A&O Blowout brings Nas, Young the Giant to Welsh-Ryan Arena


Mariam Gomaa/Daily Senior Staffer

Rapper Nas invites the A&O Blowout crowd to chant lyrics to samples from his favorite 1990s rap songs. He opened the annual fall concert with “Nas the Don.”

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

A&O Productions brought two stylistically distinct artists, rapper Nas and rock band Young the Giant, to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday for its annual Blowout concert.

A&O chairman Logan Koepke said he was pleased with attendance at the fourth annual show, though an official attendance count was not yet available. Ticket sales increased dramatically among freshmen, with 55 percent of the Class of 2016 buying the $10 tickets, A&O spokeswoman Shelly Tan said. A&O did not know how many concert tickets were sold as of Monday night.

“We were really happy with the freshmen ticket sales,” she said. “It’s great to start the year off in that manner.”

Andrew Griesemer, A&O marketing and media co-chair, said the increase in ticket sales among freshmen may have resulted from University President Morton Schapiro’s Blowout announcement during Wildcat Welcome.

The concert kicked off with Young the Giant, who opened with “I Got.” Students in the gated area near the stage quickly scrambled forward following the opening chords, jumping over the chairs set up on the basketball court. The partially-filled bleachers shook with the bass of the speakers as well as the clapping and stomping of enthusiastic students.

“Cough Syrup,” the band’s hit song, drew screams and cheers from the crowd in the middle of the band’s set. While some students complained Young the Giant’s music is not dance-friendly, the band’s cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” left few standing still. Young the Giant closed their 50-minute set with their recent hit, “My Body.”

“Young the Giant’s set list was weird,” said Medill freshman Jonathan Palmer. “I couldn’t believe they played ‘Cough Syrup’ in the middle.”

Although some students said they were not familiar with Young the Giant before Friday’s performance, Medill sophomore Dana Driskill said she saw the Irvine, Calif.-based band for the first time this summer.

“I would do it all over again,” Driskill said. “I thought they were great.”

During the half-hour break before Nas’ set, senior forward Drew Crawford and other representatives from the NU basketball team presented Young the Giant with a commemorative basketball.

By the time Nas took the stage, students had started trickling out of the arena, and audience members continued to head for the exits throughout his performance.

“I thought it was really disrespectful that so many students were leaving during Nas,” said Medill freshman Antonio Jose Vielma, who has tickets to see the New York rapper perform again in several weeks.

Nas’ set featured throwback hits from his early albums (“The World Is Yours”) as well as his more recent work (“Hip Hop Is Dead”). He opened with “The Don.”

Although even students who did not know Nas’ music were impressed with his stage presence, some thought Welsh-Ryan was not the right venue for him.

“The crowd was terrible,” said McCormick freshman Kareem Youssef. “I was discontented with the seating because I thought it really limited the crowd.”

Despite complaints about seating, many students were overall pleased with the event. Several freshmen said Friday’s Blowout would not be their last and are already looking forward to next year’s performance.

For A&O, the work didn’t end with Friday’s show. The student group posted its annual poll on its website following Blowout, while students were still talking heavily about A&O, Griesemer said. The poll invites students to answer questions such as “Which concerts would you be willing to pay $10 to see?” and “Which of these films events would you want to attend?” A&O collects this feedback and uses it to plan for its upcoming events. About one quarter of undergraduate students responded to the poll last year, Griesemer added.