I don’t think I’ve been to a more aptly named concert.
A&O’s Fall Blowout literally blew my mind. Throughout the night, I found myself singing and rapping along as hard as I could and jumping up and down with the floor audience. A&O did a phenomenal job of kicking off their year with a bang – the combination of Grouplove and Childish Gambino definitely satisfied the indie and hip-hop cravings of NU. I didn’t see a single student without a huge smile on their face and hands in the air.
As students mobbed the floor and stands of Welsh-Ryan Arena, Chicago-based band AyOH opened the concert. “We hear Northwestern likes to party,” said Avi Dell, the band’s lead singer. Formed in 2010, AyOh consists of three musicians that describe themselves as a “combination of blues and rock” with a “soulful edge.” AyOH jolted the crowd with their energy as they performed a few songs off of their EP, Take it to the People, as well as a few songs off their upcoming album. While they aren’t a particularly well-known band, the group definitely had some potential to play a single that everyone could sing along to. However, I didn’t feel that the “blues/rock/soulful” description was correct – AyOH felt more like an alternative band that was trying a little too hard to fit in to the indie genre. Nevertheless, it was a solid opener..
Come 8 p.m., the fun was just beginning. More and more students began to pour into Welsh-Ryan ready for indie sensation Grouplove. The band, made up of five members from New York, Los Angeles and London, originally formed in 2009 and most recently put out their second studio album, Spreading Rumours, this past September. After playing a more intimate show at Evanston’s SPACE music venue, they were looking forward to rocking out with Northwestern students. The band hyped up the energy in the arena by starting off with A$AP Rocky’s banger “Wild for the Night.” “We prefer these types of shows,” said Ryan Rabin, Grouplove’s drummer. Rabin made a reference to living in Bobb during the concert – I later on found out that while he didn’t go to NU, but his girlfriend did so visits to Bobb were very frequent for him. Grouplove’s high energy and happy-go-lucky songs really got the crowd going. They did a perfect mix of old material and new repertoire. I was not a huge indie rock fan before this concert, but Grouplove has changed my opinion entirely – I’m adding a lot more of Grouplove-esque bands to my Pandora playlist.
By 9:30 p.m., the arena was bustling and eager to get their Childish on. The floor sections were packed to the brim. To those girls that were on their friend’s shoulders and crowdsurfing dudes – I respect your effort to get a good view and I’m sorry the guards had to kill your vibe. The upper bleachers were substantially filled with the overflow from the first tier of stands. As the Don walked on stage – James Dean swag, short shorts and all – every Northwestern student in the building went out of their minds. Childish Gambino brought out all the heavy hitters of his musical arsenal – from the YouTube hit “Freaks and Geeks” to his remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”; from his first mixtape to his unreleased hits. He brought the essence of Chicago to his act, performing some bass-heavy hits like “One Up” and “Unnecessary” (with special guest and brother, Steve G. Lover) along with mentioning our city in his impressive 6/8 time signature freestyle. Gambino left us with some words of wisdom before his finale: “I do what I like doing … Do what you like doing cause most likely you’ll be doing it for free for a while. Do what you’ve gotta do.”
The musicianship of AyOH, the energy of Grouplove and the lyricism of Childish Gambino made for one of the best concerts I’ve ever experienced. A&O did a great job of finding the correct balance of indie, alternative and hip-hop that this school wanted and needed.