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Penn State History Lesson: Movin’ On

Your favorite student-run musical festival is almost here, folks.

With Movin’ On slated for next month, it’s the perfect time to take a deep dive into the history of Penn State’s very own music festival.

Established in April 1975, the student-run music festival is in its 48th year of bringing hit artists to Happy Valley. For years, the program has allowed students to enjoy an evening filled with diverse music and good vibes.

According to the Movin’ On website, Movin’ On “brings a free celebration intended to wish off all graduating students who are ‘movin’ on’ in their lives.”

The program is one of the top five largest student-run music festivals in the country and provides a free evening of music for Penn State students.

The Penn State Student Fee Board, with the assistance of the University Park Allocation Committee, funds Movin’ On, which collaborates with several other on-campus organizations to form one large festival.

How It Started

In 1975, the Association of Residence Hall Students (ARHS) announced the creation of Movin’ On, as part of its annual “Residence Hall Week” that took place at the end of April every year. The event benefitted the local Volunteer Service Center.

At first, the festival was held on HUB Lawn from noon until midnight, showcasing a number of local musicians and celebrating the end of the academic year.

Throughout the day different bands such as Gravel, Terry Beard, Felix Harp, Bob Doyle and the Buffalo Chipkickers, Sweet Pain, Brooks & Reed, Mudshark, and Sunday Drive, took the stage and made history as some of the first performances of Movin’ On.

The First Two Decades

Flash forward to 1980, after a well-received and successful five years operating the student-run musical festival, Movin’ On looked a little different.

Unlike its first handful of years as an all-day festival, Movin’ On was a two-day, weekend event at the beginning of May.

Saturday’s lineup in 1980 included M’Lady, a bluegrass band named Marengo, a country rock band called Tahoka Freeway, a jazz group known as Quintessence, Changes, and solo artist Chris Vogt. Saturday’s headlining band was Silverspring, a group from Washington, D.C., which played Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and Rolling Stones covers.

Sunday’s lineup included local groups Kidder and Can’t, a jazz group called Bravura, Harpo, and a rock group known as Backseat Van Gogh. The headliner for the day was Tumblin’ Dice, a rock group from Pittsburgh.

The event raised over $400 with all proceeds going towards the emergency medical technicians, which were the individuals who provided medical services at events like football games and concerts.

The following decade, in 1990, attendance was at an all-time high as 8,000 students packed onto HUB Lawn, despite the rather chilly weather conditions.

Rather than just bringing musical acts to Happy Valley for the festival, Movin’ On welcomed local comedian Buzz Keiper in addition to the music.

The festival returned to hosting the event for one day only, kicking off at noon on Saturday, April 21, 1990. The lineup included four local bands, Keiper, and folk singer Richie Havens, who performed at Woodstock in 1969.

The Early 2000s

In 2000, Movin’ On took place in the Pollock quad and offered free entertainment to not only Penn State students but also to alumni and the surrounding community.

Movin’ On in 2000 coincided with the annual Blue-White game for the second year in a row.

The festival kicked off with a lively performance by acclaimed singer and violinist, Tracy Bonham. Following her performance, rock groups Letters to Cleo and Luna and hip-hop group The Arsonists rocked Pollock.

Our Lady of Peace was set to attend Movin’ On that year but was replaced by punk rock group Gold Finger due to one of Our Lady of Peace’s band members facing an injury just days before the festival. Multi-genre group Reel Big Fish headlined the event.

Five years later, Movin’ On returned to HUB Lawn on Saturday, April 23, as an all-day event.

Battle of the Bands champions, such as Audio Imagery, Dragon Slayer, and Tokyo Vertigo, performed in 2005, as well as American singer-songwriter David McMillin, Long Island-based rock band Head Automatica, and popular American rock band Fall Out Boy, among others.

2010 Through 2019

The organizers of Movin’ On made the decision to form their own organization in the fall semester of 2010. The performance, which was formerly held on HUB Lawn and sponsored by ARHS, would also relocate to the IM West Fields, near Beaver Stadium.

