Sage the Gemini towered on stage before a sea of more than 4,200 Cal Poly students, pausing his set for a moment to make an observation.
“I don’t mean to offend,” he said. “But this is a big white crowd.”
His audience laughed knowingly as Sage went on to say he loved the dynamic, that “white people know how to turn up” and, “They don’t care, all they want to do is dance.”
Hoodie Allen followed Sage, also calling out some Cal Poly stereotypes: “All the girls are fucking beautiful and all the guys like go to the gym and work out.” He even snuck in a freestyle reference to the St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse.
The crowd ate it up.
This wasn’t the first time Cal Poly students had seen big-name musicians perform on campus: During the 2013-14 academic year, Steve Aoki, Jason Mraz and Atmosphere rolled through San Luis Obispo to play at campus venues. But this past Saturday’s ASI Spring Stampede — featuring The Knocks, Sage the Gemini and Hoodie Allen — was the first festival-style concert in Cal Poly’s history.
And for the most part, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) pulled it off.
ASI knew the event would be big. Program coordinator Missi Bullock said the event team included 10 University Police Department (UPD) officers and 40 Miller Event Management security officers for artist security, crowd control, perimeter monitoring and mandatory bag checks and pat-downs. They expected an audience of 4,000.
They got an audience of 4,283.
The event’s popularity wasn’t always so obvious. The ASI Sports Complex opened to ticketholders at 2:30 p.m. An hour later, electronic music duo The Knocks kicked off the concert — and the crowd was scant.
But between The Knocks’ and Sage the Gemini’s sets, waiting fans poured into the sports complex area. Where there had been no line for hours, a column of impatient students dressed in their “SLOchella” best stretched from the bag checks around the perimeter of the parking lot. The line seemed unmoving as people slowly worked their way through the security tables.
Sage was slated to open his set at 4:20 p.m. Tensions rose in the line of students as the artist’s hour grew near and then passed — he was 10 minutes late, then 20, then 25. Those stuck in line shuffled anxiously toward the entrance, hoping not to miss the beginning of the rapper’s performance.
The moment Sage stepped onstage, the tension broke into cacophony as excited cheers from the crowd on the grass clashed with disappointed wails from the line in the parking lot. And the Spring Stampede went on.
Despite the enormous line to enter the venue, one part of the event went practically unnoticed by those attending: the food.
Food trucks and tents filed along the complex’s sideline, advertising Jamba Juice, Ciao!, Monster energy drinks and Curbside Grill. Small clusters of students occasionally moseyed toward the food area, but its customer lines were negligible next to the huge crowd swelling on the grass before the stage.
But the artists were an undebatable hit: As big as the event was, the musicians found a way to make it feel personal. Recreation, parks & tourism administration sophomore Ria Vinod said this was the best part of the concert.
“Both the artists took to heart the fact that they were coming to Cal Poly, and they incorporated that into their lyrics, which was awesome,” Vinod said.
Sage made shoutouts to Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo through his set, which eventually moved away from performing his own material. Instead, Sage ended up dancing with his audience to other artists’ music, including “I’m in Love With the Coco” and “Turn Down for What.”
After exiting the stage to explosive applause, Sage took time to meet and talk with fans from across the barricades.
In a post-performance interview with Mustang News, Sage said he would “most definitely” return to Cal Poly if he was invited back.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Everybody was white, but it turned up. I love white people.”
Hoodie also ventured from his own material in an effort to connect with the crowd, busting out “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. He also spun a Cal Poly-themed freestyle, tossed two large cakes into the audience and altered the lyrics to “No Faith in Brooklyn” to (and perhaps this crossed the cheesy threshold) “No Faith in Poly.”
Even after making such an effort to personalize his performance, Hoodie capped off the event by working along the audience’s frontlines and taking selfies with anyone who wanted one.
“I think it’s really cool that Hoodie took time to walk along the entire fence afterward to say ‘hi’ to all of his fans,” liberal studies sophomore Rachel Humphrey said. “I think that’s a good way to publicize as well as treat his fans who came out to support him today.”
But Hoodie doesn’t see those kinds of gestures as favors to his audience — he’s just giving back a little of what his fans have given him.
“You spend a lot of time as an artist writing, and you never know what the outcome is gonna be or what the intended audience is,” Hoodie said in an interview with Mustang News. “And then when you show up and see people who have been memorizing your songs and who have been fans for so long, it makes it all worthwhile. It’s special and I appreciate every opportunity.”
The ASI Spring Stampede had its kinks: the line moved inefficiently, the food wasn’t exactly enticing and the whole event seemed to progress at an uneven pace.
Bullock said UPD made at least four arrests during the festival, two of which were for harassing police officers. UPD said the most commonly “confiscated” items were GoPros, though those carrying GoPros were usually permitted to return them to their cars before entering the venue.
Vinod said she wished ASI would have eased up on some of its rules, such as no inflatables and no sitting on people’s shoulders.
“But overall, it was pretty good,” she said. “There wasn’t that much that I, like, hated.” Because the most important part of the day was the music. And the music killed it.
Brittany Graham, Georgie de Mattos, Olivia Proffit, Brenna Swanston and Shelley Westerson contributed to this report.
A previous version of this article said 4,278 tickets were sold.