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Amid Throbbing Neon Lights, Steve Aoki Shakes Yardfest

Steve Aoki grabbed Crimson photographer Ryosuke Takashima’s camera to snap a quick selfie during Aoki’s 2016 Yardfest performance.
Steve Aoki grabbed Crimson photographer Ryosuke Takashima’s camera to snap a quick selfie during Aoki’s 2016 Yardfest performance. By Courtesy of Steve Aoki
By Melissa C. Rodman, Crimson Staff Writer

Steve Aoki opened his set at Yardfest on Sunday not by throwing his characteristic cake but, rather, by dropping the F bomb.

“I’m fucking in motherfucking Harvard!” the electro dance DJ yelled as hundreds of denim, neon, and spandex-clad students cheered him on. “We’re not here to study right now, because you don’t fucking study at an Aoki show!”

Steve Aoki performs at Harvard's Yardfest 2016

As neon lights flashed and the bassline throbbed, Aoki urged concertgoers to put up their hands, jump, and, at one point in the evening, start a riot.

Alternating slow and fast beats, Aoki managed to hype up the crowd, and they reflected his energy.

“Steve Aoki is so fun, and I’m so glad he’s here,” Kristina R. Li ’18 said during the concert.

Sean T. Reynolds, a college sophomore, traveled from Northeastern University to attend the concert. “I was invited, and I like him, so I said ‘why not?’” Reynolds said.

Before Aoki took to the stage—or, in his case, an elevated light-up platform, flanked by several outlets that spouted steam at well-timed intervals—undergraduates squealed and mingled in Tercentenary Theatre. Balancing paper plates stacked high with burgers, salads, and watermelon, students bounced across the Yard, shaking their hips to ambient music and clutching onto their friends.

“Do you even lift, bro?” one man said to his friends while waiting in line for complimentary cones of Richardson’s ice cream. “I’m not counting calories tonight!” his companion chuckled back.

Back on stage, Aoki took his own advice, throwing his hands up and down, in time with the ever-present bassline. His choice of music for the evening ranged from, “I Like to Move It,” of DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” fame, to Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” to the interluding dubstep beats. And voiceover: “Kim Kardashian is dead,” an electronified voice bellowed.

Behind Aoki, ever the hypeman, jumbo screens pulsed with light, alternating between images of “AOKI” in vibrant block letters and a montage of close-ups of his face.

“Harvard, do you want to be in my Snapchat story?” Aoki yelled, as the steam columns issued a new breath of smoke. The crowd cheered and waved, while Aoki panned his phone across the sea of bodies, capturing the moment on social media.

Aoki’s electropop spectacle capped off the annual concert, which started earlier in the afternoon with performances by two student groups, The Lighthouse Keepers and Protein Shake. Prior to the music events, undergraduate Houses—grouped by neighborhood—hosted block parties with inflatable bouncy castles, food, and drink.

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