At 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night, nearly 800 UCSB students lined up outside the UCen trying to hide the fact that they were stoned, drunk or rolling from the dozens of Community Service Officers and police officers patrolling the area as they waited for the A.S. Program Board event to start.
They waited in the Hub for Steve Aoki to arrive, wasting their respective states of mind on the uninspired break beats of AM/FM, the opening act. When the openers left, the crowd chanted “Aoki! Aoki! Aoki!” as if they had never even been there.
Aoki arrived to a thunderous roar. He opened with some standard house tunes, warming up the crowd with hand waving, fist pumping and the occasional hardcore scream. The crowd had nearly peaked by this point. During “Warp 1.9,” one girl tried to jump onstage not once, not twice, but three times; however, she was thwarted by a CSO each time. Unfortunately for him, she didn’t go quietly.
After a few of the hits, Aoki introduced some new, unreleased music, which featured many more layers than his previous work, showing his evolution as a producer. However, he cannot move past the hardcore, screamo-style vocals that permeate his work. His songs suffer from them, though they add some energy to music that, because of its genre, must take risks in order to stay fresh and interesting.
Setting my musical preferences aside, I admit that Aoki knew how to get the crowd going. All around me, people jumped with the music, or grinded in whatever personal space was available in the packed venue. Against a curtained wall, a shameless couple copulated in full view of the entire house, creating a bubble of uncomfortable free space around them while they made passionate whoopee.
At one point, Aoki gave a shout out to his alma mater. “Who here lives in Isla Vista?” he asked the cheering crowd that was almost entirely made up of dorm-dwelling freshmen. Their lies shook the foundation of the UCen. He jumped into their raised, pumping arms and crowd-surfed under the wooden beams of the Hub. After climbing a beam, he continued to scream incoherently as the students watched in awe — many of them attempting to climb up to him — all of them failing.
After making his way back to the stage, Aoki played “Misfits,” a newly released collaboration with Travis Barker, leading to a great, sweaty mosh pit. After a few minutes of serious moshing, the crowd lost much of its energy. The leaps were less energetic, the grinding less intense; even the proud male half of the humping curtain couple had pulled his pants up and left his significant other waiting alone with her arms folded and her lips pouting.
In an attempt to end the show with a bang, Aoki played “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine, prefacing the song with what seemed, at first, like an interesting request. He asked the crowd to split in two, face each other, and to charge at each other forming a human clusterfuck known as the “wall of death.” Though many in the crowd took part in this epic face off, to others — namely the small, confused and exhausted young women — the wall of death was more than they bargained for. I turned to face the smiling, intoxicated doofus in shutter shades to my right, waited for my distorted guitar cue, and happily charged.