Fall Fire Fest Brings the Heat to Homecoming

By Cailey Barnhart

With food trucks, a roaring bonfire, cornhole and three live music performances, Fall Fire Fest offered seasonal festivities for everyone and kicked off homecoming weekend on campus.

This year’s event featured performances from GRIZZLY, Very Good Friends and Topaz Jones.

Very Good Friends is a local band comprised of longtime friends Lexy Natale, Lennon Sackela, Evan Romero, Nathan Negro and Isaac Hraga, who debuted in his first live show with the band.

Local act Very Good Friends performs original songs and covers during their set. Photo by Cailey Barnhart/The Jambar

Natale credits GarageBand as sparking the start of the band.

“I was playing around on GarageBand and I made ‘Spit You Out’ really poorly. I showed it to the guys, and that was when we decided we should be in a band,” she said, referring to the song on the band’s first EP.

While Natale, Romero and Negro live together, it didn’t take much convincing to recruit Sackela and Hraga to join Very Good Friends.

Jam Night at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts downtown is where Negro and Romero first showed Sackela what they were working on.

“I was in love with the sounds and vibes, and then when we were sitting around and finally decided to say, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ Very Good Friends was formed,” Sackela said. 

Hraga, who was the band’s occasional sound person, was surprised but excited when he was asked to join the band. 

“I met Lennon and Nathan during drumline at YSU and then we parted ways. At Federal Frenzy I complimented them after the show. I threw out an off-handed ‘If you ever need a guitar player, I’m your guy’ and it came back to me,” Hraga said. 

With a father who was a musician and many family members who were musicians or “had deep affinities for music,” it’s no surprise that Brooklyn-based Topaz Jones is blowing up the music scene. 

“I was steeped in all of the culture of the music my family grew up on from a very early age,” he says.

Originally from New Jersey, Jones moved to Brooklyn at the end of 2011.

“At first it’s very awe-inspiring. You come in wide-eyed and bushy tailed and you quickly adjust to the fear of getting swept up in New York,” he said.

While Jones made the move to attend New York University, he still felt the fear of wondering what he was going to do after graduation.

“I’ve been through all types of stages. I’ve played every basement party that New York had to offer, and I got to a place by the time I got out where I was able to start working on an album, and luckily that album did well,” he said.

Jones has a wide range of inspirations. He lists Michael Jackson and Prince as the greats and Kanye, Biggie and André 3000 of Outkast as the first rap music he remembers listening to. 

When relating his music with a genre, Jones said, “What is a ‘genre,’you know?”

“I think the way I describe it when I’m drunk at a bar and someone doesn’t know me is funk-inspired hip-hop,” he added. 

Jones plays a lot of college shows and discussed the unpredictability of audience attendance.

YSU Penguin Productions member tends to the bonfire at Fall Fire Fest. Photo by Cailey Barnhart/The Jambar

“With Fall Fire Fest, I hear it’s going to be pretty well attended,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just passionate people on the program board, and they want the show to happen but can’t get everyone to show up. I still walk into shows and there might only be 30 people there, but you still have to rock it the same way.”