The Jam must go on

University Union partners with Better Together for 9/11 Juice Jam show featuring B.o.B, Avicii and Chiddy Bang. Annual concert rakes in highest numbers yet.

It was a day of constant motion, fist pumping and, ultimately, remembrance at Juice Jam, Syracuse University's annual back-to-school fall concert Sunday at Skytop Field.

About 7,000 students, some adorned in hues of plastic fluorescent glasses and loose fitting clothing suitable for dancing, packed the field to see co-headlining acts B.o.B and Avicii. The size of Juice Jam continues to grow, as approximately 2,000 more students attended this year and capacity for the event nearly doubled to 8,500, University Union president Rob Dekker said.

Photo: Ellie Sunakawa
Co-headliner and rapper B.o.B played the closing act at Juice Jam on Sunday evening.

"I'm very happy with every element of the show," Dekker said. "We haven't heard of any issues at all."

And with the concert falling on September 11, Dekker was pleased to see the reaction from students in evoking the spirit of the day.

"Everyone was receptive to the show, more so than I thought," he said.

Half of the proceeds from the concert went to Better Together, a new campus organization that promotes awareness of world hunger. The organization works with the United Nations World Food Programme to fight hunger abroad, and at home, giving to more than 70 local food pantries in Onondaga County. One of the student leaders of the organization, Azhar Ali, a junior studying health and exercise science, said the spirit of the day works well with the goals of the organization.

"It's about working together with people who are different than you are," Ali said. "That's the connection with service today."

But not everyone who attended was in favor of having the concert on such a sensitive day.

When Laura Grupe, a junior nutrition science student, woke up Sunday morning and turned on 9/11 coverage on Fox News, it evoked memories of being in her fourth grade classroom 10 years ago when the news broke. Then she thought about the concert scheduled for Sunday, and questioned whether the date was appropriate.

"They should have had it last night," Grupe said. "For people who lost family, it's important to respect those families and what happened."

Colin Crowley, a junior political science major, said there's a divide between students who support the concert and students who protested the date.

"I know of people who didn't come just because of the date," Crowley said.

But those that skipped out missed a high-energy bill filled with exciting up-and-coming acts, starting with Philadelphia-based rap duo Chiddy Bang. The group played a quick set, but their alternative hip-hop sound perfectly set the Juice Jam stage. Chiddy Bang encouraged crowd participation as the group broke from their original set list to perform a freestyle from an assortment of crowd-generated topics— Aaron Carter, jean shorts, to name a few.

Next up was Avicii, who spoke almost primarily in bass drops and fueled crowd participation in his own way, electrifying the audience with his Euro-techno club music filled with spacey, atmospheric buildups violently crescendoing and crashing into chest-throttling bass rhythms.

By far the most concertgoers stuck around for Avicii, whose two-and-a-half hour set awash with metronomic pounding bass pleased techno heads. His felt more like a marathon than a sprint, though, as he never paused during his lengthy set. Toward the end of his act, as the sun started to fade and a chilly breeze blew in, many students dispersed from the crowd in packs and regained energy away from the stage.

After Avicii's entropy-inciting assault, co-headliner B.o.B took the stage backed by a full band. But, before B.o.B could deliver his first line, at least a quarter of the audience had left. A few songs in, and that number decreased to at least half. Very few people chose to stick around for the entire set, whether due to exasperation from Avicii's set or just from exhaustion from standing around since gates opened at 3:30 p.m.

But B.o.B — an electric, charismatic, natural showman — was by far the most proficient musician to take the stage at Juice Jam and his act harnessed hip-hop, funk, soul and pop elements into an incendiary performance. The live band added depth to the songs, and more raw energy than simply looping a sample. B.o.B himself picked up an electric guitar for a few songs, layering lyrics over softly strummed chords, something he said adds a lot to his live show.

"It just adds more energy, and we play off the crowd more," he said after the show. "Honestly, it's like everybody's in the band, and the crowd is part of the band too,"

Through all the emotion of the day, though, the artists themselves rarely mentioned or referenced 9/11. The act who paid tribute the most was B.o.B, who asked for crowd recognition twice for victims of the tragedy, at times spurring a "USA" chant from the audience. Avicii never referenced it, and Chiddy Bang only mentioned it once during his impromptu freestyle.

Even 9/11 imagery was scarce. One crowd member carried a raised American flag, and a few others were seen donning American flags as capes, but aside from those and a few outliers with Old Glory bandanas or hats, student apparel was rarely red, white and blue.

But, from the sound side of the concert, it was a success. Co-director for UU Concerts Ken Consor said brought in the most students yet for Juice Jam.

"Because we have a diverse student body, diverse artists get selected," Consor said. "I think we did a good job with this show."

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