A crowd of thousands buzzed around all four corners of University Yard before Macklemore took the stage Sunday, already blaring the lyrics that have launched the rap phenom to the top of the charts.
But when he finally walked out, donning a brass-buttoned and fringed-shouldered jacket on the spring day, anticipation boiled over.
“I figured I’d dress up as George Washington for you guys. The funny thing is, this was already in my suitcase,” he joked.
Indie rockers Walk the Moon and rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis energized the packed University Yard crowd for three hours Sunday, pushing concert attendees as far back as the Media and Public Affairs building for the annual spring show.
Framed behind a giant jumbo screen, the Seattle-based rapper, who performed with DJ Ryan Lewis, readily engaged with the crowd, jumping onto the hands of concertgoers. When one student threw a Seattle SuperSonics jersey to the stage, Macklemore put it on and used an audience member’s iPhone to take a photo of himself with the crowd.
Opening the show with a reference to D.C.’s own second-hand store scene, the rapper launched into his most well-known single, “Thrift Shop,” prompting cheers from the mob of students.
Later in the show, he prefaced his performance of “Same Love,” which promotes marriage equality, by urging students to consider the issue’s importance.
“This is a pivotal moment in our country’s history – the most important civil rights issue of our generation,” Macklemore said.
In a nod to the D.C.-based television show “House of Cards,” he called on students to rush the White House with actor Kevin Spacey to petition for gay rights.
Students rushed past University Yard barricades as the song began, prompting campus security to tackle one man before he could reach the stage.
Freshman and Seattle native Ben Wheeler praised the performer’s willingness to take on weighty issues.
“What made Macklemore stand out to me was his desire to not be another artist who raps about drugs and women, but that he would willingly take on massive social issues. He talks about poverty in inner cities,” Wheeler explained. “I do worry about the popularity of songs like ‘Thrift Shop,’ which, while being extremely fun and catchy, isn’t a song that carries much meaning.”
Masses of students staked out spots along the stage in University Yard starting at about 2:30 p.m., forcing crowds onto the H Street sidewalks, with a few locals setting up chairs beside the law school.
The annual event, which in past years has featured headliner including Childish Gambino, Kanye West and the Gym Class Heroes, also drew sponsors such as Crepeaway, HBO and Coca Cola.
Audience members, who donned free “Game of Thrones”-themed crowns, enjoyed free DVDs of the popular television show and free food.
Hundreds in the crowd competed for free Macklemore tank tops, fueling a frenzy of eager fans at tables in the yard.