Relient K instills escape and pumped-up feel during week of welcome

Matt Hoopes accompanies lead singer Matt Thiessen on guitar during the acoustic portion of the show. Photo by Jake Myers

Even when class starts, the fun never stops in Cullowhee.

Case in point, the Week of Welcome.

The Week of Welcome is a university-wide effort aimed at smoothing the transition for the incoming freshman and making school not really seem like school.  It starts with the day the freshman move in and ends the following week.  There are a multitude of events throughout the week, but one event stirs up more conversation and anticipation than most: the Thursday night concert.

In a collaborative effort from the University Center and Residential Living, a music group is chosen through an extensive search process and brought to play at the campus fountain free of charge to all students.  A student poll is taken the spring semester to choose the band for the start of the next school year.  Last year it was Sean Kingston.  This year, Relient K.

Mistie Bibbee, associate director for Residential Living, has been involved in the process ever since the concert “tradition” started in 2010 and knows pleasing the students is not an easy task.

“Selecting the band is hard because you aren’t going to make everyone happy,” Bibbee said. “Musical tastes are so varied across the board.”

It’s nearly impossible to please everyone, but Relient K had other ideas in mind.

The scene was the same as the previous year.  Not an inch of the sitting area around the fountain was left untouched, the remaining surplus of students piled in front of the fountain-faced stage, and everyone waited for the first resonating sound from the strum of a guitar.

Students look on as Relient K performs. Photo by Jake Myers

What came to be was a rip-roaring show that had students head-bobbing, jumping up and down, singing along, and forgetting that they were even on college campus.  You couldn’t hear the person next to you, but it didn’t’ matter.  Freshman and upperclassmen alike, Relient K made fans out of all of them.

The best part of it all?  The students didn’t get bored after the first couple songs.  The two-hour long concert was as advertised.

Before the concert, a handful of students had a chance to meet the band in the Blue Ridge Multipurpose room.  One girl even started crying while taking a picture with the lead singer and one of the guitarists.  Students usually make or break the event, but Relient K gave students no reason to make such a decision.

Freshmen Lexii James got a picture and autograph from the band members and was looking forward to the days ahead as a Catamount.

“It’s a lot to get used to being on my own, but I’m excited to have four more years here.”

The Week of Welcome is winding down, but the unbelievable experiences on campus are just beginning.  Classes have started, but that was a mere afterthought Thursday night.  Relient K conquered WCU, and that was exactly the intention.

“This [concert] is for our students.  We poll the freshman to get them connected and bought in to the university,” Bibbee said in our interview.  “It’s a cool experience [for them].  We want them to come out and have a good time.”

Students always say there’s nothing to do in Cullowhee.  After Thursday night, that saying might become less reliant.