Students cheer as Offset performs hit songs at the Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)
Students cheer as Offset performs hit songs at the Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert on Sunday, April 30.

Peyton McKenzie

Offset headlines annual SPB Wake the Giant concert, Quinnipiac students perform

May 1, 2023

To kick off the last week of spring semester classes, students flooded the M&T Bank Arena Sunday as Grammy-nominated rapper Offset took the stage at the Quinnipiac University Student Programming Board’s biggest event of the year, Wake the Giant. 

“SPB is in the business of making memories,” said Brandon Assi, a junior biomedical science major and SPB’s mainstage manager. 

Offset headlines the Student Programming Board’s annual Wake the Giant concert at M&T Bank Arena on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)

SPB posted two lists of possible headliners on their Instagram page leading up to the reveal of this year’s artist, including Ice Spice and The Wiggles. Neither list featured Offset as an option. 

“Our intention with the list and the glitches, the whole entire time, was to cause chaos,” Assi said. “And I say we did that pretty well. I think that there were a lot of mixed reactions to it. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to get attention to this event because it’s a huge event that we put on every single year, and so much time goes into it.”

Quinnipiac Student Affairs announced the performer via email a half-hour before SPB’s Wake the Giant reveal event in the Carl Hansen Student Center Piazza. The reveal party featured Wake the Giant merchandise, including a limited supply of sweatshirts, stickers and posters. Attendees also played a Kahoot game hosted by the SPB with facts about the artist.

“We picked Offset mainly due to the genre and the caliber of artists we were going for,” Assi said. “This is a genre of artist that people want to see. This is actually a name that people showed interest in, and we thought… ‘Hey, we have the budget; let’s shoot for the moon. We’ll land somewhere,’ and we hit the mark.”

Offset earned critical acclaim as a member of the hip-hop group, Migos. Furthermore, Offset previously worked with big names in both hip-hop and R&B. Some of his most notable collaborations include Metro Boomin’s single “No Complaints” with Drake, “ZEZE” with Kodak Black and Travis Scott and Tyga’s song “Taste,” which was one of the songs he performed at Wake the Giant.

In 2017, Offset released “Without Warning,” a collaborative studio album with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin, which earned him international fame and the No. 4 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. 

The rapper also has a prosperous solo music career. In 2019, Offset released his debut solo album “Father of 4,” including his hit single “Clout,” featuring Cardi B, his wife. 

Wake the Giant returns to its roots

The annual Wake the Giant concert kickstarted in 2009 with then-headliners Hellogoodbye and Ludacris. Offset’s performance at this year’s Wake the Giant comes after last year’s initial headliner, “Impractical Jokers” comedian Sal Vulcano, canceled last minute due to testing positive for COVID-19. SPB replaced Vulcano with “Saturday Night Live” cast members Sarah Sherman and James Austin Johnson a few hours before the event on April 10, 2022. One of SPB’s objectives this year was to return to the concert format for students.

“This is more of a reintroduction to what Wake the Giant is,” said Grace Claudio, a junior nursing major and SPB president. “In the past two years, we had more comedians, actors, and entertainers coming to Wake the Giant, but this year we’re reintroducing the event to campus as a musical concert … This is something that they should anticipate every year going forward.”

Students enjoy the show at Quinnipiac’s Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert at the M&T Bank Arena on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)

Claudio said the COVID-19 pandemic affected SPB’s decisions in the past few years, affecting the usual concert format. However, because COVID-19 restrictions have eased, SPB opted to take on the challenge of putting on a music concert.

“This year, I think we were finally at a state where we are ready to have a concert and have all the ins and outs of that because it’s definitely a larger production,” Claudio said. “There are more people involved, there’s more responsibility, more at stake. So I think just considering that many of the limitations we experienced over the past few years just because of COVID-19, they’re not as prevalent anymore.”

As SPB considered reintroducing this event in its usual concert format, Assi said they pushed to have a big name like Offset headline to honor the occasion. 

“It’s very exciting that we’re able to bring in artists like Offset to campus,” Assi said. “Wake the Giant probably has not been seen by the majority of students on campus back before the pandemic, and so to reintroduce a musical concert, it’s very exciting for both the students, I think, and for us as well. Just kind of getting back to our roots of what we’ve done with it in the past.”

QU students open for Offset

Before the show, Zachary Mastromarino — better known by his stage name, DJ Zachboiiii — and DJ Kahlucah or Luc Sylvain, a junior marketing major, opened for Offset, hyping up the crowd before the main show.

Peter Cestaro, a sophomore entrepreneurship and small business management major known as “Mr. Rowdy” performs a 15-minute set at Quinnipiac’s Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert at the M&T Bank Arena on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)

“I loved it,” said Bailey Appiah, a junior business analytics major. “The DJs beforehand were great.”

