This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending UCLA’s Jazz Reggae Festival, the featured annual music event of our southbound University of California neighbor. Much like our very own Extravaganza, the performance was an entirely student-body organized event that drew in large crowds made up of both university population and the surrounding community. Unlike our own Extravaganza, however, the event was an enjoyable collective of legitimate music and peaceful concert goers alike. Allow me to shed light on this contrast.
When I found out this year’s Extravaganza lineup, I was disappointed to say the least. The headliner, Ludacris, is a manifestation of the mindless MTV rap I strive to avoid. Sure, I got down with a few of his singles back in middle school before my music tastes had been refined, but at a ripe age of 20 I was less than keyed up on rolling out for hoes in different area codes. The openers could have made up for the Luda letdown, but none of them really impressed me after sampling their mainstream sounds. Girl Talk, the main under card, even bases his innovative mash-up genre in Ludacris-esque trashy hip-hop. Fantastic.
With all this in mind, I still attended Extravaganza 2009 hoping for a night of fun with friends at the least. What I ended up getting was a wasted Saturday night that struggled to meet substandard expectations. Despite a perpetual cycle of blunt burning, the Girl Talk-Ludacris combo was less than enjoyable.
What bothered me worse than the music itself was the raucous atmosphere I experienced as a component of the 12,000 plus sea of attendees. Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of concerts and know full well to expect some pushing and shoving as fans jockey for position. But Extravaganza took being an asshole crowd member to new heights. Though concerts should be rooted in music watching and appreciation by definition, I found myself surrounded by hoards of bros and hoes alike trying to ruin the experience with their annoying, and even aggressive douchebaggery.
In every way that UCSB’s Extravaganza disgusted me, UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival impressed me by providing a well-rounded concert experience that I was proud to have been a part of.
To start, both the Jam Day on Sunday and Reggae Day on Monday had impressive lineups top to bottom. As much as I thought I could never enjoy a sober concert – triple checking my stash before roadtrips is now a must — the rap stylings of Sunday’s hip-hop headliners, People Under the Stairs and De La Soul, came with underground hits that kept me throwing up signs all the way through their sets. Probably the most inspiring performance on Sunday came from R&B/soul singer-songwriter Leela James, whose throwback sound and booming voice had me appreciating a genre I had never really embraced.
I came mostly for the Jam Day, but ended up enjoying Memorial Day’s reggae show even more. With an artist lineup packed with unfamiliar names, I only planned to show up and hang around long enough to get a feel for the event. After being greeted by the soothing sound of Peetah Morgan of notable Jamaican reggae group Morgan Heritage, I was hooked and ended up staying until headlining Mavado concluded his energy-packed performance.
Though Mavado and several other performers brought forth tons of pizzazz, it was the spirit of the crowd that really allowed me to enjoy the event. With blankets laid down throughout UCLA’s sizeable intramural field, attendees were clearly at the show to chill out and listen to some quality tunes. With a notable lack of human chains snaking through those electing to stand, good vibes flowed as joints got passed and amicable conversations were shared.
I hate to give anything in Los Angeles credit, but I have to admit, the students that set up this year’s Jazz Reggae fest, along with the crowd that came to support their hard work, knew what they were doing. Hopefully in my senior year, the AS Program board will get more respectable artists, and the people who decide to take part in the event have more indica laden bud to calm their hostile behavior.