by Taylor Brethauer & Timothy Hamling
Editor & Staff Writer
JoJo, the first female performer Manhattan College has had since Kelly Pickler in 2014, performed at the rebranded fall concert “Quadchella” this past Friday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. to a packed Quad on a sunny yet windy 70-degree day.
Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, a 26-year-old singer and actress, graced the Quad steps for the first-ever Quadchella. The Pop and R&B star, whose influences span across multiple genres such as Aretha Franklin to Drake to A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan, performed a slew of songs from old throwbacks, covers and her latest work.
The arrival of JoJo and the re-branding of what was once known as Quadstock was announced by Student Engagement on their Twitter on Aug. 22. Through the collaboration of Student Government and Student Engagement, an exciting new fall concert was born.
“First and foremost, we started by brainstorming about potential performers that the student body would enjoy. From there we narrowed down the choice by including elements like artist availability, budget, artist buzz, etc. The next step is contacting the agents of potential performers. After negotiating with various agents, we choose who we think is the best possible performance for the event,” said Adam Genners, Vice President of Social Life for Student Government.
Genners believes that, “going forward the Social Life Committee is going to play a big part of planning events around campus.”
While the selection of JoJo was the bigger point of the announcement, the renaming of the concert also drew a lot of attention.
“Our goal is to make this year the best it can be for the student body and we felt Quadstock is something that comes and goes. By renaming it we attempted to increase the buzz around the event and convey the message that this is not what the event has been in the past,” said Genners.
It certainly wasn’t what the event was in the past. The concert is usually a way to kick off the school year, typically being held on the first weekend after classes begin. The addition of food trucks and concessions added to the overall hype of the event.
Students began laying out blankets on the Quad around 3:15 p.m., facing the steps to Smith Auditorium. Starting that morning, a makeshift stage under a canopy that had been built where JoJo would soon perform. As it got closer to 4 p.m., Student Government officers manned the free food stations around the Quad which included cotton candy, hot dogs, snow cones and popcorn.
Not only was JoJo promised by Student Government, but so were free food trucks parked in Jasper Backyard available to students during the duration of both JoJo’s set and the student performers.
Prior to the start of JoJo’s performance, Eric Ciccotelli, a freshman, was optimistic about the afternoon’s events. “I’m excited to have a good time, hang out with friends, and hopefully meet new people.”
Ciccotelli also expressed interest in one of the more popular features of the afternoon. “I’m also looking forwards to free food,” Ciccotelli said, and he was not alone. Students came strolling through the Quad with their free food from a donut food truck, a taco food truck and popular food truck franchise, Wafels and Dinges.
Exactly at 4 p.m., JoJo arrived to the steps to thunderous applause and cheers. At this point, students crowded around the front of the Quad on blankets while some stood on the pavement on either sides of the steps. The performer welcomed everyone back to MC and congratulated the student body on completing their first week and started into her first song, titled “Clovers.”
Many of the upperclassmen have experienced similar concerts and performances from past Quadstock performances, but for some new students, this was an entirely new experience. Nick Impieri, a member of the freshman class, was particularly excited for Quadchella. “This was my first concert, and it was a good experience.”
“Clovers” was followed by another newer song titled “Vibes” (typically featuring Kendrick Lamar), then a song from her first album titled “Baby It’s You”. JoJo surprised the crowd with a cover of Zayn Malik’s (of One Direction fame) “Pillowtalk”. But the real excitement from the crowd came from when the artist began a popular throwback of hers, one of her early 2000 hits “Leave (Get Out)”.
The throwback songs were met with unanimous support from the students. Marc Benevento, a junior, was particularly fond of these tunes. “My favorite song was ‘Leave (Get Out),’ it was a good throwback.” This song is one of JoJo’s earliest, being released in 2004. Upperclassmen like Benevento were in elementary school when this song was released.
JoJo then launched into talking about treating each other right especially with all of the hate in the world in order to introduce her song “Rise Up”. Another specialty of JoJo has been rewriting songs, originally performed by male singers, to the female perspective. She did this with Drake’s “Marvin’s Room”.
For her final cover, JoJo performed the song “Location” by Khalid. She started back up with her original music with the title track of her most recent album, “Mad Love”.
Finally, with the crowd going crazy, JoJo performed her most famous song “Too Little, Too Late” which came out in 2006. Students sang along and danced on the Quad.
JoJo wrapped up her set after 37 minutes with another newer song titled “No Apologies”, which typically features Wiz Khalifa. Since the rapper wasn’t in attendance, JoJo impressed the crowd with her rap skills as she performed his part.
