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Penn State EDM Scene Returns With Monster Energy Up & Up Festival

The Monster Energy Up & Up Festival returned to Penn State for the second semester in a row Saturday, making the final stop of its festival tour at The Basement Nightspot. Nine DJs, including festival headliner Elephante, delivered more than five hours of EDM bliss to a sold-out crowd.

The show was a reward of sorts for the crowd, since its participation in the festival pre-sale competition resulted in Penn State finishing second and becoming one of five colleges, along with UNC-Wilmington, Dayton, Washington State, and Oxford, to host the festival this semester.

Aside from the two headliners, Elephante and Shizz Lo, the festival featured a handful of opening performers including DJ Blatt, DJ Secr3t, Tredm, Mar1, FVNTM, Paul Laki, and Durfy, who were all either current Penn State students or recent graduates.

The Up & Up at Penn State movement started when Laki, a co-founder of the Penn State Up & Up team, read an article about the festival. The next day, he and his friends, Danny Murphy (Durfy,) Michael Sellers, and Kat VanLedtje decided to make it their mission to bring the festival to Penn State.

“We saw that EDM was dying at Penn State, and we saw this festival as a window to save it,” Laki said. “Now we’re at our second show, and that window has turned into a door that’s opened Penn State back up to the EDM scene, and we’re really proud of it.”

Image Courtesy of Matthew Fisher

“I love watching the festival grow and seeing the EDM scene grow downtown, especially at places like Chrome that have EDM-themed nights now,” Murphy said. “We see something here with huge potential. There are people here that want a bigger EDM nightlife scene at Penn State, and we’re trying to provide that.”

Sellers has been credited by many on the Up & Up team as the logistical force and driver for the team’s success. He, on the other hand, believes Up & Up wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for others.

“While the scene here was dying, there were a bunch of fragmented groups of people who still enjoyed the music,” Sellers said. “They were still here. We have 40,000+ undergrads, even if 1% still liked it, that’s still more than enough to make it work, and we are way above 1%.

We want to keep building hype for future semesters, keep growing and keep giving people a musical family they can be a part of.”

Ben Rosenblatt, who performs as DJ Blatt, and Nolan Hausser, who performs as DJ Secr3t, opened the festival and credited Up & Up’s success at Penn State to the rapid growth of the team. It was originally composed of just local DJs and their friends, but has branched out to include all students who love the genre.

“This is one big community, [everyone’s shared love for EDM] makes it very family-oriented because everyone is here for the same reasons and has the same mission,” Rosenblatt said. “That’s why this night is so special.”

Hausser said that it used to be difficult to find venues that played EDM downtown. That soon changed when the team of DJs began to collaborate.

“Soon enough, the scene of local DJs bloomed into a group of people who were all big into EDM, which led to founding Up & Up, which has been a great way to bring a professional scene to Penn State,” he said.

By the time the next performer DJ Tredm (pronounced “treedom”) hit the stage, the Basement dancefloor was packed and the festival was in full swing, with concert-goers decked out in Halloween costumes, coolers of free Monster Energy drinks everywhere, and a “Glitter Bar,” courtesy of Valley Magazine, where concert-goers could apply “official rave makeup.”

One of the highlights of the evening was DJ Mar1, who brought along a special guest to perform with him. Senior music major Manny Houndo, a classically trained violinist, joined Mar1 onstage for an incredible and completely original genre-bending performance.

Houndo has performed at THON and at other events on campus, but performing alongside an EDM DJ was something entirely new for him, and he was excited to try something new.

“There’s an expectation [in classical music] to not venture too far out of the norm, but being in a venue like this helps me get new sounds out of the instrument that normally I wouldn’t get,” said Houndo, who then took the stage and beautifully complemented Mar1 with his violin chops.

Another highlight of the night was Laki and Murphy’s set, with the DJs taking the stage dressed as priests wearing sunglasses and tactical vests, an homage to French producer Tchami, who frequently performs wearing a similar outfit.

Image Courtesy of Matthew Fisher

At the close of their electric set, in which a ton of remixed classics were played, including a festive “Thriller”-remix, the two DJs and festival organizers were surprised onstage by their parents, who were chilling in the VIP section all night and were escorted onstage by other Up & Up team members.

The Philly-based Shizz Lo then took the stage, becoming the first national DJ to sign on as direct support for an Up & Up headliner.

Shaun Irwin — Shizz Lo is his stage name — made his Penn State performing debut this weekend, and was impressed by how passionate the fans were.

“Everyone so far has been so kind and super welcoming,” Irwin said. “Penn State in general rages, definitely harder than any college I’ve performed at recently.”

Irwin commended Up & Up for its pre-sale competition, its promotional efforts, and the ability of a festival to turn a generation of college students into fans of the EDM genre.

“It’s going to educate people,” Irwin said. “There could be kids here that have never experienced dance music, and this genre brings people to a place where they can express themselves freely, and they can really just experience dance music culture in a completely welcoming setting.”

Shizz Lo surprised fans with a ton of new music during his set, premiering remixes of the Chainsmokers and debuting a song that he called “An Ode to My Love of Ice Cream” which sampled the iconic Mister Softee ice cream jingle.

Elephante took the stage just around midnight, and even though the crowd had been raging for more than four hours, the energy in the room practically doubled.

The DJ and progressive house producer clearly did his homework while researching his audience for this show, as he pulled out all the stops, playing a “Zombie Nation” remix AND a “Sweet Caroline” remix.

Elephante raged well passed 1 a.m., closing out his set with his recent single that remixes the Bag Raiders’ meme-tastic 2009 song “Shooting Stars,” his recent single “Diamond Days,” and two new songs that he claimed to have completed within 24 hours of premiering them Saturday night.

After the lights came up and the second Up & Up Festival at Penn State concluded, Laki, Murphy, and Sellers fondly looked back at how far the festival has come since the three of them and a handful of others first found out about it last semester. They then looked forward towards its promising future.

“It’s going to be something that’s just going to get bigger and bigger, and it’s going to be something that I’m going to look back on, be proud of, and follow for years after I graduate,” Laki said.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State, and the blog's preeminent expert on Kanye West. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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