May 17, 2011

A concerted effort

Despite move indoors, Summer Breeze salvaged a wintry weekend

All week, my excitement for Summer Breeze grew. It promised to be a carefree escapade across the quads in break-out-the-popsicles weather. It promised an outdoor music festival–like atmosphere for the bands. It promised, most importantly, my secret obsession: a moonbounce.

Then Saturday happened. Rain happened. Chilly temperatures happened. And there was no moonbounce. I thought, of course, that all was lost. Last year it was beautiful, everyone said. Not wanting to waste the fifteen dollars I had already spent, I checked it out anyway, not hoping for much.

With a light drizzle falling, my friends and I ran to the Reynolds Club in search of something to salvage the day. It started out just OK. We grabbed our Peach Pleasures and Strawberry Surf Riders, our veggie burgers and our brats. We watched a short but entertaining circus performance by our campus’s own troupe; we watched the roommate game, which was a bust (we couldn’t really hear what was going on); we stood in line for caricatures, which didn’t particularly look like my friend or like me, though we’ll hang it in our room next year anyway; I tried two separate times to win a pair of sunglasses and failed both times, picking out two bouncy balls instead; we made balloon animals and hats.

Here’s where it began to pick up. We settled down right in front of the stage for the hypnotist’s show. I was initially skeptical, but the Chippendales show by the hypnotized male students won me over completely. Regardless of whether or not those volunteers were simply great actors and actresses, the audience giggled and guffawed; I laughed so hard at one point my eyes began to water.

After a break to whip up a quick dinner, we headed back to Mandel Hall to catch the end of The Walkmen, the opening act of the concert. Only a small contingent of students, unfortunately, had arrived, most likely due to the rain and the 1,000-student limit. The band didn’t get the attention it deserved, finishing up its set in an understandably understated fashion. Students trickled in slowly for Milkman, whose hipster-bro aesthetic and hip hop–pop mash-ups seemed to please the crowd. I stepped out again for some air and a change of clothes—after years of concert‑going, I somehow still end up wearing a sweater and knee-high boots—and returned just in time to see Derrick Rose, newly-anointed MVP of the NBA, walk on stage during Wale’s set. As a lifelong Chicago resident and Bulls fan, I lost it. I screamed like a teenybopper at a Justin Bieber concert, much to the irritation of the bewildered girls next to me and to the amusement of my friends, not one of whom knew who this random “Derrick Rose” person was, or why he could render me so embarrassingly starstruck.

The night couldn’t get any better. But when Crystal Castles finally took the stage, the crowd had swelled and the night was inching closer to an improbably grand climax. Swallowed by the crowd, I felt the full force of hundreds of sweaty, writhing bodies in what could only be described as a primitive, ecstatic fervor. It was not exceptionally sweaty or packed, yet it felt different simply because I was experiencing it here—at my school, with so many of my peers. And it was incredible.

Utterly exhausted and gingerly walking back to my dorm, I was happy. No, there were no popsicles to cool a sweltering day, nor were there nostalgic leaps in moonbounces, but there were small surprises, like bouncy balls, a surprisingly convincing hypnotist, and of course, Derrick Rose. There were still flaws, like the disappointing space constraints that forced many students to miss out on the concert, but on the whole, COUP and MAB did a good job making the best out of less-than-favorable circumstances; it was not exactly the “Bummer Freeze” my friend jokingly called it (he is not very good at puns). Often the best experiences are the ones least expected—a cramped concert in Mandel Hall may not sound like the most exciting, liberating atmosphere, but it proved to have many memorable moments. It wasn’t necessarily better than a huge, spilling-all-out-on-the-quads concert outdoors would have been, but it held its own.

That is all it had to do. The year is now coming to a close, and I will remember all these little moments that remind me of just how much I unreservedly love the University of Chicago. As for next spring? I will be wholeheartedly recommending Summer Breeze, rain or shine.

Emily Wang is a first-year in the College majoring in English.