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Spring weekend opened with Alpha Chi Omega’s Lip Sync competition in the Johnson Athletics Center, where competitors filled the stage with sexual innuendo, enthusiastic dancing, tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation, political humor, and Institute mockery.

The energy and excitement carried into Friday, where Kresge Oval and the steps of the Student Center were filled with cultural performances, culinary pleasure, and more dancing. Friday night brought the weekend’s main attraction to Johnson: the double-header concert of Blues Traveler and Roots. The groups, both Grammy winners, packed the gymnasium with students from MIT and surrounding schools.

The allure of more music and food drew students to Kresge twice more on Saturday for Kresge Kickback’s free lunch and ice cream, and the 2001 Odyssey Ball’s live band, dancing, and dessert.

AXO Lip Sync

Lip Sync kicked off Spring Weekend’s festivities. The event benefited the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the McDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat in New Hampshire. “Lip Sync was awesome. I was so impressed with the talent and quality of the acts,” said Janaki T. Wickrema ’02.

To say nothing of their boldness. It takes courage to strip down to nothing but boxers like Phi Delta Theta ’04, “bump that rump” Sigma Kappa style, or dance in drag to “Time Warp” a la Phi Beta Epsilon when your judges are also members of the MIT administration, including Dean of Student Life Larry Benedict, Assistant Dean of Student Activities Tracey Purinton, and Health Educator for Students Gina Baral.

The night’s winners of the Best All-Around prize were the Phi Sigma Kappa All-Stars, whose “Hail to the Chief” brought political smarm, wit, and pratfalls to the stage. Ironically, the All-Stars were the only unbilled act. “We’re all happy that they got in at the last minute because of the quality of their act,” said Wickrema.

“It was all or nothing,” said Chris J. Emig ‘01. “We weren’t billed because we didn’t know if we’d have time to get everything ready, and we stayed up almost all night learning our act. MIT has taught us well,” he said. “We’ve gotten really good at crunching everything into one night.”

The prize for Best Comedy went to the Teeny Weenies, Dan Relihan ’04 and Kip M. Johann-Berkel ’02. The complete silliness of two muscle-bound college boys in itsy bitsy, teeny weenie, yellow polka dot bikini tops was surpassed only by their good humor, especially when Relihan’s bikini stubbornly refused to stay tied.

The Most Innovative prize was awarded to Course 69, also known as the Lambda Sigma Delta girls: Charisse Massay, Eillen Tecle, and Rebecca Maglathlin, whose performance of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” pulsed with dynamic energy. “We rocked. We made our own shirts, choreographed the whole thing ourselves,” said Charisse L. Massay ’03. The enthusiasm of their performance was backed by a desire to “represent the east side of campus. There was no representation here from the east, it was all west side. We’re a minority,” said Massay.

The award for Best Choreography went to the Varsity Swim Team’s “Sync or Swim.” The team used the music and dance style of N*Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” to put together an energetic, athletically challenging dance routine. The visual synchrony of their dancing was impressive and sharply executed.

The non-competitive AXO sisters delivered a hearty dose of self-deprecating MIT humor. The freshmen parodied stereotypical fraternity boys, the seniors reviewed their MIT experience, and the sisters all showed that it is indeed “Hip to be Square.” Some of the best Institute jokes could be found in the interludes, starring AXO seniors in a dating game that paired a Star Trek fan with her 8.01 teacher’s assistant on a date to Courses.

The intimate inside-joking of the gathering lent a friendly, fun atmosphere to the event, and the camaraderie within and among the acts was apparent throughout the performance.

Spring Weekend Concert

A very different feel was present the next night, when students crowded the floor and seats of the gymnasium to see The Roots and Blues Traveler.

By the time Blues Traveler emerged onstage, the crowd was ready for excitement. Unfortunately, Blues Traveler did less to maximize that energy and more to sedate their audience. Though the music rattling ribcages, it didn’t prevent many from falling unconscious.

The band lacked the distinctively radical element of attitude that stirs the energy of the viewers; the crowd swayed more than it danced and cheered only half-heartedly. Some even ventured as far as to peer over the sound manager’s shoulder, counting down as the playlist neared an end.

Other than the hefty waistline reduction, lead singer John Popper remained static on stage, belting out their standard fare of rock and roll, blues, and endless ballads. Sadly, his voice was muffled by the piercingly loud accompaniment. In all, the disappointment came not from the talents of Blues Traveler as a musical powerhouse (who could dispute the Grammy Awards?), but from their disenchanting performance alone.

Above all, they didn’t even perform “Run Around,” perhaps the one recognizable hit that could have brought back some of that enchantment from 1997.

After a decent 11 songs (11 too many, for some), The Roots came on and took charge. The audience, mournful for having been subjected to the entire Lauryn Hill album in an extended intermission, erupted, slowly leaving the bleachers for the adapted-for-Johnson “dance floor.”

The Roots, adorned in t-shirts, sweats, and jeans, put on the standard rap performance. If anything, they proved that a catchy beat will get people dancing and excited. Making use of the extensive lighting, they engaged the audience, partially because of their beat, partially because of their angst, and partially because of their audience-approved performance skills.

Though not novel in performance, they put on the standard rap performance. Grabbing their crotches, and holding their microphones at an obtuse angle to their mouths, they screamed garbled rap into the audience. So loud were they, in fact, that their voices came out grainy (same effect as loud music with cheap speakers). But where Blues Traveler lost out with regard to audience familiarity of their music, The Roots were on home turf, playing hits all-too-common to fans.

Garnering a record audience for a Spring Weekend concert, the evening closed with a desperate crowd begging the Roots for an encore. Though Johnson’s lights were turned on in confusion, the encore lasted a good 20 minutes and featured covers of nearly every popular hip hop song, from “Shake That Ass” all the way to “Aaah ... Push It.” Delivering to the crowd an evening well worth the time and money, Spring Weekend in effect set a high standard -- the highest thus far -- for years to come.