All-nighters fall into one of two categories: either they are worth it, or they are not. Usually, they are not. Any sense of accomplishment feels spare and juvenile when one considers the god-awful migraine and impressive pair of dark circles to boot. All this is to say that one has to make a compelling case to convince me to pull an all-nighter. And there have been scant examples in my life where such a case has been made.
I was, then, reasonably skeptical of the social media posts circulating throughout the second-ever All Nighter Music and Arts Festival in the Pauli Murray Lighten Theatre on Jan. 17. Running from 8 p.m. the first Friday of the spring semester until 8 a.m. the next morning, the music and arts festival included a lineup of over 40 student performers and artists, an organizational feat by Michael Gancz, MY ’21, and Parker Redcross, MC ’21.
When I arrived a little past eight, the foldable chairs were emptier than the Facebook event page had led me to expect. I worried that the blistering cold and collective exhaustion of shopping period had kept the crowds away. Yet, as the night went on, I was grateful that the bi-level venue was never totally packed. No raised platform set apart performer from audience in the dimly lit Lighten Theatre; some performances felt as intimate as a gathering of close friends.
Scale & Bones, Yale’s only trombone octet, performed the first set of the evening. This was eccentric fare. They were so earnest and committed to music-making, so wildly exuberant about their unwieldy instrument of choice, that I couldn’t help but tap along. The performers of the evening were so engaged with the audience that any distance between us dissipated. The personable, irreverent metal band Goat Druid, who played just around midnight, brought audience members to their feet, as did the punk band Window Seat.
The sheer output of music being produced and consumed makes it difficult to take us by surprise. But I have never seen or heard anything quite like Michael Chang’s, MY ’21, original composition on the hand-flute, as he produced the airy pitches of a ballad by blowing air through his cupped hands. One of the most astonishing performances of the night came from Alvin Chung, SM ’21, on the marimba, who breathed new life into a mainstay of grade school music classes. As Chung set aside his nimble, buoyant work with the mallets to perform a thunderous drum set, it took a few seconds after his performance ended for me to be lifted out of my stupor.
Despite the occasional technical difficulty, the Arts All-Nighter was part fever dream of virtuosic performances, part zany celebration of student artistry—and certainly worth staying up for.