From The Daily Orange
Though not as crowded as expected, Goldstein Auditorium was the setting of a nonstop party that, despite all the hype, outshined the concert’s headliner Wiz Khalifa.
Khalifa was only one detail in the third annual Hope Benefit Concert that took place on Saturday night. Held by the Syracuse University fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, the concert raised $1,300 for Home HeadQuarters, a nonprofit organization that creates housing and other opportunities for underprivileged people in the Syracuse area.
A DJ played between sets for crowds of people dancing on the floor and the balcony before the start of the show. The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, appropriately dressed in their fraternity colors of black and yellow, pumped up the crowd by dancing, yelling and even “strolling,” a combination of walking and dancing, on the floor in between J. Cole and Khalifa’s performances.
With J. Cole and Khalifa as this year’s headliners and tickets for the show selling out in a day, the concert had high expectations to live up to.
“I’m expecting it to be good because it sold out in three hours,” said Toni Green, a junior psychology major, who said neither Khalifa nor J. Cole was among her favorite artists.
Yet for a sold-out show, Goldstein Auditorium looked rather spacious with only half the floor filled and several recognizably empty sections of the balcony.
“It wasn’t even crowded,” said Justin Brantley, a freshman engineering major. “I don’t know why it was sold out. There was a lot of room on the floor.”
Several other parts of the night distracted attention from Khalifa. The strong smell of marijuana filled Goldstein Auditorium throughout the entire performance, and puffs of smoke continuously rose from the crowd.
“The second the lights went out for (J. Cole), there was smoke everywhere,” said Josh Karnett, a freshman broadcast journalism major. “Even if you weren’t smoking, you were getting high.”
J. Cole, the first to perform, exceeded the expectations of many people. While it was difficult to understand what he said when he spoke to the crowd, his rap verses came out strong and clear. Known for his songs “Who Dat” and “Lights Please,” J. Cole amazed the crowd by playing a few chords on the piano.
“I was surprised,” said Osar Pat-Osagie, a freshman finance and entrepreneurship major. “I didn’t know he could play the piano.”
J. Cole kept the whole audience engaged, running back and forth on the stage, shouting to the balcony and encouraging everyone to imitate him as he pumped his hand up and down.
Though the crowd members carried their house-party antics with J. Cole, they did not have as strong of a response for Khalifa. Brantley said he thought Khalifa’s music was better but that J. Cole stole the show.
An unexpected highlight of the night was J. Cole’s DJ. In the middle of J. Cole’s performance, he began to scratch on the turntables with his elbows while spinning around. He even had a girl come on stage to cover his eyes, then dance and make out with him while he continued to scratch.
“That DJ almost stole the show,” Osagie said.
Overall, Khalifa gave a solid performance, even if it did not fully live up to the expectations of the crowd. Khalifa’s set was shorter than J. Cole’s. The event, scheduled to go on until 10 p.m., ended around 9:30 p.m., with several of Khalifa’s most popular songs, namely “Say Yeah,” unperformed.
“Honestly, I was pretty disappointed,” said Dean Engberg, an undecided sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. “He didn’t perform most of the songs I wanted, and a lot of people didn’t know the lyrics. It had me really frustrated.”
The disappointment in Khalifa’s performance was evident in those seated in the auditorium’s balcony.
“Did you see how after his first three songs, everyone started sitting down?” Karnett said. “It wasn’t until ‘Black and Yellow’ came on everyone got up.”
Aside from the performance of one of his most popular hits, there were only a few other times the crowd went wild. Several members of Taylor Gang, a circle of Khalifa’s close friends, climbed onto the stage, wearing some of his merchandise and dancing along in the background while he rapped. Khalifa received a wave of cheers as he screamed out.
“Where all my ****ing Taylors at?” Khalifa asked. He stripped off his shirt during “Ink My Whole Body,” which revealed his thin tattoo-covered torso. The act received loud cheers from the crowd.
Though he continued the performance with energy, dancing on his toes and reaching out to the crowd, the members of the audience remained fairly calm. They spent most of the performance quietly nodding along, occasionally throwing a hand up.
BBGUN VIDEO FROM SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ALUMNI MAX BOHICHEK SIMBA