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The Joe Crowley Student Union’s attempt to capture the spirit of the beloved Biggest Little Festival gave rise to Joe Fest, a festival that may go down in history — not for its impact — but for its astonishing ability to convene more performers than spectators.

Before delving deeper, let’s acknowledge the commendable efforts of BenderWorld. As lone warriors in the promotional battlefield, they tirelessly alerted their followers about Joe Fest. One could argue that without BenderWorld’s social media posts, the event might have mistaken itself for a closed rehearsal rather than a public festival.

As for the performances, the lineup — Honey Plant, BenderWorld and Don Luxe — deserves high praise for their enthusiastic delivery and commitment to their craft. 

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush
Honey Plant at the Joe Fest

Each band showcased a plethora of original songs and filled the cavernous ballroom with their creativity and passion, despite playing to a room that felt more like an echo chamber than a music venue.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush
Don Luxe at Joe Fest

The music, certainly, was a highlight. The bands strummed, drummed and sang with a vigor that deserved a far larger and more responsive audience, yet the sparse crowd in attendance seemed to be made up predominantly of event staff — easily identifiable in their fresh-off-the-press free t-shirts. This unintended uniformity among the attendees only emphasized the lack of usual festival-goers.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush
BenderWorld performs at Joe Fest

These free t-shirts, which appeared to be the event’s most successful feature, seemed to bring in a few souls, hinting that perhaps Joe Fest was better at distributing apparel than vibes. It was a peculiar sight: a handful of people gathered, less for the music and more for the merchandise, within a space echoing emptily with the sounds of what could have been.

One could argue that the minimal turnout was a silent testament to the event’s lack of proper advertising. With only about 30 people scattered across a massive ballroom, each attendee could have had their own personal concert — a silver lining if one squinted hard enough. It was almost as if the festival was an exclusive event for the few, the proud, the incredibly underinformed about the festival’s existence.

In closing, Joe Fest tried with all its might to fill the shoes of its predecessor but ended up feeling more like a private gathering than a public celebration. The bands, undeterred by the sea of empty space, played their hearts out to a virtually non-existent crowd. Here’s to the hopeful evolution of Joe Fest into a festival that can attract as many people as it does hopes and dreams. Let us not forget, when it comes to organizing future events, perhaps a bit more noise of the promotional kind might just fill those expansive, empty spaces. Cheers to the optimism that next year, the music won’t just play to the walls.

Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Emily Hess is a student at the University of Nevada studying journalism. She can be reached at and on Twitter @emilyghess3.

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