By Maeve Dunigan and Lillian Andemicael
It was 8 p.m. on the first real Friday of the school year. Though the students standing in Stamp Student Union's Grand Ballroom probably had plans for a night of house parties or R.J. Bentley's looming in their future, for now, they were preoccupied with The Mowgli's.
This year, Student Entertainment Events' annual back-to-school concert was a more intimate experience than previous years' editions. Far from Ritchie Coliseum, where indie artist Børns headlined the event last year, the Grand Ballroom slowly filled with people around a central stage. It felt crowded enough to have a certain buzz, but spacious enough that everyone had room to breathe.
After performances by jacket. — a local band recently signed to Terrapin Record Label — and Prinze George — a three-piece indie pop group based out of Prince George's County — The Mowgli's came bounding onstage, bringing their signature West Coast vibes.
"I feel like we definitely understand that when people come to a show they've taken time out of their life to come there and be there with us," said Mowgli's band member Katie Earl before the show. "We just wanna make sure that we make that time worth it — that we make sure that they have the best time."
She stuck to her word. The set, which was comprised almost solely of sunny, repetitive feel-good tunes, kept the crowd bopping along the entire time. At one point, Earl commented to the audience about how good the vibe in the room was, saying, "we walked out here and absorbed your energy and we feel like brand new people."
Audience engagement is important to the band. Before the show, guitarist Josh Hogan said he could still feel the positivity from a set he performed the night prior.
"Last night we had such an amazing audience at our show that I'm still feeling inspired from it, you know?" he said. "And we are always feeding off of that kind of feedback from our fans and then they feed off of it from us and its this cool kind of energetic magic trick, or something."
"A big part of our live show is our high energy, and if we can spread that throughout the crowd and make sure that everybody in there is absorbing that massive energy that's really important to us," she said.
As the beginning notes of "San Francisco," arguably the band's biggest hit, began to play, everyone sang along. The show was over, but for many, the night was just beginning.
"I lost my head in San Francisco/ Waiting for the fog to roll out," they sang.
Although California was far from College Park, the idea of losing their heads resonated with Maryland students on their first weekend back at school.