The group joined forces with “Celebrate Stage” and “Last Stop” from the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) to put on an even bigger end-of-year music event.

According to the Movin’ On website, “UPUA, GPSA, ARHS, and SPA held their own concerts in the springtime, but the students wanted one big show instead of four small-scale events.”

So, the groups converged to fulfill the wishes of the students and created Movin’ On as current students know it today.

In 2010, five champions from the Battle of the Bands took the stage on the festival’s opening day that year. Radio Empire, West Gate, Changeover, The Hope Fallacy, and returning champion So Long, Pluto were among the winners.

Rock band Click Clack Boom, punk band Skip Town Matty, rock band The Dangerous Summer, pop punk band Mayday Parade, and headliner Less Than Jake all performed as national acts.

A year later, on April 29, 2011, Movin’ On was back at the IM Fields fighting cold and rainy conditions. A little rain didn’t stop the Penn State community from showing out and enjoying the music festival.

The show’s national acts consisted of indie pop duo Mates of State, country music vocal group Little Big Town, DJ Super Nova, rapper Lupe Fiasco, and rock band O.A.R., performed at the rainy event, along with four winners of the Battle of the Bands.

In 2012, only two winners of the Battle of the Bands, Keegan Tawa and The Wondershop Showdown, were featured in the festival.

The David Mayfield Parade, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Ludacris, Young the Giant, and headliner The Avett Brothers, were set as the national acts.

The following year, on April 26, 2013, The Wondershop Showdown performed for the second year in a row. The returners, along with Kids These Days, Gloriana, Brand New, Big Boi, and MGMT rounded out the 2013 lineup.

In 2014, A$AP Rocky was initially supposed to perform at Movin’ On that year, however, after withdrawing from the concert only two days prior, Wiz Khalifa secured the headlining spot.

Only one student, Lenina Crowne was elected as that year’s Battle of the Band winner and performed at the festival alongside national acts Air Dubai, Sky Ferreira, Aloe Blacc, and indie-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums.

On May 1, 2015, Movin’ On changed its location from the IM fields near Beaver Stadium to the Blue Band field in Lot 12, which soon became the music festival’s permanent location for the following years.

Local band and Battle of the Bands champion Mute Cities opened the event. Mute Cities was followed by New Politics, Big Gigantic, Big Sean, and headliner Passion Pit.

In 2016, Movin’ On’s national acts included Sammy Adams, MisterWives, X Ambassadors, American rapper Nelly, and pop band Walk the Moon.

The following year, Love and Theft, Clean Bandit, D.R.A.M., All Time Low, and Two Door Cinema Club took the stage at the all-day event.

In 2018, Movin’ On was forced to cancel Logic’s performance due to lightning in the area, but students still got to see performances by Daya, Judah & The Lion, and Mick Jenkins.

One year later, Grouplove, A$AP Ferg, Snakehips, and Bryce Vine were Movin’ On’s final acts before the pandemic.

Movin On And COVID-19

In 2020, Foster The People, Lil Yachty, Sasha Sloan, and Two Friends were set to perform, however, the event was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The following year, Movin’ On transitioned to a virtual show performed by Flo Rida.

Back And Better Than Ever

Once COVID-19 restrictions were alleviated, Movin’ On returned to the IM fields in 2022 with a stellar lineup. The national acts included Battle of the Bands winner The Women’s National Hockey League, as well as The Aces, Fitz and the Tantrums, Amine, and headliner Jack Harlow.

Movin’ On will likely release its 2023 lineup in the coming days, as the event is less than a month away on Friday, April 28. Movin’ On will take place on the last day of classes before final exams begin.

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About the Author

Evan Halfen

Evan Halfen is a junior broadcast journalism major from Newark, DE, and is one of Onward State's writers. Evan loves all things Penn State, tailgating, being loud, just about any beach, and his puppies, Butterscotch and Wentzy. You can direct all your suggestions, roasts, and jokes to his Instagram: @evan.halfen or email: [email protected].

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