Students gathered in McCarthy Quad on Thursday for the annual Conquest celebration in honor of Troy Week, leading up to the USC-UCLA rivalry football game. The event — a collaboration among Undergraduate Student Government Concerts Committee, Trojan Pride, Late Night ’SC and the Office of Campus Activities — featured a spirit rally, carnival and live performances by 17-year old SoundCloud rapper Lil Pump and electronic dance music artist Mr. Carmack.
“I thought Conquest was really good,” said Brittney Obanor, a freshman majoring in psychology. “It was a lot better than the Welcome Back Concert … it was less crowded, and it had more activities.”
The celebration kicked off at 5 p.m. and featured booths where students could participate in various activities to win merchandise such as “Conquest” T-shirts and drawstring bags, as well as food truck vendors including The Grilled Cheese Truck, Cousins Maine Lobster and My Delight Cupcakery.
Conquest performances began at 7 p.m. with a spirit rally, where student groups such as the USC Song Girls, UnderSCore a cappella and hip-hop dance team Chaotic 3 performed. The Trojan Marching Band also performed, accompanied by various Trojan sports teams, who encouraged students to attend their games.
The rally was followed by the lighting of the Bruin Bonfire and a fireworks show.
“My favorite part was definitely the bonfire, because especially with a giant crowd … I just had this sense of school spirit,” said Isabel Cervantes, a freshman majoring in writing for screen and television. “And the fireworks show right after just topped it off for the hype and intensity that the game’s going to bring.”
At the end of the fireworks show, concert opener Mr. Carmack took the stage.
Mr. Carmack, a hip-hop and electronic dance music DJ, opened the concert with a set that stayed true to his motto, according to his website: “Make music like no one’s listening.” Mr. Carmack performed without saying a single word until the end of his set, using only his music to engage the audience. His set included remixes of tracks such as Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.” and Future and Drake’s “Jumpman.”
Before concert headliner Lil Pump performed, a few unnamed performers took the stage to hype the artist up and perform other music, making students unsure about when Lil Pump would actually perform — although he was scheduled to start at 9:40 p.m., he didn’t come on stage until 9:56 p.m.
“The three people who were up on stage before him, I had no idea who they were, I was confused [about whether] one of them [was] Lil Pump, but then he finally came on stage,” Cervantes said.
Lil Pump performed many of his songs once he finally came to the stage, including his most popular track, “Gucci Gang,” but Cervantes didn’t enjoy his set.
“Lil Pump’s style of music is not necessarily my taste,” Cervantes said. “All of his songs sounded the same, and I couldn’t understand anything he was saying.”
Carina Glastris, one of the Concerts Committee co-directors, said the committee chose both Mr. Carmack and Lil Pump due to their potential to become more well-known artists in the future.
“For both Welcome Back and Conquest, we’ve looked to book talent that is up and coming,” Glastris said. “So, we went into this show with the same mentality and chose both our headliner and our opening act because we see them as rising stars in the music industry, people that USC students are going to connect with a lot.”
According to Glastris, this is the first year that Conquest has been centered around a theme: vintage USC.
“It makes it more of a cohesive vision and experience,” Glastris said. “The reason why music festivals have been so successful in the way that they have, especially small, boutique festivals, is because they are built and kind of imagined around some type of a theme.”
Another new feature of this year’s Conquest was major corporate sponsors, such as Warner Bros. and Postmates, who provided funding for Conquest attractions like the Postmates-sponsored Ferris wheel, according to Glastris.
Besides the music performances and spirit rally, Conquest also featured carnival attractions, such as mini-golf course and an interactive Fujifilm Polaroid photo booth where students took photos in front of a board designed to look like an open yearbook, and then added them to the yearbook, making them a part of the background for the next photo.
“Because of the level of effort we’ve seen from everybody on our e-board … this is probably the biggest Conquest yet,” said Concerts Committee Co-director Tufan Nadjafi.
Kate Sequeira contributed to this report.