“Please don’t mind what I’m trying to say because I’m being honest;” this lyric is appropriate in the context of this article, and it’s from my favorite song by Cartel. When asked about what I thought of the concert — announced by AMP the week before fall break — my mind went completely blank. I had never heard of Cartel before, and I thought of the drug trade before I thought of the band. However, many of my friends told me they were popular back in middle school, which led me to ask myself what I was doing in middle school that I’d never heard of this band. In doing a bit of research — travelling down memory lane and YouTube — I realized that I have heard of Cartel. Their song “Honestly,” quoted at the beginning of this article, was released my freshman year of high school. This was a time when I still listened to bands like Simple Plan, Panic at the Disco and My Chemical Romance, which all fall somewhere in the penumbra of aggressive pop-punk-emo music.
In 2005, the band released its first album, “Chroma,” which has some of its most popular singles. Two years later, their second album, “Cartel,” debuted, and they were featured in MTV’s Band in a Bubble, a stunt in which a band lives in a bubble while writing and recording an album. They followed up with their third album “Cycles” in 2009. Despite their mainstream exposure and initial success, Cartel seems to have faded into the background of recent music. Homecoming ignites feelings of nostalgia, and Cartel’s music did the same. Everyone in the crowd that night, student and alumni alike, took a stroll down memory lane.
After relearning some of their songs, I was looking forward to the concert. This was going to be a chance for my friends and me to relive our yeras as awkward tweens who listened to music too loudly for our parents’s taste. It was nice to see that, despite the cold weather, the diehard members of the Tribe came to rock out. The opening performance was by an alumni band, and, from what I heard, they prepared the audience well for the main event. Even though there weren’t many people in the amphitheater the crowd erupted with energy when Cartel hit the stage.
Although I hadn’t heard of them in some time, Cartel has been busy in the last few years. They played a couple of covers and their more familiar classics “Say Anything (Else)” and “Let’s Go,” which had the crowd singing along. They also shared some new music from their recent EP, “In Stereo,” which included some great songs. In my opinion, their new stuff sounded the same as their older material, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some bands evolve over time, but it’s also nice to see consistency, especially in groups that you listened to growing up. I really enjoyed “Something to Believe” and “Lessons in Love,” both of which had the crowd jumping with excitement. At any given moment, it was impossible to see someone in the audience standing still. The crowd had so much enthusiasm; there was hair waving, head bobbing, fist pounding and air guitars at spontaneous moments throughout the show.
Cartel had a great sense of humor and formed a relationship with the crowd throughout the concert by telling jokes and taking requests. Many of the attendees had seen the band perform live in Richmond and in Norfolk, so the audience was comprised of some devoted fans. It was loud and fun and the bright lights of the stage mimicked the passion from the audience. The band was called back to the stage for an encore after their last song and performed their most well known single “Honestly.”
Cartel is a big shift in musical genres compared to the artists that AMP has attracted the past few semesters. Recent concerts have been dominated by big names in the hip-hop community such as Wale, Big Sean and The Roots. I think the Tribe really appreciated the diversity in AMP’s selection of performers.