Flo Milli becomes first woman of color to headline FEST
May 29, 2023
For an event marketed simply as an end-of-year concert, FEST is so much more than the $10 ticket and big name performances on the quad. This year’s event featured opener Emblem3 and headliner Flo Milli, both of whom did their best to keep the energy up and students entertained for the long night ahead of them. FEST 2023 proved worthwhile but only for those willing to dance along to unfamiliar music and try everything the main event and After Hours had planned.
The three student openers — Superdime, Ocean Child and Zeno Camera + Socks Off — showcased some of the best music student bands at DePaul and rocked the stage like professionals. Despite the few students willing to show up right at the 4:00 p.m. opening to hear them, it was arguably one of the most talented parts of the event.
Showing up early also meant a better chance for attendees to explore all of the booths FEST had to offer. The most interesting and exciting included free Jeni’s Ice Cream, an air brush t-shirt station and TwistiCity Giant Bubbles.
The main event of the night’s concert was lackluster. Only a marginal part of the audience actually knew any of the artists’ music, meaning the majority of attendees simply bobbed their heads along and dampened the energy. It proved hard to get a crowd that size with that amount of unfamiliarity to the music properly hyped up but both Flo Milli and Emblem3 did their best with what they had.
The logistics of the concert proved to be messy with delayed performance and unimpressive placeholder acts. Flo Milli was supposed to start performing at 8:30 p.m. but as 9 p.m. hit, students became bored with local DJ Festus’ unimaginative set. You can only hear so many overplayed popular songs clumsily mixed together before you start questioning how much longer you are willing to wait for the headliner. The delay also meant Flo Milli’s set was shorter than expected, only lasting until roughly 9:45 p.m. when FEST transitioned from the concert to the FEST After Hours event.
While students went to FEST to hear Flo Milli’s stellar rapping, they were more likely to hear her backup tracks blasting through the speakers. The microphone she was actually rapping into was programmed way too quietly for anyone past the front of the crowd to hear her. When added to the fact that everyone was squeezed together so tightly you could barely see anything past the heads of those in front of you, it made the entire performance slightly off putting.
In Flo Milli’s defense, attendees could be heard commenting that while they may not know her songs, at least she was better than last year’s FEST headliner 2Chainz. Her more popular songs did inject the crowd with some necessary adrenaline and her energy carried through until the end of the concert. In lieu of her tagline, thankfully Flo Milli was not shit.
The fog machines were an odd addition to the concert. You could see billows of smoke puff up from random people in the audience and some were even scented, though some definitely smelled better than others. For such close proximity in the crowd, it was an odd choice to even have the fog machines in the first place. If it made the experience more enjoyable for some though, who cares about the people standing right next to you getting a face full of smoke. Maybe next time just use the fog machines outside of the gated event.
The FEST After Hours event made everything entirely worth it. A tip for all the FEST first timers though, unless you are absolutely dying to hear the headliner’s entire set, go early to the After Hours party. The line filled up quickly for both check-in and the food station so unless you wanted to stand around for 30 minutes hangry, maybe skip the last song and secure your spot for the potato bar. The event also featured DePaul student DJ Horde who deserved the stage time DJ Festus had during the concert. Unlike the latter, Horde actually knew how to keep the party going and how to curate a solid soundtrack.
If food and music were not enticing enough for students during FEST After Hours, there was also a ping pong table, photo booth and karaoke set up in room 120 AB of the Student Center. The karaoke room saw some stellar performances, including a Frank Sinatra ballad and duet from the show “Victorious,” letting students sing out the rest of their energy from the night’s festivities.
It was entertaining to see Flo Milli and Emblem3 perform live but the real heroes of FEST were the students actually running the event. Student employees from the DePaul Activities Board (DAB) could be seen darting around the entire night sporting “staff” t-shirts and ensuring everything ran smoothly. While everyone else got to stand back and enjoy FEST as the end of year concert, they were getting things done.
FEST 2023 ended the year on a high note, especially if you explored everything there was to offer. With various artists, free merchandise and the good times provided, there was something for everyone if you knew where to look. Even if the music was not to your taste, the $10 spent was worth it for the After Hours event alone. FEST 2023 was a triumph but it was ultimately on the individual attendee to make it fun.