The Underground Foundation's "Festival" Gets Kids Into Art, and That's Good

Clipper "Danger" Arnold of Red Tank! crowd surfing during his set at The Underground Foundation's Clusterfest.
Clipper "Danger" Arnold of Red Tank! crowd surfing during his set at The Underground Foundation's Clusterfest.
Jeff Moses

"Festival" is a strong word for what transpired at Hayden Lawn on Arizona State University's Tempe campus Saturday. But that is certainly not to say that The Underground Foundation's fourth annual Clusterfest was not a rousing success for the ASU student club concert promoters.

There were multiple (two) stages, grass, and it was outdoors, which are all generally staples of any quality music festival. But other than that is was really devoid of the other markers which can usually identify a festival.

Clusterfest is more like a giant house show than a festival, complete with string lights ... one of the international symbols of "party over here." But it's still more or less exactly what TUF president Jonathan Novak said it was when I interviewed him before the show.

Novak conveyed that he thinks Clusterfest is a good way to bring the TUF house show experience straight to the greater student body at ASU. So that's exactly what the fest was in 2015. Novak and his club mates booked TUF favorites like Playboy Manbaby, Red Tank!, Emby Alexander, and Instructions, and then kicked it up a bit with some touring acts and a little art show hanging on the edge of the show.

Parker Corey,right, and Ritchie with a T of Injury Reserve jumping into the crowd during their late afternoon set.
Parker Corey,right, and Ritchie with a T of Injury Reserve jumping into the crowd during their late afternoon set.
Jeff Moses

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One standout set had to be Injury Reserve. The Tempe-based hip-hop group played a high-energy set during the hottest part of the day, jumping into the crowd and inciting a mosh pit.

It was a lot of fun, but far more important, it was real. More than 100 ASU students came out to hear music on the lawn without the inclusion of a national headliner, the promise of free or discounted goods, or bathing suit-clad coeds shaking their stuff. They came out to hear the tunes and hang out with friends.

The Underground Foundation will likely never be Stateside Presents. That's just a fact. TUF isn't really that professional, the sound quality isn't that good, the acts aren't that big, and Clusterfest may never be anything more than a house show on steroids. But none of that has ever really been the point.

The Underground Foundation is building an on-campus scene of 17- to 20-something-year-old students who have a real appreciation for local music and art, who are also blending seamlessly into other parts of the Phoenix music landscape.

They have dedicated crew of officers committed enough to rock shirts around campus that read "TUF Is A Cult." They seem to have a large contingent of members and associates who are always there for every party, and they are making concerted efforts to extend their reach out of the "skuzzy garage punk" scene -- as president Novak called it -- and sharing the skuzz with the greater Phoenix music scene.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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