Last Night’s Winners: PsychoJohn, Dropwise, T-Fresh and Beta wave Contend To Win a Spot on the Stage at Extravaganza 2014

Last night, eight student DJs faced off at the Hub in UCSB’s first ever Battle of the DJs, with finalists now competing to win a chance to perform on the main stage at Extravaganza 2014 — UCSB’s biggest annual concert.

Hosted by Associated Students Program Board, last night’s event was the first installment of a two-part competition to select a winner who will be one of the opening acts at this year’s Extravaganza, which has featured headliner acts such as rappers Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar. Local student DJs were judged by a checklist system based on mixing ability, song selection, originality, energy and audience response. The four DJs with the highest scores — Beta wave, PsychoJohn, T-Fresh and Dropwise — will move on to the next round at tonight’s final competition at the Hub.

According to A.S. Program Board publicity coordinator Karen Masumoto, third-year communication and film & media studies major, Battle of the DJs is a new incarnation of the annual Program Board event Battle of the Bands, which also aims to spotlight local student talent.

“We wanted to do something new,” Masumoto said. “We always have transitions during Extravaganza when there’s no music playing, so we thought that during that time we could really use DJs. And we kind of wanted to spotlight all the DJs in Isla Vista since there’s so many house parties that have talented DJs.”

Fourth-year communication major and Speak Volumes editor-in-chief Dylan Chase — who is one member of DJ duo PsychoJohn — said the event allowed electronic music artists across “a whole gradient” to display their different brands of talent, utilizing different techniques ranging from controllers to vinyl to CDs to live mixing.

“It’s important to show that DJing is a craft and that there are varying levels,” Chase said. “We try to incorporate different stuff into our routine. We do live performance and play vinyl records.”

Describing their music as a “dreamy and ephemeral kind of house vibe” that ranges from “soul and funk music,” Chase and his DJ partner — third-year film & media studies major Alex Ho — have already played shows at I.V. Theatre, Indochine and SoHo in addition to last night’s performance at the Hub. According to Chase, he and Ho “like to play that funky shit.”

Tyler Fish, a fourth-year communication major who goes by the DJ name T-Fresh, described his music as “bouncy and highly energetic” and he said the roots of his DJ career go back to his freshman year during Deltopia, which he described as “pretty fucking legendary.”

“I was a drummer all my life and I was in numerous bands … then I realized that bands aren’t playing backyards on DP — it’s DJs,” Fish said. “So I picked up my first pair of turn tables, sold my drum set and got some speakers.”

Chemistry graduate student Matthew Snedaker, a.k.a. DJanet Napolitano, said his influences are rooted in hip hop and that his DJ name is derived from his views on the UC President.

“I really like Janet Napolitano as a person. I think it’s really important to have a woman in this position,” Snedacker said, “But you have to also consider that she’s a politician and she’s making an absurd amount of money when she should be a public servant, and that bothers me a lot.”

Third-year film & media studies and sociology double major Ashkan Karimloo — whose DJ name is Kuro—said Battle of the DJs has allowed upcoming talent in the newly emerging electronic music scene to distinguish and legitimize their craft.

“With DJs, there’s usually this kind of stigma that they just stand there and press play,” Karimloo said. “This is cool because it shows what people can actually do, and it’s good to just to get word out that there’s this different variety of talent and music being played.”

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Photos by Kenneth Song & Angela Luu / Daily Nexus

A version of this story appeared on page 5 of Wednesday, February 19, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.