The University of Colorado's Program Council put together one h-e-double-hockey-sticks of a homecoming show featuring locals Na'an Stop, Bag Raiders and Pepper. That's right, we said it, Pepper. We were there, and this is what we thought about the welcoming shenanigans. 

There is an eternal mystery that lies within the concept that is a “campus concert.” In its most simple form, it’s a perfect idea. However, we all know you can get away with a hell of a lot more at concerts off campus.

Being on campus may bring youthful recklessness to some concertgoers, but CU is never one to bring light security. There were badged personnel walking around everywhere. On paper it doesn’t sound bad, but the hovering authority can really throw off the vibe of certain concerts, especially a Pepper concert.

Nevertheless, I walked into Balch Fieldhouse in Boulder, CO ready for a great show. This is the first Pepper show for me, which was clearly a differentiation from the majority of the crowd. Based on the Pepper that I knew before the concert (which is probably around 50 percent of their catalogue; I’m not a die hard, here) I was expecting almost a full reggae set. Some may have called it idiotic from the jump, but I was a Pepper virgin.

Luckily I got in at the perfect time, right when Na’an Stop stepped up to the stage.

Na’an stop, don’t stop.

When local openers Na’an Stop hopped on stage few people in the crowd knew what to expect. It appeared there were only a few people in the crowd who knew the band and its members. Either way, everyone was pleasantly surprised by its stage presence. Six artists on stage at once, each helping sing, playing different instruments, and jamming the fuck out.

After one song the bassist and guitarist switched instruments and the lead singer pulled out some brass. Jumping in unison, Na’an Stop was really fun for the short time their set lasted. Clearly grateful to be there, they rocked out and were a great warm-up for the similar sounding Pepper.

“Those guys look like a fratty Daft Punk”

Bag Raiders hit the stage with an unassuming presence and without real acknowledgement of the crowd. At first we thought they were still playing the intermission music, but on second look there were two guys standing behind a table moving knobs. We quickly turned and paid attention. I only knew a couple Bag Raiders songs coming into the night, so I really wasn’t sure how this would go.

Based on their hit song “Shooting Stars”, the performance was much more of a DJ set then I would have guessed. The two literally did not say a word the entire show. Before I knew it, I was drifting off to the sound of constant bass and little accompanying anything to keep me alive.

Is this still the same song? How long is this song?!

Far less hands were waving in the air for the Bag Raiders set when it got deeper into it. A half hour plus into their set, I realized that it’s possible the same song had been playing the entire time. People looked tired, but “Shooting Stars” and “So Good To Me” helped bring energy back to the crowd.

It was pretty obvious what band revelers went to see. Bag Raiders would have been a great opener, but they didn’t quite match the vibe that people go to a Pepper concert for.

The eagerness of waiting for the headliner.

Just like every other concert (ever), the wait for the headliner was the lengthiest intermission. People started to get restless and the guy next to me even pointed out that, “They’re not even setting anything up! What’s the fucking hold up?”

Just once I wish a concert would move along with the show in a more timely manner, but I understand how set times work, so I patiently people-watched in hopes that someone was too drunk and can give me a little messy mid-change entertainment. Luckily this concert was on a college campus; so my wait proved entertaining.

I thought this was reggae … but this shit looks like rock n’ roll!

By attendance standards, Pepper came out to a half-way intimate show. This concert could have been at the Fox Theatre and scrunched in nicely, but it was in Balch Fieldhouse, which probably holds up to 4,000 people. Because of this, the crowd spreads wide, and it is easy to get a good view of Pepper, who constantly interacted with the rowdy crowd.

I’m not sure if I was the only one expecting a lighter reggae concert, but what Pepper gave everyone was far better. These guys (Kaleo Wassman and Bret Bollinger, accompanied by drummer Yesod Williams) fucking jammed. This concert had it all: Electric guitars, heavy drum solos, screaming. The guys played songs from all over their catalogue. They brought energy to the crowd directly, mentioning multiple times how much they love Boulder. “I mean we recorded live albums here for fucks sake.”

Pepper is … just … awesome

What an awesome band to see play live. From the raw emotion they display on stage to the comforting presence they carry, Pepper is a fun time. The crowd was clearly only there for one reason, and it showed during the performance. There was much more jumping and screaming during their set, which lead to much more elbowing and (sometimes unfortunate) contact.

Personally, I love that shit. There’s nothing better than picking up a slight ankle injury from a complete stranger, am I right? If you don’t see that way there was plenty of excess room to get a good view, too, since Balch was less than half full.

Pepper played all their jams from “Stormtrooper” to “Give It Up” and completely rocked out the entire time.

Highlight of the night

Pepper briefly discussed creating a website and a subsequent Boulder-based concert featuring all of their friends (i.e. Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Sublime, you get the gist). At least now you have something to pray for before bed.

To contact the writer of this article, Luca DelPiccolo, email: