Quadstock Rocks On

Co-founders of the venerable music and arts festival share how it all began

Written by Tina Potterf
Photography by Chris Kalinko and archives
July 9, 2014
When Chris Thomas, ’91 and John Boyle, ’93 wanted to do something to continue the celebration around the unveiling of the Quadrangle and Tsutakawa Fountain—formally dedicated in fall 1989—little did they know they would start a tradition at Seattle University that lives on.

The pair, who were active in Student Activities, had an idea for a music festival in the Quad for the following spring, a way to encourage students to view this new centerpiece of campus as their space.

What started with a seed of an idea between these two friends soon gained a swell of support from members of the activities committee and the SU administration. And in spring 1990, Quadstock was born. Through the power of music—and the fun, festival-like atmosphere that includes games, a dunk tank, arts & crafts and more—community formed, strangers became friends and new traditions were born.

Originally Quadstock—the name a mashup of location and a nod to the seminal outdoor music festival Woodstock—spanned three days and included Battle of the Bands.

“We knew a lot of people who played in bands at SU and came up with the idea to do a Battle of the Bands with the winner getting to play on the main stage at Quadstock,” explains Thomas.

After the first year, which was by all accounts a success, the guys realized that three days was too much.

But what they put together proved to be a successful template as Quadstock has continued on, with 2014 marking the 25th year of the event. Quadstock has become a springtime staple near the close of the academic year, something that is circled on the calendar weeks and months in advance.

The success of Quadstock is due in part to its free-flowing, festival-vibe that is structured but doesn’t follow a rigid format, which was intentional, says Boyle.

“The format for Quadstock has worked because it’s always been about music and friendship and giving back,” he says. “It’s good, clean fun.”
Quadstock has attracted upcoming and established local and national talent with past performances from The Thermals, Dan Deacon, Del the Funky Homosapien, Talib Kweli, Ok GO, Blue Scholars and pre-Grammy winner Macklemore, to name a few. Boyle puts to rest a long-running rumor (or urban legend?) that Nirvana played the festival. While a call was indeed put into Nirvana’s people, Boyle says the band had to decline the offer as they were recording in Los Angeles at the time.

It also helped that Boyle, Thomas and the students behind bringing Quadstock to life had the support from the top in then-President William Sullivan, S.J.

Says Boyle, “Father Sullivan wanted the Quadrangle to be a centerpiece of student life. … He was always behind us.”

Quadstock is still important to Boyle, who works in mobile products and software development for Dell and Thomas, who is a PR manager at Providence Centralia Hospital.
The annual music and arts festival attracts national acts and emerging local talent.
Students look forward to Quadstock every year and turn out in droves.