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FallFest Through the Years

Ciara  Kendrick Lamar  Macklemore
From left to right: Ciara, Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore have all performed at WVU's FallFest.

There’s a question whirling through the minds of WVU students at the cusp of every fall semester: Who’s playing FallFest?

FallFest surfaced in 1995 as a University-sponsored alternative to the Sunnyside block parties of that era.

In its inaugural year, FallFest was the name chosen for the five-day festival that included the concert, a film marathon and dance parties to welcome students into the new academic year. 

After 24 years, FallFest has hosted a range of nationally-acclaimed artists and Grammy winners. 

Here’s a trip down memory lane of FallFest acts of yesteryear, in no particular order. Because some day you will get old and not recognize who’s playing at future FallFests. 

Leave your favorite FallFest memories in our comments section below.

Kanye West (2004)


Before the world figured out Kanye West was mercurial, the rapper/producer/fashion designer/Kardashian doled out hits like “All Falls Down” and “Get ‘em High” in energetic fashion to a crowd of 12,000 WVU students on the grass near the Life Sciences and Business and Economics buildings.

Yep. FallFest has hosted shop at a few various spots across campus, from the Mountainlair Green to behind the Student Rec Center. 

Surprisingly, West was not the headliner in 2004. That slot belonged to alternative rockers Fuel, who were no strangers to FallFest and played here four years earlier. It’s safe to say that, whether for good or ill, West has transcended Fuel and perhaps any other FallFest act in global name recognition. 

The Roots (1996, 2006)

The Roots

You probably know them as the house band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” but they are also considered one of the greatest, eclectic hip-hop groups of all-time. Go listen to “Phrenology” or “Things Fall Apart.” 

Like Fuel, the Roots thought WVU was so nice that they came here twice – two decades apart. In 2006, they likely served as the jazzy, upbeat musical antithesis to that year’s whinin’ and cryin’ nu-metal headliners, Staind, which, according to one Newsweek article, joins the likes of Nickelback and Creed as an “awful band that we can blame Nirvana for inspiring.”

Juliana Hatfield (1995)

Juliana Hatfield

Photo by Stacee Sledge

The first FallFest sported an indie rock flair with Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando, formerly of the Lemonheads. Not exactly a star-studded lineup, but the University was finding its footing in delivering a safe, entertaining back-to-school bash. 

Grunge music, with the passing of Kurt Cobain a year earlier, was also on its last leg. In the following years, FallFest would showcase more hip-hop and mainstream rock acts. 

A writer for the Daily Athenaeum admitted unfamiliarity with Hatfield’s work though noted that she got the crowd going with an impressive performance. 

Busta Rhymes (1999)


Perhaps this was the first year that FallFest set the bar high, helping future classes to expect major league acts that welcomed them back to campus. 

The 11-time Grammy Award nominee, born Trevor Smith Jr. (not as catchy-sounding as Busta Rhymes), wowed the WVU audience around the height of his popularity. And it was before he pulled a Metallica and cut off his trademark long hair. 

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (2013)


If you were a youngin’ way back in the ancient year of 2013, you probably spent the summer jammin’ to “Thrift Shop” and “Can't Hold Us,” a duo of No. 1 hits that year by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (aka the other guy with Macklemore). 

The fine folks at WVU Arts and Entertainment pulled off some wizardry by booking the hottest act of the year for FallFest 2013. The pair went on to win four Grammys in 2014. 

Pop sensation Ciara also performed at the 2013 FallFest, marking a lively moment before she married the seemingly robotic Russell Wilson. 

Dierks Bentley and Kendrick Lamar (2014)

Dierks Bentley

FallFest furnished another doozy following the 2013 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis/Ciara lineup. 

Straight outta Compton came Kendrick Lamar, and on the other side of the musical spectrum came country crooner Dierks Bentley. 

Every FallFest lineup in its glory 

A special thanks to Kristie Stewart-Gale and WVU Arts and Entertainment for this list and photos. 

2018: Lil Yachty, Brothers Osborne, MisterWives

2017: Cage the Elephant, 21 Savage, RL Grime

2016: Mac Miller, Flosstradamus, Cold War Kids

2015: ScHoolboy Q, The Chainsmokers, Eli Young Band

2014: MAGIC!, Dierks Bentley, Kendrick Lamar

2013: Pretty Lights, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ciara, Capital Cities, Colt Ford

2012: Kaskade, The Wanted, Wale, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Travis Porter, Juicy J

2011: 3 Doors Down, Mac Miller, Big Sean, Chiddy Bang, Colbie Caillat, Mimosa, IKTO

2010: Ludacris, Maroon 5, Kris Allen, VV Brown, RJD2, Super Mash Bros.

2009: Akon, Third Eye Blind, Kellie Pickler, Girl Talk, Grand Buffet

2008: Daughtry, Lupe Fiasco, The Clarks, Heidi Newfield, Day of Fire, Fatman Scoop, DJ Cocoa Chanelle

2007: Dashboard Confessional, Common, Rooney, Josh Gracin, Clipse, Pete Rock

2006: Staind, Motiona City Soundtrack, The Roots, The Wreckers, Redman, Boot Camp Clik

2005: O.A.R., Cypress Hill, Anna Nalick, Filomath, Ali Shaheed Muhamman of A Tribe Called Quest

2004: Fuel, Kanye West, Trapt, Particle

2003: 3 Doors Down, Default, Black Eyed Peas, North Mississippi Allstars, The C.O.Z., DJ Envy

2002: Wyclef Jean, 311, Graham Colton, The New Relics, D.J. Tony Rico

2001: Blues Traveler, Mos Def, ninedays, Distorted Penguins, MTV’s dj scribble

2000: Live, Fuel, Virginia Coalition, Khiaro Scuro, DJ Spooky, Lost Boyz

1999: Busta Rhymes, Everything, Marvelous 3, The Argument, DJ S&S

1998: Crazy Jane, They Might Be Giants, Camp Lo, Violent Femmes, Biz Markie

1997: Sponge, De La Soul, 2 Skinnee J’s, Brownie Mary

1996: G. Love & Special Sauce, The Roots, The Verve Pipe, The Drag, Circle Six

1995: Juliana Hatfield, Evan Dando, Fig Dish, Rasta Rafiki, Karl Shuman Band
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