Conquest, Childish Gambino fire up USC students

Conquest, the annual celebration to rile USC students up for the football game against crosstown rivals UCLA, served and exceeded its goals Thursday night.

The line-up included a concert by hip-hop artist Childish Gambino, appearances by the revered seniors of the football team, a bonfire that engulfed a cardboard Bruin and fireworks that put most New Year’s Eve celebrations to shame.

The event, which was held in McCarthy Quad and organized by USC Concert Committees, was open to all USC students. For the night, the quad was transformed into a carnival. Food trucks were sprinkled across the quad and were diverse enough to satisfy the tastes of every student, featuring everything from Mexican carvings to thirst-quenching Boba teas. The large Ferris wheel, which became illuminated at night with cardinal, gold and UCLA blue, was another major attraction for students.

Comedian Michael Ian Black was the host for the second hand of night, which included the awards ceremony and concert. Black provided light-hearted jokes, used his signature deadpan humor and made quips at the crosstown rival.

His energy connected well with that of the crowd, leading him to say he “never hosted a pep rally before, but [was] glad that [he] didn’t have to settle for [his] first time being at UCLA.”

Though rain tried to damper the night’s events, hundreds of USC students rallied together and supported their classmates and their accomplishments — both athletic and academic.

Stellar Trojan students who comprised the “Order of the Torch” were honored on stage. Kelly Hann and Megan Lambert were honored as the torchbearers for the year, marking the first year that the torchbearers were considered on a gender-neutral basis.

The sports teams also received resonating cheers from the audience as they were announced. In between the presentation of the teams’ seniors and coaches, the iconic Spirit of Troy marching band excited the crowd with its classic set list, concluding with the song “Tusk.” To maintain school pride, the USC Song Girls and spirit leaders danced and cheered alongside the band.

The football team seniors, including Matt Barkley, TJ McDonald and Khaled Holmes, marked the end of an era for the USC football team. As the 2012 season comes to a close, students reflected on the success that these players brought to the program.

Other teams present included the USC women’s tennis team, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s baseball, women’s soccer, men’s water polo, women’s basketball and women’s sand volleyball. Each team showed its own type of energy, allowing the student body to view a new side of their personality not often seen on the court.

The larger-than-life cardboard Bruin that was set afire and a five-minute long firework show also amazed students. The award’s ceremony was concluded with a downpour of cardinal and gold confetti.

If any energy in the crowd was lacking because of the rain, Childish Gambino’s appearance on the stage, with upbeat dancing and rapping, supplemented the energy of the student body.

Gambino’s set list perfectly complemented the events of the night. He started off with songs from his first studio album, Camp, performing his singles “Outside,” “Fire Fly” and “Bonfire.” Each song spoke directly to an aspect of the night’s events. His performance was met well with students and the feeling was mutual, Gambino repeatedly thanked the student body for inviting him to the school’s traditional concert. As a newcomer to concert performances, Gambino has already become well-seasoned — he’s headlined at large venues and annual concerts. The personality he displayed Thursday night showed that he considered Conquest among those ranks.

Throughout the course of his concert, Gambino connected with the crowd and put on USC’s school spirit. Like the other events of the night, he brought students together through his music. When he began his iconic song, “Freaks and Geeks,” he asked students to sing along with him and projected the words on a large screen behind him. He played on the USC-UCLA rivalry by changing the words of his song “You See Me (UCLA)” to include “USC.” Though an unfamiliar name for some, Childish Gambino left a major impression on USC students with his musical talent and stage presence, which greatly met their expectations of providing a memorable concert.

Once again, Conquest livened up the crowd, convincing USC students that when they come together to support their beloved football team, they really are the most energetic students in the city of Los Angeles.