A Night Out: Inaugural Youth Ball

By: Matt Carr

What: 2009 Youth Ball.

Where: Hilton Washington.

When: January 20, 2009.

Who: Kid Rock, Kanye West, and Fall Out Boy each played sets at the ball, but the real stars were the newly inaugurated President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. They sent the crowd of almost 2,000 twentysomethings into an immediate and sustained hysteria during their 15-minute visit. On the other side of the ballroom, Sway of MTV News interviewed celebrity guests Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Tobey Maguire, and Usher.

Scene: At times, it seemed as though the lines would never end, and for some they didn’t. Doors opened at 7 PM, but by 6:30 a line already stretched from the hotel’s entrance on Connecticut Avenue down to Florida Avenue. At 9, the fire marshal was forced to start turning away ticket holders, many of whom were election staffers.

For those who made it through the freezing cold, the maze of never-ending security tents, and the equally terrible lines for coat check, drink tickets, and food, the night proved to be well worth the wait. The ballroom, which opened at 9, housed a huge stage, a projection screen with an Obama-themed slide show, and a slew of scream-inducing MTV cameras.

See more photos of inaugural balls.

Performances: Kid Rock, alongside a guitarist, pianist, and two backup singers, took the audience back in time for renditions of “Sweet Home Alabama” and his 1998 Clinton-era hit “Cowboy.” Then came Kanye West. Despite his recent Saturday Night Live debacle, West and his band came out polished and full of energy, playing a medley of hits from his last two albums—Graduation and 808s & Heartbreak. He would have been the evening’s highlight if not for the ball’s next two guests, the President and First Lady. After a swell of “U-S-A!” and “O-ba-ma!” chants, the President addressed the multitudes and thanked them for their hard work during the campaign. He also asked for their continued support in the difficult years to come. Then, smiling ear to ear, he invited the First Lady to slow-dance. During one misstep, President Obama spun his wife in the wrong direction. She responded with a disapproving shake of her head. Fall Out Boy played last, after we had left.

Best moment: After his dance with the First Lady, the President took the microphone and said, “That’s what’s called old school.”

Most illogical statement: Kid Rock, despite being plugged into an amp with an electric guitar, called his set “acoustic.”

Best dressed: While Michelle Obama looked stunning in her sparkling off-white dress, Kanye West’s band, decked out in black futuristic visors and football-style shoulder pads, were the most entertaining.

Food and drink: We have no idea, but we heard they were terrible. We skipped the beverage lines to wait in a line to gain ballroom access.

Worst moment: Almost getting crushed while trying to find an exit. Security guards informed some guests all exits were closed and told others to head to the wrong door, which created a chaotic scene on the back wall with people shoving and pushing for every inch of space.

Boldface names: 20 out of 5.
Swankiness: 0 out of 5.
Food and drink: 0 out of 5.
Overall exclusivity: 0 out of 5.

Total score: 20 out of 20. (C’mon—Obama was there.)

We've been hearing disgruntled stories from ticket-holdes who had a difficult experience at the ball. Were you there? Were you able to get in? Deterred by long line? We'd like to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or email mcarr@washingtonian.com with your stories.