Twerk it out: FEST 2013

From atop his DJ booth, Thomas Pentz, better known as Diplo, looked like a king preparing to address his subjects. The unruly masses pushed and shoved for a better look, while screams and chants filled the air. Diplo may as well have been crowned king, because from the minute his set began, he held an incredible power in his hands: the power to make thousands of college students go completely insane.

Despite unusually chilly weather and a generally lukewarm reception to the lineup, DePaul’s FEST proved a resounding success for 2013. Before the crowd lost itself in Diplo’s breakdowns, they were warmed up by DePaul band The Outfit, enlivened by rapper Yelawolf, and rocked by Seattle act Minus the Bear.

The audience was slow to arrive, even as The Outfit began to play their opening chords. Tickets were still available by the time doors opened at 5 p.m., despite having been on sale for more than two weeks. Lead vocalist Lesleigh Arratia didn’t seem to mind the light crowd, as she belted notes throughout The Outfit’s 45-minute set that reverberated throughout campus. A bluesy band with modern rock influences, The Outfit gave it their all for the entirety of their set, no doubt impressing the few who were there.

Next to the stage was Alabama’s Yelawolf, who was backed by turntable legend DJ Klever. Yelawolf, who is signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, left no holds barred as he spat his lyrics rapid fire over Klever’s drum and bass compositions. The bass was hardly an afterthought, and was turned up so loud it left few skulls unrattled. Among the people in the front row, who bore the brunt of the bass onslaught, were Greg Rothstein and Vlad Zuperman, self-proclaimed “die-hard fans” who each wore faux wolf pelts on their heads.

“He’s just gonna go hard,” said Rothstein, speaking about his expectations for the forthcoming set.

“I’ll be going just as hard as he is,” said Zuperman, not to be outdone by his friend. “I’m expecting a great show from Yelawolf … I think he’ll be able to teach DePaul how to throw down, basically.”

After throwing down to Yelawolf’s Dirty South flow, Seattle rockers Minus the Bear took the stage to give FEST attendees a taste of their catchy indie rock sound. The band has been around since 2001 and has released five albums since then, along with numerous EPs and a remix album.

Their tight, focused sound was almost math rock-esque, combining delicate time signature changes with satisfying synth melodies and blistering guitar solos. Lead vocalist Jake Snider sang with a gravelly tenor, his high notes rising above the quad to get DePaul students amped for what was still to come.

After an hour of enjoyable tunes by Minus the Bear, Diplo’s crew began to set the stage and a palpable sense of excitement grew over the crowd. The crowd itself grew immensely since the start of the festivities, occupying the entire north half of the quad with hardly enough room to stretch one’s arms out.

As the stagehands continued to prepare, the crowd became more and more anxious, chanting Diplo’s name and readying themselves for obscene amounts of dancing.

Soon enough, DePaul’s patience ended up paying dividends. Diplo took to his perch and hardly let up, delivering a blistering set of non-stop hits. Some highlights included Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa,” Daft Punk’s new single, “Get Lucky,” and a wide variety of remixes. Diplo’s hottest track as of late, “Express Yourself” featuring Nicky Da B, was met with universal exclamation.

The music video for “Express Yourself” deserves at least partial credit for the phenomenon that is “twerking,” the dance featured in the video that involves rapid, rhythmic undulations of the gluteus maximus. In other words, twerking is something your parents wouldn’t be proud of you doing, especially if you got up on stage in front of a couple thousand people to do it. But Diplo invited about a dozen girls on stage to do just that, marking the high point of a set filled with bangers, breakdowns and anthems.

It’s hard to critique FEST in any meaningful way because, despite slow ticket sales or artists on the bill, anyone who showed up was bound to have a good time. With a student body as varied as DePaul’s, it’s certain that no lineup will manage to please everyone. What FEST gets right every year is that it leaves few attendees unsatisfied. You just have to be there.