With the main act finished, students were still in high-energy mode. Isabel Quinones, a sophomore, said “The concert was awesome. It was really cool to hear the songs without the backing instruments.” Quinones was also excited to share a signed photo she received from a lucky encounter with Jojo after the show.
After leaving the Quad to a pumped up crowd (and some fans eager to get a picture with her), JoJo sat down with the Quadrangle for an interview.
“It’s pretty cool [for students to say they “grew up” with her], we’re not that different in age so I feel like I grew up with my supporters as well. It’s also cool for some of the freshman who might have absolutely no idea who I am or they might know me from ‘Aquamarine’. I really don’t care where it comes from but as long as you dig it, that’s cool,” said JoJo.
Although many students did grow up with the performer, many hadn’t heard her recent music yet. JoJo recently finished a 78-day tour in Europe, Canada and North America performing her new music for her fans in different countries. After Quadchella, JoJo was actually heading back to Los Angeles to begin working on new music.
“I know that a lot of us feel nostalgia for like my first single from when I was a teenager but I think that when people are able to connect to the lyrics of the new material that’s when it becomes a part of their life and that’s when it might soak in a bit more. I never really have an expectation [on fan’s reactions to new music], I’m just grateful to have a platform,” said JoJo.
Her platform has allowed her to perform in all sorts of venues around the world, but MC was able to get her on a day with great weather, spent together singing, laughing and having fun.
“Every show is different whether it’s at an arena or a theater or a club or doing college shows. This was a different vibe for a college show, usually they’re more like a festival vibe. This was pretty intimate. But I like being outdoors and that’s always fun. The participation was great and that’s the thing I love about college shows, is that they’re quite lively,” said JoJo.
Back out on the Quad, the concert was only getting started. Students who had stuck around after JoJo’s set were treated to multiple performances from a handful of student performers who had signed up through Student Engagement to stand where JoJo stood and perform their own music and covers.
Student performers included Emily Martinez (accompanied by friends Kyle Crevan on guitar and Jared Kashkin on keyboard), Kevin Donald (accompanied by Pep Band Director Jake Robinson on drums and student Paul Neiro on bass guitar), Tara Ann Connor, Alex Constantine (accompanied by Horan Hall Resident Director, William “Billy” Atkinson, on guitar), Soundcloud Artist Kyle “K-Andre” Watkins, David Cartolano and finally wrapping up with Chris Lake and Ersan Mamudoski.
Molly Flores served as emcee for the first portion of the student concert. She encouraged students to use the Snapchat filter and grab free food from the food trucks as Martinez began setting up to perform first.
Students were just as supportive of their fellow Jaspers as they were for JoJo, and this encouragement helped drive the students’ acts. “We were excited to perform and see our friends support us and call out our names,” said Martinez. “I believe that Quadchella was a great place to play.”
Each student performance brought a different sound. After Martinez’s acoustic set with a combination of covers and original songs, Donald took to the stage to perform a rocking setlist.
During the performance, Donald jokingly quipped that the music he was playing was composed of “all original songs, only my mom has heard them.”
After the performance, Donald commented on the music he decided to showcase. “The first song was in the ‘Old Kevin Donald style’. Two of the songs I had just written over the summer.”
When asked why he decided to perform at Quadchella, Donald said, “I first heard John Bennett asking for student performers at RA Training. I haven’t played anything in over a year, and I’ve been dying to play my music at Manhattan College again.”
It may seem counter-intuitive for a concert to open with a big-name act and close with smaller performances, since some students were expected to leave after hearing JoJo’s concert. However, this was not the case at Quadchella. Manhattan College students, ranging from seniors to freshmen, cheered on the performances of their fellow students.
“A lot of the excitement students had to see JoJo carried over to the student acts, and that’s great,” said Donald. Although some students joked that JoJo was the opening act for the student performances, it was definitively apparent that she helped pump up the crowd, and the crowd was more than happy to stick around for the student performances.
It was an entertaining day that brought Jaspers of every class together through music, free food and quadding. Quadchella is certainly here to stay, as students and student performers alike were inspired.
When asked for advice for the student performers and aspiring artists, JoJo said, “it’s hard with advice because I always feel like a weirdo, like I feel too young to give advice you know? I would say to always be a student of your craft, to never feel like you know it all. Pharrell [Williams] gave me some of the best advice which is just to never stop learning. Never stop being a student […] I would say to keep blinders on, try not to take in too much of what other people are doing– really focus on doing what you do and what makes you unique because since the quantity of artists is bigger than ever, you really just need to hone in on your own quality.”
Stephen Zubrycky contributed reporting.