When the OnPoint Music and Arts Festival was initially announced, I was immediately taken by the quality of the lineup curation and overall organization. Then I found out the festival was the passion project of two Stevens Institute of Technology students and knew I had to dig a little deeper.
The inaugural OnPoint Music and Arts Festival is set to go down on October 1st at Stevens centered around upper campus between Schaefer and Palmer Lawns, with a lineup highlighted by national acts like PWR BTTM, Speedy Ortiz and Eskimeaux. Be sure to snag your ticket for the all day affair (only $10!!!) here and check out my interview with festival co-director Andy Waldron below.
How did the idea for OnPoint come about? Who is behind it?
OnPoint came about one day last October (almost a year ago to the festival date!) when Dan [Aleman, Festival Co-Director] was, for the umpteenth time, talking about how great it would be for Stevens to have a day to feature the performing arts. This was after we finished a successful first year of hosting monthly open mics on campus with poets, bands, rappers, and the typical singer-songwriter (it took until the past semester for someone to do “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”).
After hearing it and leaving for the city, I wrote out a possible sketch for how it would look – where we’d have the stages, the timing, etc. – in my notepad on the PATH to and from Hoboken. When I came back, I called Dan, showed him my sketches, and we took over one of the music labs to hash out the details with whiteboards and papers and pens for the rest of the night.
(Fun fact: we listened to the entirety of Crazy Pills’ album Restless then, and we’re ecstatic to say we have them playing a set at OnPoint.)
Over the past year, we worked alongside several of our friends, fellow students who’ve booked DIY shows here, fellow humanities majors – just people who love the arts. We talked to students all over the university and showed them some of the acts we’d get, and, while they weren’t necessarily familiar with the names, they expressed interest in attending a possible music and arts festival. We had numerous meetings with the student government to write up a budget, several offices at Stevens to work with logistics, and artist and musicians from the area to get feedback on the festival itself as we were working to ensure it’s something the community would be behind.
What are the larger ideals of the festival?
All the work going into OnPoint has been guided by a set of conventions we’ve wanted to break: 1) the mechanics of previous Stevens festivals 2) the separation of Stevens with Hoboken and the outside community and 3) the idea that a STEM school can’t foster a strong arts culture.
On the first, previous Stevens festivals have usually revolved around a single theme, featured a single act, and were decided by a few individuals. We felt these were opportunities for Stevens’s student-run organizations to get involved and have fun with their peers – something we’re doing with both the acts on the lineup and through club booths where attendees can interact with what Stevens has to offer – and for students to find acts that they may not know, but would grow to love.
Regarding the second, we see OnPoint not only as an excursion for Stevens students, but also for outside guests and the Hoboken community to come together and appreciate the performing arts that both have to offer. We see this at WCPR (the campus radio station) and SUMAC (the indie concert group) shows, and we wanted this dialogue on a larger scale, with the backing of the Stevens community.
Lastly, while the humanities is a growing and vital part of the Stevens experience, we, along with other majors in those disciplines, have felt a myth perpetuate on campus: that the sciences and arts are mutually exclusive entities, that there’s a separation between those pursuing a liberal arts degree and an engineering degree, and there is some higher, economic value in our culture to majoring in the latter.
Thankfully, with major funding being provided to the various creative programs and multiple events on campus where students can meaningfully engage with the humanities, this is becoming less so a problem with our school and more of a challenge for those left-brain thinkers to express themselves and share that passion with their peers. OnPoint is an event that follows in these footsteps and strives to continue this dialogue.
Tell us a little more about the talent. I know you have two stages featuring more than just music.
We’re excited and proud to say that, through our booking team, we have a strong lineup that includes bands (including the majority of acts like PWR BTTM and Speedy Ortiz), DJ’s (PAGAN tha PRIEST x STU), rappers (X-Phaze, King of Nothing), collectives (Say Goodnight), experimental acts (Seth Cluett, Din), singer-songwriters (Long Neck, The Gray Company), spoken word artists (Sean Balanon), dance groups (TECHnique), comedians (Johnny Bauers, Alex Mercuri, Stevens Stand Up) and comedy groups (Three Busy Debras, Off Center).
We wanted to have talent that eased in and out of genre, represented various scenes of the Northeast U.S., featured the immensely creative Stevens performing arts, were progressive and, above all else, fun to see live. In short: we’re big fans of these acts and want others to check them out.
What do you hope attendees of OnPoint walk away thinking at the end of the day?
We hope attendees leave OnPoint having had a great, safe, fun time, alongside seeing groups that they love and will soon love, and think of Stevens as a unique place for the arts.
Any further plans beyond this festival?
Yeah, several of our staff plan events for the campus, whether it’s WCPR and SUMAC hosting indie shows, Audio Engineering Club open mics, Stevens Dramatic Society productions, TECHnique dance events, Off Center sketch, improv, or stand up events or are performers themselves.
Those looking for what Stevens is presenting pre and post-OnPoint can look up those organizations over at our website. As for the festival itself, being that this is the first music and arts festival at Stevens, we hope this continues in the future – whether it’s another, large-scale iteration a year from now, or from Stevens attendees liking what they see and putting together shows of their own.