Nelly ready to ‘turn it up’ as headliner for Costa’s Greekfest



Rapper Nelly poses topless backstage at the BET Awards on Tuesday June 24, 2008 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Deanne Winslett

Five years ago, two fraternity members named Billy Bailey and Nathan McMullan set out to bridge the divide within the greek communities. Their mission to hold an event that would bring all the members of the greek system together in one place where everyone could have fun created an annual superparty known simply as Greekfest.

“They wanted to do something to unite the houses and create a party with a purpose atmosphere,” said Costa Collegiate marketing manager and UA alumnus Robert Sabin.

The following year, Costa joined on as title sponsor for the event, and Costa Greekfest became a yearly staple on UA’s campus. Now, Greekfest has evolved into a campus wide event and has expanded its purpose not just to unite Panhellenic members, but to unite the campus community as a whole.

“Once the first year went very well and everything went off without a hitch, it just made sense,” Sabin said. “The next move was to make sure that everybody on campus was invited and that it was just an open party for everybody to come partake in.”

In order to appeal to a variety of musical tastes, coordinators for the event strive to bring in a mixture of genres and styles. Each year a survey is sent out in the spring that lists potential acts and students vote on who they would most like to see. Music Garden, who is responsible for booking the acts, then reviews the top picks and tries to arrange for artists who best fit with the students’ interests.

Past performers have included chart-topping names like Bone Thugs N’ Harmony and Dierks Bentley. The performers for this year are Nelly, Umphrey’s McGee and John Tyler and the Northern Lights.

Nelly, the internationally known rapper and performer said he is looking forward to performing for everyone before classes get back into full swing.

“I’m looking forward to the energy,” Nelly said. “School’s just starting back, so I think everybody should be a little turned up.”

Nelly has been performing for 12 years and has shared stages with a long list of musical talents. He has also performed at many end-of-the-year college events, but not as many events to kick off the school year. When asked about the diversity of the acts to be shown at Greekfest, he says he looks forward to it.

“If you look at everything that I’ve been able to accomplish and all the things I’ve done with all of my music, it’s been very diverse,” Nelly said. “We share a writer’s home. It doesn’t matter what genre it’s in, so long as it’s good.”

After such an extensive career, Nelly said he doesn’t plan out his shows, but he rather likes to feed off the energy of the crowd.

“Energy is a must,” he said. “We have our show kind of laid out, but we like to vibe with the students. We’re real good at being spontaneous on stage and interacting with the fans. As long as the crowd is turned up, then we’re turned up.”

Nelly is specifically interested in the energy the Alabama community has to offer. He said he considers Alabama his second favorite college, especially in football, outside of Mizzou.

“I’m just looking forward to coming down and rocking Alabama,” he said. “The more excited Alabama is about Nelly the more excited Nelly is to turn it up for Alabama. I just want to thank the whole state of Alabama for the love that they’re not just showing me on not only this trip here, but on the whole existence of Nelly.”

Proceeds from the event are donated to two foundations each year. Costa has donated half the proceeds to the Billfish Foundation annually since 2009 and the other half to a foundation or charity of current importance. Past donations have been made to assist in cleanup following the oil spill in 2010 and to relief in Tuscaloosa after the April 2011 tornadoes.

At Friday’s event, Costa will be providing free merchandise to concert attendees and vendors, including Papa Johns and Jim ‘N Nicks, will also be on location.

To accommodate larger crowds, Greekfest has changed locations and will now take place at the parking lot below the soccer fields. Students can also expect a larger stage at the event.

“We have changed several aspects of this year’s event that will make it better than past concerts,” said Michael Wright, a Music Garden representative and music director for Greekfest. “You will have to attend to see for yourselves, but I will say there is a much larger stage.”

Gates will open at 7 p.m., and the show will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at for $25 each in advance. Each individual person can purchase a ticket for themselves as well as two guest tickets. Tickets can also be bought at the door for $30. Sabin said both greeks and non-greeks are welcome to the event.

“There’s so many different tastes in music represented on this campus,” he said. “So it’s an awesome opportunity to meld those together and make it to where every student will have an interest in coming.”