At precisely 1:15 p.m. this past Sunday, hordes of happy Gauchos ditched their pre-game parties and headed to Harder Stadium for the biggest free event of the school year. Tons of graduates, Isla Vistans and SBCC kids alike attempted to sneak in, hoping to hop the fence undetected. Back for its 33rd year, Extravaganza 2013 had (finally!) come to UCSB.
It was a glorious afternoon, and rightfully so. A.S. Program Board had succeeded in bringing Compton born-and-raised rapper Kendrick Lamar to headline, along with Swedish house duo Dada Life, reggae artist J Boog, goth-beach boy band The Growlers and I.V. locals Alpha Phunk.
Extravaganza 2013 was a crazy success, and a lot of credit is due to the incredible art installations. In the past, there have been cool wire sculptures and painted trash cans, but this year topped all of that. A field usually littered with tortillas, Harder was instead covered with multicolored wooden trees bearing the words “planted by: (insert artist’s name here).” A four-panel graffiti mural was painted on the entire day and served as a good photo booth for Instagram lovers. The most interactive art piece was a standing box in which one would stick their hands. Inside the box was a mirror that reflected your hands pulling on magnetic objects. The most monumental piece was a 35-foot-tall pyramidal bamboo structure that hosted aerial performers (just picture Cirque du Soleil). Extravaganza art stepped up to a new level of expertise.
But let’s get on to the music.
Up first was Isla Vista’s Alpha Phunk, who graced the stage with a good mix of funky-fresh sound and hip-hop verses. Second-year and lead lady singer Sofia Melo commanded the stage with her soulful voice. I noticed more than one male crowd member mouth the word “dayum” when she hit her high notes. MC Laurence Hall bopped around as a good rapper should, and trumpeter Bobby Beresford took everyone’s breath away with his jazzy notes.
After the show I got to catch up with Alpha Phunk, which is comprised of nearly all UCSB students, and talk about balancing student and band life.
“We have a collective IQ of 978, which is pretty good,” bassist Miller Wrenn joked.
Drummer Vincent Loris had a more serious answer, saying, “When you really love something, you make time for it — so we figure it out.”
Act Two was The Growlers, a goth-beach band from Costa Mesa. I didn’t know that goth and beach could form a genre, but one second of listening to lead vocalist Brooks Nielsen grumble into the microphone corrected that thought. Watching The Growlers perform was like time traveling back to the ’80s; the boys were bedecked in Salvation Army clothes, mustaches and psychedelic vibes. Their “long hair, don’t care” manes were colored with just enough natural golden highlights to indicate that they probably do surf every day. Backstage, I met up with lead singer Brooks Nielsen and learned a little about their origins.
“I met two of the guys in high school, but they were straightedge, so we didn’t hang out until after [graduation],” Nielsen said. “Being in a beach town, [high school] was kind of weird, like for example, no one gave a fuck about the football team. School was just a bunch of little cliques, the surfers and the druggies. The rest of the guys I met through music and surfing — we would meet up at the beach, and I just kind of stole them.”
J Boog hit the stage around 3:10 p.m. with some hearty island love. The 27-year-old reggae artist made an intoxicatingly good vibe fly into the audience. J Boog, whose real name is Jarell Damonte Houston, was born in Long Beach and raised in Compton, along the same streets as Kendrick Lamar. His first performance was at age nine singing Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” at a family reunion. In 2006 he moved to Hawaii to develop his craft and the natural surroundings affected his voice; he now speaks with a slight Hawaiian accent. J Boog brought his cool island voice to UCSB, and the audience ate it up. His most well-received numbers were “Let’s Do It Again” and “Ganja Farmer.”
Dada Life came straight from L.A. on a train that went too slow for their liking. At 2:05 they asked Twitter fans if anyone could drive them to Santa Barbara since the train wasn’t moving. (Why wasn’t I in Chatsworth? I could have driven Dada Life to school!) At 2:29 they got in a car. At 2:30 a fan tweeted for them to take the 118 through Moorpark because it is faster than the 101. At 4:47 they made it to UCSB in the nick of time, and at 4:55 the whole crowd went bananas. The Swedish duo played a set familiar to Del Playa dance parties: “Clarity” by Zedd and “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia. The best numbers, though, were “Kick Out the Epic Motherfucker” and “This Sh!t is Bananas.” Hearing a Gwen Stefani throwback with all my best friends in a sweaty, sweaty crowd was bliss. The only thing missing from Dada Land was the cookie song.
And then came the moment that three-fourths of the crowd was waiting for: Kendrick Lamar. I say three-fourths because one-fourth impolitely peaced out during Kendrick’s set. Although he didn’t quite hype the audience up as much as a headliner should have, Kendrick held his own at Harder Stadium. He was very charismatic and appreciative of the crowd, repeatedly telling us to clap our hands for ourselves rather than for him. “Give yourselves a hand” was the common mantra.
Born and raised in Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar went to Centennial High School, got straight A’s and idolized Tupac and Dr. Dre. In 2012 he signed under Dre and Interscope Records. He’s got four mixtapes, 1,692,287 followers on Twitter (compared to Dre’s 916,836) and was crowned MTV’s number one hottest MC in the game.
Kendrick played all of the goodies during his set: “Poetic Justice,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and his verse from “Fuckin’ Problems” by ASAP Rocky. The best was “Backstreet Freestyle.” (There’s this really cute video J Boog posted on Twitter of Kendrick rapping the intro and J Boog, who was clearly stoked, singing along.)
The day ended with Kendrick doing an insanely fast-paced freestyle in which he talked about climbing to the top of the music business. It was more of a gratitude speech than an ending number, and the crowd loved it. Practically everyone had their cell phones in the air, capturing the last precious moments of Kendrick’s set. “Damn that boy good/I’m as bright as Thomas Edison/but I’m Gucci manhood/I stood low, solo, through my own career/But now I’m here/You could shoot a cheer/Cuz SB, I’m Kendrick f**king Lamar, and I love y’all.”
X13 marked the spot, from the handsome art installations to the perfect tanning weather to going bananas during Dada Life to hearing Kendrick speak about his rise to fame. Happy Extravaganza, UCSB!
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of May 23rd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.