DSR’s inaugural music fest has people wanting more

Taylor Miles/The Duquesne Duke - RJ Dietrich of Essential Machine.

By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor

Whoever coined the phrase “video killed the radio star” clearly overlooked the power of WDSR, Duquesne’s student-run radio station. Last Friday, the streaming platform hosted the inaugural DSR Fest at the Smiling Moose in South Side, hopefully providing a tradition that will showcase unknown, local musicians to an undergraduate base for many years to come.

Taylor Miles/The Duquesne Duke - RJ Dietrich of Essential Machine.
Taylor Miles/The Duquesne Duke – RJ Dietrich of Essential Machine.

This year’s DSR Fest welcomed the talents of four different acts, ranging from genres like EDM, folk and punk to add a sense of variety for the evening. Initially, when the doors opened for the show at 6 p.m., attendance was less than desired. Typically, the second floor of the Smiling Moose houses various punk shows and always seems to be crammed, which makes finding a spot to escape the ongoing mosh pit inevitable. However, minutes before DJ Will Putschi was to begin his set, the amount of space to move around on the concert floor was astounding.

Lack of attendance was not an issue for much longer though, as friends of Putschi and fellow Duquesne students began to trudge their way into the Moose fashionably late around 6:30 p.m. Putschi started the night off with a strong vibe, compiling a playlist of mashups that featured many dubstep components. Despite being the only man on stage, who stood in front of a laptop for the entirety of the set, attendees seemed to be really enjoying the juxtapositions from track-to-track, which featured a nice inclusion of electronic group Knife Party’s single “Bonfire.” Putschi’s performance, although essentially just a series of remixes, resulted in a strong and original set, which transitioned over to the next band seamlessly.

Taylor Miles/The Duquesne Duke
Taylor Miles/The Duquesne Duke

As Essential Machine, the following act of DSR Fest made their way onto the stage, the number of Duquesne underclassmen seemed to dramatically increase as well. They couldn’t have picked a better time either, as the quartet from Greensburg had one of the tighter performances of the evening. The set was mainly comprised of songs from their 2014 EP, Underneath the Earth, which features a heavy folk/rock influence that equally matches their band aesthetic. The lead singer and rhythm guitarist, RJ Dietrich, looked like a member of Duck Dynasty, while his wife Karen led on drums. And while lead guitarist Matthew Kilroy wasn’t leading melodies on stage, he was adding intricate song elements via glockenspiel. Their performance provided a good mixture of soft and aggressive folk tracks, and arguably had one of the best sets of the night.

Soon after Essential Machine completed their final songs of the evening, the atmosphere was considerably heavier in sound. Alternative-punk outfit KHees brought a much more visceral approach to DSR Fest, as the only band of the night to implement screaming vocals into their set and leaving the audience’s ears ringing after every song. The performance from the trio, although it didn’t seem favorable for the plucky Duquesne underclassmen, would have garnered a strong response from post-hardcore fans. Greg Harrington on drums was spot-on on every song, and spearheaded the distortion from the bass and guitar melody.

Finally, DSR Fest got emo … really emo. Claiming to be the “only emo band from West Virginia,” short fictions concluded the night with some clean guitar work and shrill vocals. Despite some flubs from parts of the rhythm section, short fictions thrived from excellent guitar work that sounded like something from American Football’s early work. Front man Sam Treber awkwardly stood sideways throughout the entire set, almost nervously going through the motions of the band’s performance. This didn’t necessarily reflect his composure during the set though, as he modestly and humbly received applause from the remaining crowd at Smiling Moose during the final minutes of DSR Fest.

As the night came to a close around 9:30 p.m., it became clear that DSR Fest had earned the right to become an annual staple for Duquesne undergraduates for quite some time. Having the opportunity to witness a flock of relatively unknown bands for free is a rarity for concert-goers, and ultimately it benefits the people who have worked so hard to make WDSR a thriving medium for this campus.