I walk into the field and immediately, the smell of corn dogs floods my nose. Walnut park is decked out with activities, the musicians are testing the sound, and the sky is a gentle grey (but it’s still bright enough to provide perfect selfie lighting, so no one can say shit). I realize very quickly that I am embarrassingly early, but it gives me more time to shovel hamburgers and chicken tornadoes down my throat, and double fist bags of cotton candy as I wander around the venue. It is at this point that I realize there is an entire food truck dedicated to potatoes. I bravely decide to investigate, for the sake of true and honest journalism.
I then go to a tent marked “silent disco” and laugh (silently) at the the three UU members bouncing around in silence, their headphones allegedly blasting music, until I try it for myself and realize that I have no desire to do anything but jam to this fucking Wonderwall remix for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, people are starting to trickle in, and I decide it’s my duty to discover just how plastered everyone really is.
Plot twist: everyone’s fucking blacked.
I pass student after student, girls screeching upon finding people they know, and hanging off of their necks in strange koala-like hugs while their guy friends look onwards in their sports jerseys (seriously, why are there so many fucking jerseys here?). Although at times I wish I was as hammered as the rest of them, I entertain myself by watching the drunkest of the drunk attempt to jump across giant inflatable Wipeout-style balls, and eat absolute shit. Meanwhile, the less daring kids start to congregate around the port-a-potties, trying their best to act chill around DPS officers. One bitch even pulls out a hula hoop, which apparently is the move.
Finally, after much anticipation, DJ Orange Calderón takes the stage and starts playing straight bops while the truest fans surround the stage in what will soon become a sweaty mosh-pit of people fucking up every single lyric. She dances around onstage, orange lipstick, orange nails, and amazing orange Nikes on display, and I decide I want her to be my best friend. Sadly, Orange finishes her set before we get the chance to become best buds.
YBN Nahmir comes out to get the crowd hyped up, spitting verse after verse and performing with amazing confidence considering his young age. He ends with a bang and leaves the crowd thoroughly prepared for Quinn XCII (that’s Quinn 92 for all you non-Romans out there).
If you’re unfamiliar, Quinn XCII initially started making music in college at Michigan State, creating the eclectic, laid-back sound that he is most famous for today. He tells me, “I think a lot of my stuff is really experimental in the sense that it kind of meshes different types of genres and ideas… [it’s] just a refreshing new sound to the industry that I think could be lacking in the pop world,” and I can’t help but agree.
He comes onstage, yelling “WHAT THE FUCK IS UP SYRACUSE?!” in a way that makes me think he’s about to start playing the EDM type shit that’s usually expected from Mayfest artists. However, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that what he actually plays is melodic and well-produced. He sings well, he raps well, and he really does seem to combine genres to produce a tropical, groovy blend that’s reminiscent of artists like Jon Bellion and Marc E. Bassy. The sun comes out for a little while, and despite being tossed around within the crowd for a straight hour, I come to the happy realization that I am actually enjoying myself… sober.
Fast forward a few hours and it’s time for Block Party. I follow the rest of the press to the floor of the Carrier Dome and am struck by the overwhelming sense that this is my absolute peak. I numbly take my place in the front row, wrapping my hands around the barrier that will soon separate me from SZA and Gucci Mane, and shake my head in disbelief, muttering “How the fuck did I end up here?” over and over again.
My girl Orange Calderón takes the stage again, a quick replacement for Medasin, who, ironically enough, was too sick to perform. Heavy beat drops and bouncy rhythms follow, and I realize that some people will do anything, and I mean anything, to be as close to the artists as possible. Two girls next to me are screaming at each other, another person has managed to squeeze their hand onto the minuscule piece of barrier next to me and is attempting to shove themselves into the nonexistent space, and a few others behind me have already collapsed. Good times.
But then Orange finishes up and we are left waiting for the Queen herself. The artist whose soft, sultry album has catapulted her to fame within the last year. The woman who threatens to take over the R&B industry with her stunning vocals and powerful lyrics. The one, the only… SZA. She walks up the stairs, and all the fighting on the floor stops. Each and every one of us is frozen in awe and admiration, unsure of what to do with ourselves.
She struts onstage and I am confounded by the realization that she is even more beautiful in real life, a mountain of curly hair cascading down her back as she croons “Supermodel” to the crowd. Her range is incredible, her attitude is everything and her presence captivates the entire Dome, which is no small feat. From the front of the audience, her performance feels personal, like she’s singing just for us, and I am considerably disappointed to watch as she effortlessly trills “God bless you” and exits the stage.
However, I can’t stay sad for long, as the excitement for Gucci Mane starts to bubble up and the floor grows reckless again. Guwop’s personal hype man, DJ Champ, takes the stage and starts getting everyone amped up, playing hits until the big man himself graces us with his presence. Gucci Mane walks onstage and I’m taken aback by how amazing he looks, his watch glittering as the lights hit the diamonds from every angle. He catapults between songs at a rapid-fire pace, leaving no recovery time in between, and effortlessly bounces from originals like “I Get the Bag” to features like “Black Beatles.”
Everyone is hype, a random dude is on someone’s shoulders, I realize the entire basketball team has *mysteriously* made their way up to the front, and some poor girl even throws her phone at Gucci Mane in an effort to get the best video possible (#dedication). Then all at once, Gucci is out and the crowd is left with adrenaline coursing through their veins, everyone drunk and content with the knowledge that the academic year has at long last come to a close.
How’s that for a finishing act?