This year’s Extravaganza was about as off as a carton of two-week-old milk that you really want to use for your morning bowl of Lucky Charms but you know is just plain stanky and sour.
I must admit that I only spent a few meager hours strolling on the grass at Harder Stadium, so my deep-fried grilling of the event can only apply to the little portion I saw. Still, many factors seem to have played into the poor turnout and dismal success of this event.
Extravaganza’s poor publicity seemed to have begun barely the week prior to Saturday’s event. Even more importantly, the lineup itself, though chocked with a few goodies, was far from enough to compel lazy Isla Vistans out of their beer caves and over to Harder Stadium.
Last year’s Extravaganza brings memories of a densely scattered lawn, sunny skies, sumo wrestling, rock climbing, vendors galore, and a veritable cornucopia of musical tastes to delight everyone in your posse. While A.S. has little control over the weather, I cannot help but blame the low turnout on the lineup: too obscure, too dated, and too I.V. Many of last year’s acts were true to the UCSB scene (Jack Johnson and members of Hieroglyphics), but not necessarily your run-of-the-mill band that plays every Friday on Del Playa Drive. Acts like The Pharcyde and Save Ferris may not have been at the pinnacle of their success, but were still popular among the crowd. While De La Soul and The Breeders have reached monumental fame in their careers, seeing them five or eight years ago would feel much more exciting.
Still hip-hop legend Aceyalone lived up to my greatest expectations. Preceded by fast-paced, energetic emcees including The Busdriva( a favorite of the ladies) Aceyalone seemed to finally bring a pulse to his dying crowd and ignite the hip-hop lover in all of us. I was astounded by how many fellow audience members surrounding me knew his verses word for word and eagerly waved their hands for him to see. His rhymes are some of the most carefully penned, diverse and entertaining created, causing some to hail him as the greatest emcee of all time. With lines like, “Me? I’d rather be undefined, not underestimated nor undermined I’m underlined as the underdog under the influence of time” (from “Arhythmaticulas”), it becomes clear that Acey is a true L.A. underground hip-hop gem.
I was barely able to see Santa Barbara natives, The Mades through the torrent of audience members rushing to leave after Aceyalone’s set. The lead vocalist, Gina Villalobos, tore into each song with throaty, strong vocals but couldn’t engage the audience from flooding away with their traditional rock/pop.
All in all Extravaganza was less than thrilling while delivering a few hip-hop delicacies. Still, a few acts that touched more upon current mainstream or evoked true nostalgia could have beefed the show up so that the stadium’s emptiness wasn’t so glaringly obvious.
It was perhaps a tad toasty at Saturday’s Extravaganza, yet the warm weather and pleasant sunshine made for an event only too appropriate for such a perfectly perfect day. In fact, this particular concert is unparalleled by events of the past, and I feel there was a certain, unmistakable synergy abounding within the crowd.
If Harder Stadium were cut to about a 16th the size, there would probably have been a packed crowd. As a result, there was always plenty of room to lay a soft picnic blanket on the lawn, and for the die-hard fan, there was ample space in front of the stage. Many of the acts were greatly anticipated by the crowd, especially the headlining act, De La Soul, which drew a significantly larger audience.
An act of selfless humanity was made during Zebrahead’s performance. With only the audience in mind, the lead singer asked two young female audience members to dance to the music, and later kiss in front of a good-size crowd.
Surprisingly however, The Breeders were the sleeper hit of the festival, bringing in a modest but attentive and receptive crowd. Although the band’s lineup has changed drastically since its first conception about 10 years ago, they still retained their quirky, pop laden songs and friendly on-stage bickering.
Despite the fact that the Breeders recently released their long-awaited LP, Title TK just days ago, they played only two tracks for the anxious audience. The straight forward, “Title TK” was played early in the set, and later, as the band warmed up, they attempted “The She,” a droning, hypnotic-like song featuring lead singer Kim Deal on drums, and guitarist, Richard Presley on keyboards.
Although the levels were unbalanced, and Kelly Deal’s vocals were a good couple steps down from perfection, it was still nice to know that Extravaganza was the inaugural live run of that song. Of course the crowd pleaser, “Cannonball” was cranked out, as well as some surprising tracks from The Amps’ Pacer, and “No Aloha,” “Divine Hammer” and “I Just Wanna Get Along,” from Last Splash.
Essentially the only element lacking from Extravaganza is the booze, but from looking at the reception of such a discriminating crowd, one must ask: Isn’t good music and a sense of community the only thing we need for a good time? Next year, World Peace!
The real shocker was the 4th Avenue Jones’, who were the first act to really bring people up to the stage. Once they came on, people were rushing like lemmings to see what the hell was going on. Their shtick – and I hate to belittle it like that – was live R&B and hip hop using only live instrumentation, including the use of an electric violin. Of course, by that point most people were waiting for De La Soul, who played basically a “best of” show. Their delivery was spot on and they got the crowd moving, though ironically, most people couldn’t even participate when asked to sing the chorus to “Me, Myself, and I,” De La’s only Top 40 single. Even sadder, the crowd lacked the stamina to keep their hands in the air for more than eight bars, but surprisingly there were white kids singing along to every song. Word.
[Collin Mitchell, with contribution by Daniel Okamura]