favoring four-on-the-floor beats to dense walls of synths. This choice resonated well the crowd, which extended from the Capitol Stage to just before the entrance of Ian’s Pizza. The deep house cuts made for a sexy time in the audience, as more and more people began moving in, resulting in the trademark claustrophobic nature of Freakfest’s main stage. This is common side effect of the event: get hundreds of drunk college students, put them on a sloped street in front of a stage, play loud music and watch as they begin to sway to the point of knocking people over. This leads to people yelling at each other and pretty soon everyone is pissed. Thankfully, Neon Indian was dousing the crowd in positive vibes, so little drunken rage was seen.
After midnight, headliners Matt & Kim took the stage. Kim sat behind drums as Matt jumped around behind his keyboard. Bright, white lights cut through the cool, foggy air in front of them and occasionally, during louder moments, these lights would turn rainbow-colored, much to the excitement of the crowd. The duo covered all of their much-loved hits, including “Daylight,” “Cameras” and “Let’s Go.” In a recent interview with The Badger Herald, singer Matt Johnson expressed his desire to stray away from the traditional, poppy sound come to be associated with Matt & Kim, which he said is a convention that limits their artistic progression. If their Freakfest performance was any indication, Matt & Kim are both interested in pursuing the “turnt up.” Kim would stand atop her drum set, telling the crowd to turn up and explaining that, once she heard the event was called Freakfest, she decided to dress as herself because, she said, she is a freak. Between their songs, the two would play other hard-hitting music from Flosstradamus, Kanye West and Alice DeeJay. At times, this reliance on other prerecorded music was a bit of an annoyance, and it stood as a dramatic contrast from the peppy, inoffensive nature of Matt & Kim’s music. Matt’s vocals were drowned out in the mix, and at times their “turnt up” act felt a little forced. However, the crowd was loving every moment of the show, so it was a good time.
As my friends and I walked back down the length of State Street, we saw a person lying in the middle of the road, a police horse pissing at a tremendous speed and a man in a large, puffy chipmunk costume who was alone and appeared to be quite lost. Even if you don’t like the acts that get booked for Freakfest, you can never deny that the event is filled with interesting people and interesting sights. That itself is well worth the price of admission.