Fiji Howl Fest unites community through music and good cause


Chris Heermann

Fiji Howl Fest raised $1,500 for pancreatic cancer with its musical appeal.

Lewis Nelken, Staff Reporter

There was one important person missing from this year’s annual Howl Fest at Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity. Still, Hugh Marshall’s impact loomed large. 

The rave-goers, eager to get into the shelter of the booming “Outpost,” were happy to pay the cover when they learned that the admissions were donated to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) in the honor of Fiji alum Hugh Marshall who passed after battling pancreatic cancer in June of 2018 at 65 years old.

Marshall played a role in the lives of current-day Fiji brothers despite the difference in age. He was the centerpiece of the Hugh-B-Q, a cookout hosted between Fiji and Phi Mu to create community on the Case Western Reserve University campus. 

“He would bring this special home-made sauce, and that recipe has passed with him,” said third-year student Matt Pukansky, sharing lore of the legend of Marshall. “As long as he kept his flag flying, nobody could get him down.”

In the months before Marshall died, the fraternity hosted a number of philanthropy events to support PanCAN, the most notable being their spring Islander Fest, a sister event to Owl Fest and Howl Fest that make up their year-cyclical of raves. 

Each one sees incredible success, something Pukansky attributes to the relief provided to the general academic-only atmosphere on campus. It is an atmosphere Hugh Marshall embraced.

This concert was no disappointment. Despite the solemn reason for holding the event, attendees had an easy time celebrating life in the moment. Having already created essential set pieces like the custom subwoofer and stage in previous Fiji-fests, all the brothers had to do was plug-in and hire incredibly talented acts to perform for the night.

The night opened with Dr. H and DJ Hydra, also known as fourth-year students Matt Hartmann and Jeremy Novak, who amply warmed up the crowd. DJ Denvver, or third-year student Devon Garrett, a Fiji-fest regular, closed out the night with electronica and infectious dancing. 

Between was the headlining FOMO Boiz, a trio of live musicians who only use electronics and voice. Rich Miller MC’ed on the microphone while Sean O’Neil overlaid acapella samples on beats played by Dennis Wong, a Fiji alum.

Wong reminisced about attending other shows in the Outpost during the early 2000s, where brothers would play trance music. Now he returned to pay tribute to the community with bass and trap music, commenting that “it’s the continuity of Fiji maintaining its musical vibe.”

Max Speil, one of many other Fiji alumni present that night, also turned up in the audience. “It’s really special to come here with a bunch of grad bros to see an older grad bro perform in honor of an even older grad bro,” he said.

In total, the event raised $1,500 from 300 participants.

“People don’t know about the real Fiji,” said second-year student Alex Occhionero, leaning slightly to keep his clothes dry under the admissions tent. “The real Fiji is out here fundraising for pancreatic cancer, bridging the gap between philanthropy and a good event by uniting the community with music.”