by Rose Brennan & C. Garrett Kiedel, Sports & A&E Editors
Manhattan College’s Labor Day weekend and semester as a whole kicked off with a bang on Friday, Aug. 30 with a performance by Kris Allen, the winner of “American Idol” Season Eight.
Allen’s performance was a part of MC’s annual “Quadchella,” a welcome-back celebration held at the beginning of every school year. In addition to a musical guest performing on the campus quadrangle, the school also invited food trucks from around New York City for the students to enjoy following the performance.
Quadchella was the first major event hosted by the new Atkins student government association, the members of whom were sworn in at the end of last semester. Kaylyn Atkins, student body president, was a bit nervous but overall excited about the first event of her new administration.
“Running for student body president came as a surprise to me, even though it didn’t come as a surprise to most people,” Atkins said. “I try really hard to make other students on campus make their experience worthwhile, because I didn’t have a positive experience my freshman year. So I’m really trying to help freshmen and encourage them to come to this event, so they can see [that] yes, we do have events on campus. This is the first one of many. And we want them to feel included.”
According to Atkins, there was a bit of a time crunch for Quadchella this year, owing to the decision to host it earlier in the semester than years past.
“In the past two years, Quadchella [was] usually later on in the year, usually … early September, but we wanted to have it during Opening Weekend so we can encourage students to stick around, at least on Friday, because we know it’s a holiday weekend. And I think it gives freshmen a chance to see we do hold events on campus that are fun and bring us all together,” Atkins said.
The date was not the only change made by Atkins and Student Government. The association was also mindful about the food options made available to students by the food trucks.
“In the previous years, I thought that they weren’t as inclusive as they could be,” Atkins said. “So this year, we actually have four food trucks instead of three, with … Shake Shack … we have a halal truck for our Muslim students … we have a cheese steak food truck that also has vegetarian options for people who don’t eat meat and we have a donut and milkshake truck kind of as our dessert truck.”
The event kicked off promptly at 4 p.m. when Allen walked onto the Smith steps. The crowd was sparse at first, but as Allen began to sing, students and faculty began to flock to the campus quadrangle.
Crowd favorites were played, including “Live Like We’re Dying” and “Heartless,” which were some of Allen’s better-known hits. However, he also played “Venice,” an audience request that was sent to him over Instagram direct message.
Throughout his set, Allen tried to interact with the college audience, who was enthusiastic and often quite funny with their responses. When Allen asked if the event was called Quadchella or Quadstock, someone responded, “We don’t know!” Allen also offered a six-pack of root beer to anyone who would come up on stage and sing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” with him, an offer which one daring student eventually took him up on.
It is this informal environment of college shows that makes Allen enjoy performing at colleges.
“I like the vibe of [college shows] a lot,” Allen said. “They’re a little less formal, I feel like. I remember going to college … and there were huge artists that would come and play at the school I went to, and I loved it … It’s kind of weird being on the other side, but I kind of love being on the other side of that. It’s very different [from] an actual show that I would put on.”
Sophomore Eunice Nazar said the concert was the perfect end to the first week of classes.
“It was very relaxing laying down and listening to Kris sing! It was such a nice way to end the first week of classes. The sun was out, the breeze felt amazing, his voice was so soothing and I was surrounded by great friends – overall, a great time,” said Nazar.
Freshman Leslie Salas felt more of a sense of community with the event.
“It was honestly so relaxing and the sense of community and good vibes was really de-stressing, especially since this is the first week and I’m just getting adjusted to college. Amazing experience!” said Salas.
While he was engaging at times, Allen did not shy away from more serious contemporary topics. One of the songs he performed, “If We Keep Doing Nothing,” discussed the polarity of the current political climate and how it was costing people their lives.
To Allen, “If We Keep Doing Nothing” is a personal favorite of his to perform.
“The crowd favorites are always really fun to perform because of that, so ‘Live Like We’re Dying’ and ‘Heartless’ are fun to perform because people know [them] really well [but] I would say my favorite song to perform … it changes a lot, but I think the song that no matter what, whenever it comes in the set, I can rest in it, is ‘If We Keep Doing Nothing,’” Allen said.
While most of the audience might know Allen from his “American Idol” days, he has been up to quite a bit since then, including six studio albums and three young children. His performance at Quadchella marks his return to performing after the birth of his third child.
“Really all I’ve been doing is making babies and making music … I’ve been working on music and … trying to get better and trying to learn, and by learning through doing and releasing music,” Allen said. “I came into the music business in a weird way and I didn’t get that development and put out the first record. It was like, ‘Put your first record out and develop in front of everyone’s eyes.’ That’s what I’ve been doing the past ten years. Right now I’m working on new music and hoping to put out a record either early next year or the middle of next year. I’m really excited about the new stuff.
2019 marks ten years since Allen won “American Idol,” and as a result he is embarking on a tour as a “thank you” to everyone who has loved and supported him the past ten years.
“This fall, I wanted to celebrate the past ten years in a way, and I didn’t exactly know how to do that,” Allen said. “We thought about doing one show maybe in my hometown [in Arkansas] or one show back in Nashville where I live now. And I was like, not everyone’s gonna be able to come and all of these people that have supported my for the past ten years either through the show … they’re not going to get to be a part of this celebration so … I’m going to do a tour and I’m going to do it by myself and kind of let people in my living room, play those songs, talk to them and tell stories from the past ten years [and] tell stories from songs.”