Two months ago, more than 800 students waited as long as seven hours to get tickets for Fun.’s concert at Calvin. And Wednesday night, those same students cheered and danced on the open floor of the Van Noord Arena as Fun. presented a crowd-pleasing concert. The band, which has exploded in popularity over the last year, played Calvin’s biggest concert to date.
Since the release of the tickets, the show sold out of its 5,000-seat capacity. Ken Heffner, director of student activities, affirmed, “It’s the biggest show Calvin’s ever done.”
“When we booked them we were thinking maybe they would sell out the Hoogenboom,” said Heffner, referring to the college’s older, smaller gym. “Then things really changed over the summer.”
This was in part due to Fun.’s album “Some Nights,” which was released early last year. “Some Nights” included hits like the title track and the single “We are Young,” which has gone five times platinum.
In light of the increasing popularity, the concert was moved to the 5,000-seat Van Noord Arena. This is the first concert the arena has ever sold out, setting a new record at Calvin.
Almost 2,000 Calvin students bought tickets for the concert, a number that, at nearly half the student body, also marks a new record. According to Heffner, “We’ve never had this number of students at any one event before.”
Selling out the Van Noord was “a bit of a surprise,” said Heffner. “The whole music industry has been in decline for the last 10 years. The kinds of bands that can fill a room that size are in short supply.”
It was a big show for Fun. as well — the second biggest show they have ever headlined. During the show, lead singer Nate Ruess stared out at the huge crowd and quipped, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people in my life!”
Fun. brings energetic show
From the edgy rock beat of songs like “It Gets Better” to more acoustic feel of “The Gambler,” Fun.’s songs span a wide variety of music. Along with the electric guitar, bass guitar, stand-up piano and flugelhorn are integrated into their songs, giving the music a different twist.
“Their style is so much different than any band I’ve ever heard,” said sophomore Josh Schalk.
Regardless of which song they were playing, the show maintained an enormous amount of energy. The band jumped and danced around the stage, and the auditorium popped with sound.
“I think they were better in concert,” Schalk added. “The environment, the energy, the way the music was produced was better than anything you could have in a digital copy.”
Colored lights flashed through the arena and the air was shot full of confetti. The audience also caught on to Fun.’s energy, clapping, crowd-surfing and singing along with every song.
Earlier, Nate Ruess claimed the show might be in his top three favorites, but by the end of the night, the lead singer held up two fingers and said, “This is in the top two!” As 5,000 voices raised his music to the roof, he shouted “Top two!”
LGBT equality advocacy
The concert had garnered a lot of attention, both positive and negative, in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s show. Some community members disagreed with the college’s decision to invite the band, who usually bring a marriage equality organization with them on tour.
At the conversation with the band hosted by the Student Activities Office on Wednesday afternoon, Fun. spent several minutes talking about its passion for marriage equality.
During the conversation, Jack Antonoff, the group’s guitarist, said that when Calvin requested that Fun. not bring marriage equality advocacy booths with them, he initially did not want to come.
However, he went on to say that he didn’t want to turn his back on LGBT students at Calvin.
“To be in a place where there is some opposition to us made it clear that there was possibly more impact to be had,” said Antonoff. “It’s so much more important to be here,” he said, comparing the stop at Calvin with concerts for more “like-minded people.”
From the stage, Antonoff also said that “a dollar for every ticket sold has been donated toward the furtherment of gay rights in America.”
Calvin restated that the money has not come from the college, as originally requested by Fun. Chimes is unable to confirm whether the band itself plans to donate the money from its own profits.
“Some of us here believe in God and some of us don’t, but those of us who do know that God loves black people, white people, men, women and … we also know that God loves gay people,” said Antonoff, from the stage.
Members of Fun.’s nonprofit group, The Ally Coalition (TAC), were also present outside the concert in an unofficial capacity. Calvin had requested that The Ally Coalition not bring its booth to the concert.
“On every other tour stop, we invited our fans to join us and take action through a TAC photobooth and table,” read a card that one of the members passed out. “We were not allowed to bring a TAC booth tonight.”
Fun.’s message speaks to students, parents
Aside from the culturally-relevant issue of LGBT rights, Fun. appeals to students and adults alike because of their thoughtful songwriting.
One reason Fun.’s music is so popular at Calvin, Ken Heffner believes, is that their songs seem uniquely suited for college students.
Christian Becker, a cultural discerner in Beets-Veenstra, agreed. “There is more to their music than meets the eye. There’s not a profound philosophical subject to all their songs. But, when you actually start to listen, you hear a story and a message. It’s not just the average pop band,” he said. “They really speak to our age demographic.”
“They are tapping into all the excitement and ambivalence of separating from parents and becoming an adult,” said Heffner. “That ambiguity of that the deep connection with family while at the same time trying to become your own person — they’ve given that a voice like few pop artists have done.”
The many references to family means that another demographic extension includes parents, who are going through life changes along with students.
Roxanne Pikaart of Grand Rapids is the mother of a 25-year-old, and attended the Fun. concert with her husband. “I feel a little self-conscious being here,” she said, looking around at the mostly younger audience. She listens to Fun. with her daughter. “I’m here for the music,” she said, “but I definitely listen to the words. And some songs, like “The Gambler” are really about parents.”
The song, which is written from the perspective of parents, shows a range of emotional depth that goes beyond typical pop music.
“Fun.’s lyrics really have thought behind them,” said Schalk, “which is something I respect.”