Following a year of virtual events, the Campus Activities Board (CAB) helped bring life back to USF’s War Memorial Gym on Aug. 23 with Dons Night Out.
The annual event is a part of the University’s New Student Orientation festivities. With the event being in-person again, CAB wanted it to be more interactive than previous years in order to foster connections between new-to-campus students. City-themed mini golf courses were scattered around the gym and various arcade games, like Whac-A-Mole and Skee Ball, were lined up near the stage. There was also a photo booth set up for students to have their picture taken.
“Instead of choosing one big headliner, we opted to go with three local artists and have a bigger focus on the interactive components of the concert,” said CAB President Jakob Zucker. “We wanted people to get to know each other because they haven’t really been on campus.”
The three Bay Area performers included Ruby Ibarra, a rapper, music producer and community activist; DJ J. Espinosa, a San Francisco native and the youngest DJ to host two prime-time radio mix shows; and DJ LP Giobbi, a music producer and activist for gender equality in the music industry.
Ibarra performed songs from her rap album, “Circa91,” and J. Espinosa and LP Giobbi both got the crowd going with electronic club mixes. However, it was not only their music and vibrant accompanying visuals that captured the audience’s attention, but also their stories.
“I wrote that album to talk about how no one ever writes my story, no one ever writes my family’s stories,” Ibarra said during her set, which featured songs that sounded like spoken-word poetry about her experience as a first-generation Filipina-American and immigrant.
“Ruby Ibarra tried to include the audience so people were really involved in her act,” said freshman biology major Leatitia Ngandu. “She included unique aspects of her culture that were interesting too, and I think some people could relate.”
Although the other two DJs had less to say, they did get the crowd hyped up, despite the artists having to wear masks. In between sets, the VarCity SF dance team would pop up out of the audience and take center stage.
“I think the performers and everything got people to come out of their comfort zones,” said Kristine Paule, a first-year nursing student. “I liked J. Espinosa, he really got the crowd going.”
For the event to be in-person this year, masks and proof of vaccination were required, with a max capacity of 750 people put in place.
“A lot of the things that we took into consideration had to do with what the city’s ordinances are, and the restrictions the administration is putting on the campus,” said CAB Special Events Director Kylee Gwillian.
Social distancing, however, was not required. Attendees tightly crowded around the stage and at some points, small mosh pits flared up during the sets.
“Masks made it so you couldn’t see people’s faces,” said Sophie Williams, a freshman international studies major. “But everyone was sweaty and bumping into each other anyway.”
Even with the max capacity in place, some students were still apprehensive about the crowd.
“I think the COVID guidelines are important and everyone did a good job complying, but I was actually shocked at the amount of people here,” said Sarah Wright, a senior psychology major. “Sure, there were a lot less people than previous years, but if this many people can be in the gymnasium, then why are half of my classes online?”
Other students, however, saw similarities between the virtual events of last year and this year’s Dons Night Out. Some students attributed this to the lack of in-person contact last year which left many students feeling socially out-of-practice. Sophomores like psychology major Cameron Banks expressed that they feel like freshmen because their first year of online classes did not give them much room to socialize.
“The concert this year had the same vibe [as the virtual event], even though it was in-person,” said Banks. “I think it’s because everyone’s social skills have somewhat deteriorated.”
Though the crowd started filing out a bit early, stragglers stayed behind until the end of the show, dancing next to the dividers and matching the energy of the last performer, LP Giobbi.
“I’m hoping that we can continue to have more in-person events,” said Gwillian. “Everything went super smoothly with this event, so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.”