Conquest bonfire canceled, headliner revealed

EDM artist Ekali will headline the 15th annual Conquest. Ekali is a Canadian artist best known for his songs “Leaving,” “Blame” and “Babylon.” (Photo from OWSLA)

USC Concerts Committee announced Wednesday that EDM artist Ekali will headline Conquest 2018 and that the annual bonfire is canceled.

“The bonfire this year was canceled due to the concerns for air quality and, overall, the fact that there’s a lot of fires going on in Southern California,” said Fabiola Avina, the program coordinator of Student Affairs.

The decision was made by both Student Affairs and the Los Angeles Fire Marshal. In place of a bonfire, there will be a “Pie a Bruin” activity where students can throw a whipped cream or shaving cream pie at cutouts of bruins bears. UCLA also canceled the bonfire at their Beat ’SC Tailgate and Rally, Avina said.

The event will launch with a Esports Varsity League tournament between USC and UCLA, where teams will compete in League of Legends, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros. and Hearthstone.

“Even though a lot of kids on Concerts Committee have zero idea about Esports and we’re not really into video games, we understand that there is a large portion of the student body who is so we’re excited to introduce that,” said Kira Stiers, director of USC Concerts Committee.

The concert will feature Canadian EDM artist Ekali and rapper Tierra Whack. Last year’s Conquest included performances by rapper Lil Pump and EDM artist Mr. Carmack.

With a SoundCloud following of 187,000, Ekali has gained prominence in the music industry and completed a U.S. tour.

“Ekali is someone who’s sold out shows in L.A. and also has been super popular on the Brownies & Lemonade circuit and those are shows that a lot of USC kids patron at,” Stiers said. “He was also at Coachella last year at the DoLab so we heard a lot about his set there. We just keep our ears open to see who and what USC kids are talking about.”

Ekali is best known for his songs “Leaving,” “Blame” and “Babylon” which have collectively amassed over 13 million plays on Spotify. He has collaborated with artists such as Gravez and Denzel Curry and performed at festivals like Coachella, Hard Summer and Life is Beautiful.

In addition to making music, Ekali has also been credited as a writer on Drake’s album “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”
Opener Tierra Whack is a 23-year-old rapper from Philadelphia who is known for her debut album “Whack World” released this year. The album comprises 15 rap songs — each exactly a minute long.

“We booked [Whack] a while ago and she’s gained a lot of popularity since, but we really saw her as a rising act,” Stiers said.

The rally will also feature the USC Song Girls, football team, Trojan Marching Band and USC Spirit Leaders. The carnival portion will include a ferris wheel, carnival games, a jousting arena and an interactive black light tunnel.

There will also be a slew of food trucks including burritos, burgers and sundaes from vendors Mr. Coolee, The Los Lobos Truck, Green Truck and El Flamin’ Taco. Special discounts will be offered to students who pay with their Apple Pay Cash balance.

New features at Conquest this year will include an LED wall at the back of the stage and 4,000 LED wristbands provided by  Abercrombie & Fitch, which will blink and light up along with the show. Stiers said these additions will add a lot to the production value of the event.

The Conquest 2018 pep rally, carnival and concert will take place Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. in McCarthy Quad and is free for all students.

Erica Hur contributed to this report.