Over 700 people gathered under colored lights and smoke machines at Bentonville’s Record Downtown to sing, dance and enjoy the long-awaited return of the Island Party music festival Saturday.
Returning for the first time in two years, Beta Upsilon Chi’s annual fundraiser concert featured indie band Everett, ‘90s-inspired duo Joan and indie-folk band Wilderado.
After being postponed twice because of COVID-19, the event was highly anticipated by BYX members and many Northwest Arkansas music fans. The last iteration of the festival, which began in 2004, was in March 2019.
“Our last [Island Party] was when we were freshmen,” said Harrison Davis, a senior and secretary of BYX. “It’s cool because we get to experience it again for our last time, but we also get to see the younger guys experience an Island Party for the first time.”
Members of the junior and sophomore BYX pledge classes had been awaiting the event for years, said Emmanuel Muyia, a junior and vice president of brotherhood for BYX.
“My freshman class and all the guys I rushed with got sent home our freshman year,” Muyia said. “There were so many things I missed out on. It’s cool to finally experience it now.”
The fundraiser event supports BYX’s philanthropic work with LifeSource, which operates a public food pantry and after-school programs for kids.
The annual music festival, which usually takes place in the spring, is BYX’s largest public event. The 2021 Island Party sold around 700 tickets, filling up the main space of the Bentonville concert venue, Record Downtown.
Island Party was the first live public concert in months for Everett, an indie band formed by Nate Davis of Austin, Texas.
“This is the biggest show we’ve played post-pandemic,” Davis said prior to his band’s performance. “I’m pumped for it. It’s gonna be fun.”
The band is already a favorite of many Northwest Arkansans. It gained popularity in the area after the members won BYX’s Battle of the Bands fundraiser in spring 2021. It is traditional for the winner of Battle of the Bands to open at Island Party.
Everett’s opening set included original music from the band’s 2020 album “Walls,” as well as groovy covers of Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” and Lizzo’s “Juice,” which got the whole crowd dancing.
Jonesboro music fans Sydney Wildy and Hannah Hayes said the opportunity to see Everett was what brought them to Island Party.
“We saw Everett when he was on tour with Dayglow,” Wildy said. “We just started following him then, and now we absolutely love his music.”
The festival also featured Joan, a pop duo from Little Rock who played ‘90s-inspired music reminiscent of the Backstreet Boys. The headlining band Wilderado completed the night with folk-inspired favorites.
Cam Rainwater, a senior and BYX’s chair of social events, said he thinks Island Party is an event that brings together the BYX community, as well as many not affiliated with the Christian fraternity at all.
“My whole job is to plan functions, but even more than that it is for us to be representatives of Christ,” Rainwater said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to put on an event that has the ability to do that.”