USC kicked off a new semester with its annual Welcome Back concert Saturday in McCarthy Quad. The event featured performances from artists KR, Post Malone and Cashmere Cat.
“Welcome Back is traditionally attended primarily by freshman,” said Judah Joseph, the director of USC Concerts Committee. “Our overarching goal for this was to attract more than just one grade at USC because everyone is entitled to this amazing welcome back experience, and we wanted people to come even if they were juniors or seniors.”
Joseph said this year’s Welcome Back Concert was the largest in a decade.
This year’s concert featured three performances, which is atypical for the Welcome Back concert.
“A lot of times in the past there’s two [artists], so we really wanted a strong, diverse lineup and I think we got that with the three artists that we have,” said Zoe Willis, the co-assistant director of Concerts Committee.
KR, an emerging California artist, opened the show promptly at 7 p.m. and performed for half an hour to a small but enthusiastic crowd of students that grew over the course of the evening.
“USC is the best school on earth, I feel so much love,” KR said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Do not ever think you can’t do whatever the hell you want to. My name is KR; thank you for having me.”
Post Malone’s performance was slightly delayed. He took the stage at 8:30 p.m. and finished shortly before 9 p.m. With the crowd chanting his name, Cashmere Cat took the stage shortly after 9 p.m.
Willis said planning for the concert began as early as May, with initial conversations focusing around potential performers.
“We came up with a list of 300 artists that we sourced from friends, e-board and [the directors], and from there we looked at their availability,” Willis said. “From there it was all about fit, making sure that the three [performers] were integrated — something that was diverse and fun for students — and, of course, within our budget.”
Joseph said coordinating between the artists can be an interesting challenge.
“It’s always a question of making sure the artists can accommodate the other artists’ scheduling,” Joseph said. “So when we put together a show like this and have three different acts, they all obviously need to know exactly what time we want them on stage, and so sometimes when we have different acts that want to make a small change — even if it’s only 10 minutes — we have to make sure all the other artists are okay with that time change.”
This year, the cost of security for the concert was covered by Student Affairs and not Concerts Committee — a change that USG advocated for last year.
“I think it’s going to be a heightened experience and a renewed one because security fees are being covered by Student Affairs, so we have more money to budget for events like this,” USG President Rini Sampath said. “That’s a huge role that USG played in making this concert better than previous years.”
Willis also said that having security costs covered enabled the committee to focus on programming.
“Year after year, USC always asks us to hire more security, which is definitely something we take into consideration because we want the events to be safe. But it does come at an extra cost to us, which cuts into the money that we have for talent,” Willis said. “So by USC covering that, that really helps us to book better artists and put on better shows.”
Reaction to the concert was mixed, with some students enjoying the combination of artists and others criticizing the lack of energy.
“It’s been pretty tame,” Donald Annarella, a junior majoring in public policy, planning and development, said. “The lineup wasn’t exactly inspiring, I thought it could have been better. I’m not sure who was available, but compared to past experiences it felt a little lackluster.”
Eduard Babayan, a senior majoring in biology, said he enjoyed the overall atmosphere.
“It’s been pretty good. Good vibes, good music,” Babayan said. “They had a good DJ [between performances].”
Looking ahead, Joseph said Concerts Committee is focused on Conquest, the annual concert held the week before the USC-UCLA rivalry game.
“We have to make Conquest bigger and better than Welcome Back, so that’s next on our list,” Joseph said. “And looking down the line, Springfest even more so than Conquest.”