When you see smoking, toking, groping and mad hoping for the best possible show, you can’t help but think, “That’s a bit extravagant.” Extravagance leads to extravagancy, and that can only lead to Extravaganza. On Sunday UCSB’s Associated Students Program Board hosted the annual Extravaganza music festival in Harder Stadium. Thousands of students poured onto the soccer field and made their way to the stage in hopes of a day filled with good jams and good times to which they were obliged.
The event — initially set to run from noon to 6 p.m. — actually went from 1 to 7 p.m. due to minor setbacks in sound check operations. Attendees had no problem with long lines this year due to the show being exclusive to UCSB students, staff and faculty. A.S. also provided food and beverages — from different restaurants and organizations within I.V. — along with a bounce house to keep everyone refreshed and entertained in between acts. This year’s lineup included an eclectic sound of music ranging from artists such as Sprout, The Expendables, Talib Kweli, Rusko and Cee Lo Green — a lineup A.S agreed would satisfy everyone’s differing tastes.
Now, on to the show. Let’s talk about it.
Sprout kicked things off around 1 p.m. with a smaller crowd in attendance. Winning Battle of the Bands back in February, they were granted a spot on the Extravaganza lineup. Adhering to their unique funk/rock/blues sound, the local Santa Barbara band jammed out to their own songs such as “Machine Gun Mouth” and “Running Wild.” Those who caught their set were either chilling on the grass or against the gates facing the stage. Regardless, heads were bobbing all around. Sprout was well received by the crowd and turned out to be an ideal opening act, setting the mood for the rest of the day.
Next were The Expendables, a Santa Cruz-originated band, whose musical style verges on surf-rock, reggae and ska music. More prominent and popular than Sprout, a wave of students rushed to the stage in anticipation for their performance. As soon as the first guitar chords struck, hands were thrown up, bodies were swaying and ganja was unleashed.
That’s right. Blunts, joints and spliffs were highly represented. Smoke could be seen billowing over the audience, which security and police did not act upon.
The Expendables played an amazing set, sticking to their classic songs like “Bowl for Two,” “Sacrifice” and “Ganja Smugglin” as well as incorporating some new tunes. They had the crowd in the right mood for Extravaganza. Many students could be heard singing along to the lyrics, and the jumbo screen captured the shared vibe among fellow Gauchos. Some were even lifted on others’ shoulders, an occurrence that basically lasted the rest of the day. Eventually, people started grinding — unable to resist the music — which sustained until The Expendables departed from the stage to cheers and applause.
Brooklyn-based hip hop artist Talib Kweli performed right after The Expendables. As soon as his set was announced, swarms of students rose to their feet and joined the crowd in front of the stage. Kweli’s actual performance took quite a bit of time to start; his DJ had a lot of equipment and the audience was getting antsy from waiting.
After about 20 minutes, Kweli arrived and security stepped forward a bit, seeming on edge. He opened with new songs from his latest album release, Gutter Rainbows, dropping songs like “I’m on One,” “Palookas” and “Gutter Rainbows.” He also played some of his own more recognized tracks like “Get By” and “Definition” as well as a rendition of Bob Marley’s “Jammin” and The Beastie Boys’ “The New Style.” Kweli was not playing to the crowd very well. In fact, many of the onlookers started leaving the stage area about halfway into his set. He tried to get people involved with some shout-backs and crowd-claps, but it wasn’t enough to please the majority. His beats stopped too many times throughout, causing a constant disruption in the flow of music, and his songs just didn’t have the right beat to get the Gauchos dancing — which is what a lot of them wanted to do.
Though exhibiting admirable musical and technical talent, he simply was not the best showman, and the crowd reflected it. Toward the end of his set, Kweli stopped to speak on the recent controversy over Fox News’ comments on Chicago rapper Common.
“Fuck Fox News,” Kweli said on the microphone. As of late, Fox News called Common a thug and said he was unworthy of an invitation to the White House Evening of Poetry. Kweli defended the hip hop star by saying anyone who had ever heard Common’s music knew his message was positive, and that he is an inspirational artist to many. The audience seemed to agree with applause.
Nevertheless, at the end of his set, Kweli seemed agitated and slightly fatigued, unsuccessful in rallying the crowd. He left the stage quickly afterward. In short, his appearance was anticlimactic.
Famed British DJ and producer, Rusko, followed. He ignited the crowd with his electric dubstep and trance music — the perfect remedy for every standing person.
Bringing eccentricity and energy to his performance — mostly by jumping around and flailing his arms — Rusko rocked the stage with an hour-long set of good old fashioned English dubstep. Immediately, the audience took a liking to him, cheering him on after each song. Almost everyone danced. Some groups even began forming circles and started krumping — or at least what seemed like krumping.
Some of Rusko’s set list included songs like “Cockney Thug (Original Mix),” “Da Cali Anthem (Original Mix),” “Hold On,” “Woo Boost” and Nero’s “Guilt (VIP Mix).” Employing higher tempo beats than traditional American dubstep music, his songs sounded much like something you’d hear at a rave or night club. Students who had been there from start to finish were exhausted, sun burnt and still kind of drunk/high. Extravaganza perhaps didn’t completely fulfill expectations for all, but needless to say, it was a solid show and a damn good time. Rusko was the true star of Extravaganza 2011 — he probably should have ended things, but at least things ended on a good note this year.