Christy Yu / Daily Nexus

Chances are, as an incoming freshman, you know exactly what UC Santa Barbara is notorious for: being a party school. It may be the very reason you chose to attend. Infamous for the tales of frat parties and the iconic Deltopia weekend, Isla Vista has built up a reputation for its … lively atmosphere. 

Yet an often overlooked aspect of our boisterous student culture is the I.V. music scene. With dozens of student-created bands, concerts and events dedicated to music, Santa Barbara is a music hub of its own. So to all incoming students, here is Artsweek’s official guide to the I.V. music scene.

You’re coming in as a freshman (maybe not knowing a single person at the school) and, not to sugarcoat it, will probably be clueless. Where is Campbell Hall? DLG? Devereux Beach? Del Playa? Instrument in hand, you brave campus, instrument in hand, just looking for another instrument-wielding freshman to latch on to. 

Our campus is full of talented musicians, with many being members of the UCSB Department of Music. The department puts on multiple events throughout the year, featuring a variety of genres from jazz to gospel, exploring different cultural styles of music and performances by undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees. Even if you are not studying music, UCSB offers multiple ensembles open to non-majors, and general education classes such as Music Appreciation (MUS 15) give all students an opportunity to learn from the department’s celebrated faculty. 

A perk of being a student at UCSB is the multiple concerts put on by the Associated Students Program Board (ASPB), which include Welcome Back, Delirium and The Warm Up. And our version of Coachella, Extravaganza, during spring quarter, which is a free festival open to students and staff only. The iconic campus event is known for its star-studded setlists and high energy performances. And we don’t use the term “star-studded” lightly. Music industry legends such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Stevie Nicks have all performed on the Harder Stadium stage.

ASPB also hosts smaller shows throughout the year. Storke Shows are free and located at Storke Plaza. Its central location provides a live soundtrack as you walk around campus (if you stop and watch, you may get a free Yerba Mate). These shows showcase local musicians and up-and-coming artists. Isla Vista bands such as French Cinema and Primarosa have performed during these weekday concerts in 2023 and even indie-pop artist Clairo took the Storke Plaza stage back in 2018. Who knows, you might hear the music of the next big thing in between classes. 

Hub Shows, which are also year round and located in the University Center Hub, provide a more intimate setting. Don’t be fooled by its odd location next to the Panda Express, the UCen Hub has been the host of many electric events. Battle of the Bands and Battle of the DJs takes place in the UCen, where local musicians and DJs can compete for prized performance opportunities. 

The Music Bowl, located within the music building, hosts concerts every week.  Cultural music groups such as the UCSB Music of India ensemble and the Jasmine Echo Chinese Ensemble have performed in the past.

Now that you have the “facts,” here are some things that could be considered “unspoken rules” of the music scene. 

And while UCSB is the academic hub for exposure to music, chances are you are going to find the music scene on a night walk down Del Playa. The notes waft through the wind and you always find the house just by following where the masses of students are walking towards.

With UCSB being such a large school with thousands of students from all over the world, finding a smaller community within a large one can really help and offer comfort like an old highschool friend group might have. I.V. bands are constantly supporting each other, posting new releases on Instagram stories, promoting others’ shows and even just showing up at other band parties besides their own. 

And not only does it give you a place to go on the weekends, it gives you something to do all the time. While only taking three courses that first quarter of freshman year, being in a band or just jamming with other students gives you a place to be on the quiet weekday nights that might otherwise be spent in the library or in a dorm room. 

We’ve interviewed quite a few I.V. bands and the age old question always comes up. How did you guys form? 

Dead Set’s original bassist, Joel Jaffe, was in a house yard with a couple friends. Trickling over from the house next door was a former I.V. band, Happy Medium, practicing. Jaffe hopped the fence and asked to play bass. He went on to play the bass for multiple I.V. bands. 

By sheer coincidence, or maybe a twist of fate, Stiles White and Nolan Guss of Big Hungry found themselves on the Isla Vista walking tour together during 2022 summer orientation. Guss heard White tell his mom he wanted to start a band and from there the two exchanged contact info. Upon arriving at school, word of mouth spread, and they collected a second guitarist, bassist and drummer. 

The lead singer of now-graduated band Lot 22 had an interesting start as well. Ema Nastic heard the band practicing atop Lot 22 (the parking structure located on campus across from the Student Resource Building) her freshman year, climbed up the stairs and sat and listened. They asked if she could sing. Of course, as all of these stories go, she could. She sang a few covers, solidifying her spot in the band and was told to come to practice the following day. 

Are you catching on to the theme here? You really just have to put yourself out there. 

So now that you’ve started a band, you need a space to practice and places to perform. 

Lot 22 was formerly a popular spot for local bands to practice. However, in May 2023, the university barred groups from using the parking structure as a rehearsal space, citing the unofficial usage of the garage as disruptive. This was met with much pushback and confusion from the student body, especially those involved in the music community. 

Following the Lot 22 practice ban, local bands have begun working together to respond to UCSB administration. Over the summer, I.V. rock band Nos Algos posted via Instagram stories that they will be “forming a coalition to fight back against administrative oppression and find [and] create new practice spaces.” If you are interested in starting a band and looking for a place to rehearse, message @nosalgos on Instagram for more information.

Social media serves as a powerful networking and promoting tool in the band scene. While most bands have their own social media accounts, Sounds of Isla Vista (@soundsofiv) is a popular resource for band shows performances. The Instagram page, which was created by UCSB alumni Alysa Greenwale in 2021, posts graphics detailing the location and time of band performances for the upcoming weekend. With the account now having over 6,000 followers, it is the best way to promote concerts and ensure a crowd. 

If you want to jump right into the band scene but don’t know exactly where to start (Sounds of I.V. can be overwhelming at times), here are the bands featured in our 2022-23 Best Of edition, which can be found in our archives on the Daily Nexus website.

Spoontime, a pop rock band, and Mindfunk, a funk and soul band, were awarded Best of Bands (students’ choice). Find more about the bands and show announcements and highlights at @spoontime_band and @mindfunkiv on Instagram. 

And here are our opinions, even if you don’t want them. Growing up listening to Grateful Dead music, Stella felt at home at her first (and favorite) band show- Dead Set. A Grateful Dead cover band, Dead Set attracts deadheads from across Isla Vista with their uniquely Americana sound — tie dye shirts and long white skirts are a giveaway that it must be a Dead Set show. As an indie music fanatic, Lauren was immediately drawn to The Framers, an indie rock group that plays both originals and covers. They plan to continue to be a major figure in the I.V. music scene for as long as they can. Despite their different tastes in music, Stella and Lauren found common ground over Nos Algos and Big Hungry, sometimes even running into each other outside the newspaper at their shows. Nos Algos, focusing more on nostalgic music (hence the band name), is a group not to be missed, especially with their eccentric social media presence and colorful stage appearance. And last, but certainly not least, Big Hungry, playing a variety of rock covers and originals, formed as an all-freshman band in the 2022-23 year and are already working on an album. Find all these bands on Instagram at @deadsetlive @theframers_sb @nosalgos @bighungryband.

For more information and content regarding music, art and overall pop culture at UCSB, follow us on Instagram @dailynexusartsweek. Rock on!

This appeared in the August 24th Daily Nexus printed edition.