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Welcome to Corefest: New Brunswick's favorite bands tear down College Avenue

valentines day was just one of the bands to perform at Corefest, where in spite of the pandemic, concert excitement was at an all time high. – Photo by valentines day / Instagram

Corefest is 90.3 The Core’s official music festival, and this year's event featured performances from Toads, Screaming Females and valentines day. Rutgers has many different radio stations and organizations on campus, and The Core remains one of the most popular ones.

Music festivals coming back has been a recent phenomenon that’s returned since the pandemic, and as festivals like New York’s Governors Ball Music Festival and Rolling Loud in Miami continue to announce their line-ups and prices, it helps to wonder how long this perceived sense of normalcy will last.

While the thrill of experiencing a live show will never go away entirely, it feels as though the process is rushed and will lead to unintended consequences. Concerts feel more like a privilege now than at any other point in history, and time will tell how these shows will lead an impact on its audience.

valentines day is an all-women punk band from New Brunswick that has become well-known for its covers of 90s alt-rock classics. The band is also working on its own material after the release of its single, "spineless."

The band features Emily Tronolone, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, on the bass guitar, Nishta Venkatesh, a Rutgers Business School junior, on the drums, Nastaisha McKinnon, a School of Arts and Sciences senior on the lead guitar, Sarah Dowdy, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, on vocals, and Ariadna Uribe, a Class of 2018 Rutgers alumn, on vocals, tambourine and backup guitar.

Woman-led bands are rare in New Brunswick, and valentines day's presence at Corefest was a step in the right direction for more representation in the mostly-white New Brunswick basement scene and bands. Calls for inclusivity have become more common in recent months, and more Black-led bands are being created to respond to the lack of representation.

Toads is a New Brunswick-based band formed in 2018. The group performs constantly, and its Instagram posts are mostly lighthearted and comedic, with a plethora of niche punk memes and poorly edited screengrabs featured on the band's feed between show announcements and promotional photos. Its 2019 EP, “One’s About a Goat, One’s About a Smaller Goat” was met with positive reviews and comprised most of its setlist.

Firmly set in punk, Toads’ music is both moshable and danceable, and its vocals are a pleasant contrast to most screamo bands.

Screaming Females is a New Brunswick-based band formed in 2005 under the tutelage of Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, Jarrett Dougherty on drums and Mike Abbate on bass.

After releasing two albums and performing around the New Brunswick basement scene in the late 2000s, Screaming Females released its first album "Baby Teeth" in 2006 and followed up with "What if Someone Is Watching Their T.V." in 2007. The band's career is built by grassroots organization and a series of cassettes and vinyl releases, and its DIY aesthetic has been consistent in shaping its image and musical identity.

After signing to Don Giovanni Records in 2007, Screaming Females rereleased its first two albums. It was a surprising sight, but its stage performance and sound was well-rehearsed and mixed.

The band's music felt reminiscent of Frank Zappa and the rock opera genre, and while its songs were foundationally structured in rock, the band took clear inspiration from 1970s psychedelic music and alternative singers like Joanna Newsom.

The band's choice to dress in all black felt connected and synonymous with its message, and while most bands who portray this cult-like imagery often rely on gimmicks or destroy their instruments at the end of performances, Screaming Females relied on musicianship and energy to lead them through the set.

While most New Brunswick bands statistically don't find mainstream success in the music industry, the basement scene continues to cultivate an environment where artists can perform and hone their craft. As the scene evolves and develops, the focus turns from quality to marketing and brand potential.

Artists must choose between adjusting their artistic vision to mold to wide commercial appeal or staying true to themselves and forging through the industry as independent artists. While there is no right answer and every band’s situation is different, Corefest was a celebration of the scene that makes New Brunswick so special.

With a mix of new and well-established bands, the lineup provided variety and was a great mid-afternoon performance. Music exists in an extended vacuum, and the bands made The Core’s 2022 Corefest an enjoyable and memorable experience.


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