FEST returns to DePaul: performances from 2 Chainz, bbno$ celebrate the end of the school year

As a sea of students took over the quad for a night full of music, DePaul reignited a school tradition: for the first year since 2019, FEST was back.

On Friday evening, DePaul hosted performances from bbno$ and 2 Chainz for an end of the school year celebration. FEST brings in artists for students to see perform at affordable prices and has been an annual event at DePaul longer than Lollapalooza has been in Chicago. But after being canceled for two years due to Covid-19, for most of the current student body, this school tradition was a new experience.

Gwen Ashworth, a sophomore at DePaul, had never had the opportunity to attend FEST before.

“I didn’t really know FEST existed until this year,” Ashworth said.

Abigail Adan, another DePaul sophomore waiting in line with Ashworth, was also experiencing FEST for the first time.

“I had a bunch of older friends that came to DePaul and they were hyping up FEST so much from their past years,” Adan said. “They said it was one of the best things about DePaul. I was really excited for that, and to have the first year go down the drain was really sad.”

Although many weren’t sure what to expect, the event had still built up excitement among students.

“You’re anticipating this the entire time, you’re voting for it, and you’re a part of the whole process in a way,” Adan said. “It’s like one last hurrah with friends before they go home for the summer.”

Tents with donuts and pizza, free neon-colored FEST gear and bubbles transformed the quad into a mini music festival. Students began to roll in, wearing either comfy collegiate sweatshirts or their best festival outfits, posing for photos in glittery eyeliner.

As the quad began to fill, student bands Any Two Words, Minivan and rapper 404KRAZY warmed up the crowd for the first few hours before the main performers took the stage.

Canadian rapper bbno$ opened the main show at 7 p.m., where students jumped to viral songs like “edamame” and “Lalala.” He brought a funky sense of humor as he interacted with the crowd throughout his performance, reading recipes aloud from a cookbook, snacking on Cheez-Its tossed from the crowd and even bringing a student on stage to rap featured artist Yung Gravy’s verses in his songs.

As the sun went down, anticipation began to build. Finally, headliner 2 Chainz took the stage. The audience brought the energy as they jumped under flashing lights and shouted along to his setlist full of throwback hits like “Birthday Song,” “Grey Area,” and “BIG BANK.”

The expectations for this year’s lineup were high, especially since several students recounted excited rumors flying around about FEST 2020 bringing in a big name before the event was canceled. A poll earlier in the quarter asked students who they wanted to see perform this year, with Pitbull emerging as a popular contender.

When 2 Chainz was announced as the headliner, some students said they were apprehensive.

“Every time I’ve told somebody that it’s him, they’re like, ‘what?’” Adan, one of the sophomores, said before the show. “He’s a little old, like early 2000s.”

But the energy of the crowd seemed to give this year’s performer a stamp of approval.

DePaul sophomores Magda Wilhelm and Madeline Smith gave a review of the show at the DePaul Activities Board after party in the Student Center. The two were dressed up as Pitbull and had been the center of student attention all night, but even though their favorite performer hadn’t been chosen for FEST, they said they had a great time.

“bbno$ I think knew how to appeal to us better,” Wilhelm said. “Personally, I know more [about] him from TikTok … I feel like he could connect to us better.”

When 2 Chainz came on stage, the two said they were impressed by his energetic stage presence.

“You could tell that 2 Chainz is a performer,” Smith said. “I grew up listening to him with my mom, so that was pretty cool.”

“I liked every single song without knowing who he was,” Wilhelm added.

Given the gap between this year’s FEST and the last show in 2019, many of the students involved in planning FEST had never been to it themselves. But despite the challenges of teaching students the ropes and navigating changing Covid-19 restrictions, the Office of Student Involvement was able to put on the event successfully.

“After going through these past years with the pandemic, it’s great that we were able to bring such a campus tradition back to DePaul,” said Teneshia Arnold, the assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement and the lead staff member who helped coordinate FEST.

Abram Camarena was one of the few students in attendance who had experienced FEST before. He said that bringing back this part of student culture helped lift spirits on campus.

While just a year ago students finished their spring quarter by submitting online finals in their rooms, FEST brought a lively event to close out the year.

“I feel like we were able to return to normal a little bit,” Camarena said. “It feels like DePaul as a community is able to come back together after Covid.”