A thick cloud of smoke hung over Harder Stadium’s infield, where a crowd of students, community members and out-of-towners gathered for UCSB’s 10th annual Extravaganza music festival.
Cannabis was prohibited, of course, but more than a couple sly stoners managed to light it up, much to the delight of old-school hip-hop legend Nas and the guys of Saosin.
Temperatures were beyond sweltering, but that didn’t stop nearly 8,000 concertgoers from converging to make this year’s festival one of the biggest that A.S. Program Board has ever seen.
OUT OF STATE
UCSB’s own Out of State took the stage around 2 p.m., before too much of Harder Stadium had filled out. Attendees had just begun to trickle in, but Out of State, who had won the opening slot at the festival at UCSB’s Battle of the Bands, managed to play a fairly strong set in spite of this fact.
Following local band Out of State, perform to a relatively small crowd, the hip hop duo from Seattle managed to entice a few more supporters to the stage. MC Geologic and his partner in crime, producer Sabzi, managed to stir up the pack with a few old-school beats.
Performing tracks like “The Long March” and “Still Got Love,” Geo managed to liven up the atmosphere and get the hot and sweaty students swaying, while Sabzi’s easygoing melodies perfectly suited the beautiful sunshine and carefree mood inside Harder Stadium.
The Scholars, as with every show of theirs, ended appropriately by getting everyone to stick two fingers high in the air and chant “peace.” And with that, UCSB students would have to wait until Nas for their hip-hop fix.
Certain bands are simply not designed for certain venues: Hellogoodbye is a band that is not meant to play to a crowd of indifferent UCSB students on a blazingly hot May afternoon in the middle of the five-hour festival that is Extravaganza.
It is much more in its element in a smaller venue, where its shows have a much more intimate, almost party-like atmosphere. It is easy to see why the band would be invited to Extravaganza — at first glance, its music seems exactly like the sort of fun, carefree fare that would translate well to a festival atmosphere. But dig a little deeper, and the band’s inherent smallness is apparent. Put it into a 100-person theater filled with fans where the band could involve the crowd, and Hellogoodbye would shine, but it seemed slightly out of place performing in front of a throng of borderline passed-out, stoned college students.
That being said, ithe band did quite well for itself. Hellogoodbye performed its songs with remarkable aplomb, despite the lack of mandolin on “Baby It’s Fact,” which is actually quite representative of the overall tone of the show. It seemed, was as apparent throughout the band’s set, that it was missing that one extra piece that would propel its performance from being blandly good into better territory. The highlight of the show was, without a doubt, the synth-laden pop-punk of “Here in Your Arms,” which seemed to get the Hellogoodbye devotees worked into a kind of emo-ironic lather.
The best that could be said about the Hellogoodbye set is that it was good, but unremarkable. In its element, it puts on a memorable stage show, including confetti descending from the rafters and copious amounts of eyeliner running from dance-induced sweat.
Saosin took the stage next, and the Newport Beach-based band suffered a bit from the same sort of problems that plagued Hellogoodbye.
It’s sufficient to say that a group of emo-looking young men garbed in all black don’t quite look at home playing outdoors in hot weather in Santa Barbara.
The five-piece band more than managed to fill up Harder Stadium with its full sound, however, thrashing out some of its most recent songs from the album it released in March.
Though Nas’ old-school brand of hip hop seems more suited to a club-type venue than an outdoor festival, the New York-based rapper delivered what was easily the best set of the day to a crowd that was clearly feeling his music.
His rapid-fire delivery and ceaseless, rhythmic flow proved hip hop is anything but dead and woke up even the most sunburned and stoned members of the audienee.
Opening his set with several crowd favorites — “Hip Hop Is Dead” and “The Genesis” — that spanned from his 1994 debut, Illmatic, to his most recent release, Nas more than proved that he is still one of the most authentic and skilled MCs today.
Nas sprinkled in plenty of colorful banter in between songs, talking about everything from the sad state of the recording industry to his opinions on the upcoming presidential election.
“You know, Obama had to listen to hip hop,” he told the crowd. “Hillary doesn’t listen to hip hop. Bill did.”