As part of SPB’s goal to reintroduce the concert to the student body, the organization sent out an application for anyone to be an opener for Offset on April 12.

“I was honored to do it,” Sylvain said. “Truly an experience I thought I’d never have.”

Alongside Sylvain, Peter Cestaro, a sophomore entrepreneurship and small business management major, better known by the stage name “Mr. Rowdy,” performed a 15-minute set, including an unreleased original song.

“This is a student-led event, really, at the end of the day,” Assi said. “It is run by the students, and it’s for the students at Quinnipiac. And so, what better way to get the students excited than for their potential friends to open for Offset?”

Assi said having students open for Offset is an excellent opportunity for students pursuing a career in music and can act as a stepping stone for them in the industry.

“To open up for Offset is pretty surreal,” Cestaro said. “It’s kind of one of the biggest artists I’ve opened for. Like any show, you get nervous. When people say they don’t get nervous, that’s just cap. Everybody gets nervous before, but I use my nerves and transfer that into big energy and something to give back to the crowd.”

As the youngest of four children, Cestaro grew up in a household full of talented people. His older sister was good at arts and crafts, his brother was an athlete and his twin sister was great at painting. Cestaro said he has been passionate about singing for as long as he can remember. He started doing covers of music when he was 10 years old and started creating his own original music at 13. 

“I’m really versatile as an artist,” Cestaro said. “Like, I don’t classify myself as a rapper, more like a singer. I see my versatility as the best part of my music.”

Peter Cestaro, a sophomore entrepreneurship and small business management major known as “Mr. Rowdy,” opens for Offset at Quinnipiac’s Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert at the M&T Bank Arena on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)

Sunday was not Cestaro’s first opening for a prominent artist like Offset. In addition, he’s opened for rapper Justin Rivera, better known by his stage name, J.I, the Prince of N.Y., with whom he shares a brotherly bond. 

“Me and Justin have always had this brother relationship,” Cestaro said. “He’s always showing me love and there are times when it’s hard being an independent artist. He always gives me the opportunity to open up whether he’s doing Toad’s Club and Waterbury.”

Also, GStarr Entertainment’s CEO, Gabriel “Gaby” Acevedo, who is responsible for notable rappers in the music industry like French Montana and Myke Towers, currently manages Cestaro and has been a champion throughout his career.

“He’s always showing me love early in my career and gave me opportunities to open up at Toad’s Place and Big Night Live in Boston,” Cestaro said. “So tonight I’m just gonna give him my all and show him what Mr. Rowdy is all about tonight.”

Cestaro said one of his most significant takeaways from opening for Offset is performing in front of his friends who have been following his journey as an artist since his first year of college.

Offset closes the night with a show to remember

After about an hour-long intermission after Cestaro’s performance, cheers of students echoed the arenas as they waved glow sticks when Offset finally hit the stage.

Students engaged with the rapper as he immersed the crowd with his hour-long set and immaculate stage presence. Audience members fortunate enough to stand front-row also had the privilege to interact with Offset as he handled students’ phones to video himself with the crowd.

“I mean, the vibes were just amazing being there with my friends,” Jacob Fischer, a sophomore media studies major. “It was just a good time. I’m happy that Offset actually came to Quinnipiac.”

Offset performed some of his greatest hits, including “MotorSport” by Migos, Nicki Minaj and  Cardi B, “T-Shirt” and “Walk It Talk It (feat. Drake),” just to name a few. 

Students scream and wave glow sticks while Offset performs at Quinnipiac’s Student Programming Board’s Wake the Giant concert at the M&T Bank Arena on Sunday, April 30. (Peyton McKenzie)

“He played all the tunes,” said Jordan Stewart, a junior film, television and media arts major. “I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t think he would play all the tunes. He had the crowd turnt. That’s all that matters. He’s also a mainstream artist, and QU needs that. It was also a nice way to wind down the school year, for sure.”

Gabriella Moreira, a first-year diagnostic medical sonography major, came alongside her friends Yaneliz Herrera, a first-year occupational therapy major and Maryann Marciano, an undecided first-year student, to celebrate her first-ever concert experience. 

“I thought it was a good time to end the year, spend time with friends and say goodbye to QU for the summer,” Herrera said.

SPB’s months of hard work and dedication to making memories for students wrapped with all-around impressive performances from Offset and his openers. The organization’s vision to reintroduce the concert format to students paid off. Students left the arena Sunday night with an experience that would last them a lifetime. 

 “Countless emails, hours, energy, and emotion have gone into Wake the Giant for our students to have the best experience possible,” wrote Kaylee Dillon, a graduate sports journalism student and graduate assistant of programming in the Office of Student Engagement in a statement to the Chronicle. 

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