Carnival concert turns the Cut into a party
This year’s Carnival Concert turned the Cut into a filthy, beautiful party on Friday with an energetic performance from popular artists Icona Pop and Mac Miller. Icona Pop are Swedish EDM-pop crossover artists well-known for their 2012 anthem of reckless abandon “I Love It,” and Miller, a Pittsburgh native, has made a good name for himself with such white-boy party classics as “Donald Trump” — which even earned the interest of the walking comb-over billionaire himself in a trademark suit — and the kind of precisely trimmed facial hair that is only capable with a high-quality electric razor.
The night opened with a performance by student musician Kai Roberts, a senior business administration major. Roberts played songs off his debut album, Carnegie Café, which details his own experiences with Carnegie Mellon stress culture. The fact that audience members were singing along with many of his songs revealed his large fan base among students.
Icona Pop opened the night with a series of high-energy club bangers that had the crowd pumping their fists and getting down. Their performance of the recent single “It’s My Party,” which samples the 1965 hit by Lesley Gore of the same name (It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!), got everybody in the crowd moving and was a great example of electronic music’s recent trend of taking what’s old and making it new through remixing and sampling.
The female duo kept the crowd hyped by fully throwing themselves into the performance and frequently interacting with the crowd. Before jumping into their signature tune, “I Love It,” the duo played a brief mix of hip-hop songs that included crowd favorites such as “Pour It Up” by Rihanna and Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” that created a thick air of anticipation.
Mac Miller’s set suffered from the artist’s own limitations as a musician. Miller’s brand of party-rap works when it connects anyone and everyone with catchy choruses and nice beats — and it was at these moments that the performance was truly captivating — but his recent experimentations with avant-garde “acid rap” — which are plenty interesting while consciously listening with headphones in between classes — didn’t quite land in the live setting and had the crowd checking their phones and carrying on chitchat.
Songs, such as his early hit “Knock Knock,” were fantastic experiences in the camaraderie of it all, but unknown new songs, and many of the recent ones, didn’t spark any connection and felt like forced listenings. Miller teased the use of more classic, 90s-style hip-hop beats, which elevated his music to a much more mature level and hopefully becomes a constant in his future releases. Perhaps Miller may be successful in his recent attempt to be taken seriously, if only he can keep up a consistent and quality product.
What kept Miller going was his own undeniably charming personality. His frequent shout-outs to Pittsburgh — and Squirrel Hill in particular — elicited a fair amount of cheers and kept the moment feeling special. Miller made a concerted effort to engage the crowd — multiple songs were prefaced by a call to “put your hands in the air” — and was often met with a warm response. By the end, however, getting loud began to feel like more of an obligation than a privilege.
Despite the few downsides, what made the Carnival Concert a great event was seeing the students of Carnegie Mellon get lost in a celebration on the Cut, right in front of the rows of academic buildings that we are forced to lose ourselves in almost every other day of the semester. The concert was two hours of letting loose and enjoying being young, which is a feeling Carnegie Mellon students should probably feel more often.