When the Student Programming Council (SPC) announced this year’s Homecoming lineup, their selections were met with mixed reactions. Some screamed in excitement when they heard that Smash Mouth would be performing at Emory University, and others felt underwhelmed with SPC’s choice of band. However, when SPC announced that DJ Rehab would be Homecoming’s first performer, a sizeable number of people responded with, “Who?”
For those unaware, Fadil El Ghoul, better known by his stage name DJ Rehab, hails from the Netherlands. He began his career as DJ Rehab in 2007 with the track “Mrkrstft.” He is mainly known for his releases “Pump the Party,” “The Bottle Song” and “Prutataaa.” He also hosts I NEED R3HAB, a weekly radio show on SiriusXM. Although Emory is known for welcoming high-profile musicians before their meteoric rise to stardom, such as J. Cole and Chance the Rapper, I doubt that Rehab will become one of those success stories. In fact, considering how botched the entire concert was, SPC should be relieved that they enjoyed any sort of success at all.
When the doors finally opened almost an hour after the advertised time and people began trickling in, the audience had a few minutes to socialize and enjoy refreshments. There was a steady, healthy buzz of activity before opening act DJ Cheddy took the stage. I understood that lesser-known musical acts wouldn’t receive as warm a response as other, more established musicians might, but students moved quite sluggishly as they plodded towards the stage. As the audience began to congregate, the music kicked in — after five minutes, I sincerely wished it hadn’t.
DJs are expected to infuse some sort of creativity into their remixes of an original work. However, the opening act failed to display any such ingenuity, segueing between different pieces of each song with disc scratches and only sparingly dropping his own beats in the songs. It gave the whole event an “awkward high school dance” vibe. It became painfully evident whenever Cheddy screamed, “Come on Emory, are you gonna put your hands up?” Each and every time, the crowd barely moved, wriggling like a hungover student struggling to hit “snooze” on their alarm clock.
When Rehab finally took the stage, the relief was tangible. Immediately diving into the performance, Rehab hit the lights and dropped the beat. The crowd let out a cheer as people started dancing. The music felt original. Although traces of the original songs, such as Harris’ “Blame (feat. John Newman)”, could be heard in Rehab’s remixes, it felt largely like he had created his own work. Unlike the unorganized mess known as DJ Cheddy that I had witnessed, each song smoothly transitioned into the next, and Rehab kept up a constant thudding beat that the crowd could keep up with.
The enthusiasm was not only obvious in the crowd, but in the performer, as well. As Rehab blasted his own spin on one popular song after another, he jumped onto the table he deejayed from to amp up the crowd further. And, unlike his opener, he actually used the screen to show-off visuals. Granted, the visuals moved much slower than the songs’ beats and occasionally looked like the cheap light show on iTunes, but at least the screens were utilized properly.
In fact, only one criticism truly hit me from within the teeming mosh pit that surrounded the stage: Rehab’s work was very generic. Although he succeeded in creating a lively environment, Rehab definitely lost points on originality. Although the original Top 50 songs were no longer as blatantly recognizable as they had been during the opening act, I still couldn’t deem these remixes as anything special or distinctive, and they didn’t allow Rehab to stand out from his other contemporaries such as Zedd or Avicii. There was that same old expected rise and then tension: a brief pause at the peak before the beat sharply dropped again into another whirling ride. It felt like a one-trick pony.
And as that roller coaster came to an end, I departed wondering what Emory was spending my tuition on. Ultimately, although the concert went relatively well, I was left with the impression that this would be one of those average performances that Emory would never mention again, as forgettable as the headliner, but not so terrible that you wish you could forget the whole thing.
Correction: The reviewer mistakenly identified a song as Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For (feat. Rihanna).” This song was not included in the set list.