The Hub in Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center was filled with the sound of music on Thursday courtesy of an acoustic set played by the barefooted, jean-short-and-puffy-vest-wearing, country “southern swag” artist Kevin Mac.
Since 2007, YSU Student Activities has hosted the Penguin Pre-party series each semester. In the past, they have brought in artists such as Andy Grammer, The Love and Sarah Burgess. The concerts are usually hosted on a Thursday or Friday so students can step away from studying for a little and relax with friends.
This year, Mac was booked for the spring pre-party because YSU’s Student Activities wanted to bring in an up-and-coming country artist.
Cori Pavlicko, YSU senior and intern for Student Activities, said that when deciding which artist to bring in this semester, Mac stood out to her immediately.
“There was something about Kevin that made him stand out from other country artists. He can be goofy and down to earth,” Pavlicko said. “When you listen to his music, it makes you believe in him. It’s kind of hard to explain if you have never heard his music, but people will understand when they hear him.”
Mac, a Virginia native, said that he has had a passion for performing and listening to music his whole life. He described his music as “southern swag” and puts his own unique twist on popular song covers by changing lyrics to make the crowd laugh.
“You got to keep it cool man. You got to keep it real and fresh. That’s how I want my style to be in country — just fresh, not corny like ‘hippy hoppy’ or traditional country,” Mac said. “Music: It’s like a drug for a musician. You just get high off it, especially when you write a good song and have a great show. You want to do better, and you want to do more.”
Mac has worked with artists such as Timbaland and Tedy Riley from Blackstreet. Riley and Mac covered a version of “No Diggity” made famous by Blackstreet. Mac has also opened for national acts such as Ashanti, Kenny Chesney and J.Cole.
During his hour-and-45-minute set, Mac took requests from audience members about what they wanted to hear. The music ranged from classic Backstreet Boys hits to a mash-up cover of Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard and Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker. He also called out audience members on the microphone throughout the show about not having fun, drinking or clapping to the music. Mac also brought students on stage and serenaded them by adding their name to love songs.
Mac said he loved playing for the crowd in the Hub, because he likes to make a connection with his audience members.
“I play for people. I mean, I’m an artist, and I know what it is like to sit and watch someone play. I want everyone to have a good time,” he said. “I got in the truck and drove ten hours all the way up here just to play for y’all.”
Mac said he always enjoys playing the college scene, because he still feels like he is in college. He also said he got the idea to play at universities from Dave Matthews, one of his favorite artists.
“College music is different than anything else. College kids get music and own it,” Mac said. “I want my music and shows to be like a college underground vibe.”
Also at the show, Mac made jokes about the cash bar, saying if you were of age you better get your ass to the bar and have a drink to relax.
Pavlicko said the cash bar was one of the many different promotions the department is trying.
“We are trying a bunch of new marketing strategies such as the cash bar and really promoting it [the concert] on social media,” she said. “I hope it will increase our attendance. We have always had a good turnout, but it would be awesome if we had a packed house.”
There was also a live Twitter feed where Mac could tweet at students and see what things the audience was tweeting about him.
“Girl, I ain’t giving you these glasses back anytime soon,” he said during the show to a student whose glasses he stole.
At the end of the night, Mac was supposed to end at 9:30 p.m., but students cheered for him to continue his set.
Mac said he enjoyed his time in Youngstown and really wants to come back and play another show soon. He said he loved the students and the vibe they gave off throughout the night.
“When I drove in at first, I was like ‘there ain’t nothing here.’ It reminded me of where I’m from, too,” Mac said. “But then you come up on the college town, and you see it all. You see life on campus and all the people. Y’all were a lot of fun.”