The recipe for A.S. Program Board’s Extravaganza 2006, held on May 21, was fairly straightforward. Mix two parts laidback hippy festival, two parts rap fan’s delight and one part reggae rock show, and soak it all in a solid drizzle for approximately four hours. Sure, Extravaganza would have been better if the sun decided to join the screaming throngs of people that turned out to see E-40, but this year’s show still managed to draw huge crowds, high-energy performances and at least one girl willing to flash the crowd at Pepper’s request.
The Extravaganza lineup, with its mix of reggae, rap, more reggae and even more rap, felt a lot like riding a bike down Del Playa Drive on a Friday night. In fact, my only major problem with this year’s Extravaganza – besides the lack of sunshine – was the lack of more eclectic, adventurous acts. Although the lineup was entertaining, and all of the artists turned in quality performances, the show definitely would have benefited from the extra spice of a performer that UCSB students might not already have on their iPod party mixes.
On that note, the darlings of the I.V. party scene, Rebelution opened the festival with a solid set of DP party favorites. These reggae rockers on the rise managed to get most of the early-bird arrivals in the crowd to at least bob their heads as they filed into the fantastically well-named Harder Stadium. UCSB alumni Animal Liberation Orchestra followed Rebelution, continuing the local theme and laidback vibe with their own unique mix of funk and classic jam band music. With a healthy dose of witty banter about their alma mater between each pleasantly meandering song, the guys from ALO managed to keep the crowd grooving and get Extravaganza off to a start that can only be classified as way chill. I’m sure the hula-hoping girls and the flower guy – all of whom were exhibiting some choice dance moves – would agree.
The Pharcyde came on next and, despite a lot of palpable excitement for them from the crowd, the iconic rappers started off a little slow. After a few minutes, the songs seemed to meld together and it definitely felt like they lost the audience somewhere in the middle of it all. They realized it too, as they took a break in the middle of a song to recollect their thoughts and reconnect with the crowd. Luckily for the Pharcyde, the audience was back on their side in no time, as the crowd finally responded to the rappers’ attempts to get them to do a little of that classic rap show pastime – the call and response game. Sure, it took a while. But even though the weather refused to cooperate – as the rappers pointed out when they yelled “If you don’t give a fuck about the sunshine, let me hear you say ‘yeah’ – the crowd did eventually manage to warm up to the Pharcyde.
The audience was definitely heated for Pepper’s show. The Hawaiian stoner-rock superstars played a solid set, with many songs from their 2002 Kona Town album. The boys of Pepper spent much of the show stumbling, swigging from red plastic cups and asking the crowd why they could not smell more weed in the air. They still managed to turn in a fantastic performance, with roaring guitars, raging drumbeats and a surprisingly raw, rock ‘n’ roll edge. By the time Pepper got to their biggest hit, “Give It Up,” the crowd was roaring right along with them. The boys of Pepper definitely succeeded in adding some delicious island-inspired spices to Extravaganza.
At the end of their set, Pepper introduced Bay Area rapper E-40 and the crowd went wild. Somehow, in between the end of Pepper’s set and the beginning of E-40’s, the audience had swelled and the stadium was packed with screaming, fist-waving fans. When E-40 took the stage, accompanied by a posse of dreadlocked dancers whose energy could only be matched by the crowd’s adoration for the rapper, Harder Stadium exploded. The energy of E-40’s performance can only be described as overwhelming, as the crowd went nuts every time he opened his mouth. To his credit, he managed to completely captivate the packed stadium with tracks that mostly came from his new album, Ghetto Report Card – not an easy feat on a freezing Sunday. Throughout E-40’s hour-long set, which culminated with a thundering rendition of the hit “Tell Me When To Go,” the stadium pulsated with the combined power of his presence and the passion of the audience.
Ultimately, Extravaganza 2006 could have been a recipe for disaster. The weather was lousy and it really would have benefited from the addition of an act slightly more exotic than the usual DP party fare. Despite its flaws, Extravaganza was far from the disaster it could have been. Sure, it would have been a lot better with some more heat and a little spice, but I still think Program Board deserves a pat on the back for this year’s show – Extravaganza 2006 was a pretty decent way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It is just too bad the sun did not agree with me.