Zoe Gonzales / Daily Nexus

For local bands, Isla Vista’s expansive, unparalleled music scene is integral to the college town’s culture. 

With more than 50 bands — primarily made up of UC Santa Barbara students — hosting free concerts at I.V. houses almost every weekend during the school year, the music scene fosters a sense of community among musicians, while offering a unique alternative to I.V.’s boisterous party culture.

“The band scene is what makes UCSB unique,” Nos Algos lead vocalist and fourth-year biopsychology major Sophia Borrelli said. “[I.V.] is just a venue for everyone to play at every weekend.”

“It’s a fun alternative to just normal parties that people can go to,” she continued. “You can still have a lot of fun, you can still drink, hang out with your friends, but you’re also listening to some fun music, which a lot of other schools don’t have.”

Because of the sheer number of bands who play in I.V., the music scene curates an expansive assortment of sounds. From surf rock to screamo punk, I.V. provides a space for bands to share any genre of music and cater to a variety of audiences. 

“Whether it was cover bands, or something more soft or indie or something everybody loved … [I.V.] opened up that space to bring different kinds of music into the scene,” RATBURGER drummer and Santa Barbara resident Isaac Weinman said.

According to Dawn Patrol lead guitarist and third-year environmental studies major Miles Carter, the creativity of UCSB students and I.V. residents contributes to the town’s musical diversity.

“I think a lot of creative and pretty smart people kind of gravitate towards coming to school here,” Carter said. “And I think that kind of shows itself with all the bands that come out of here.”

Much of the music scene’s success is due to the sense of community between musicians. When putting on shows, I.V. bands often collaborate, share equipment and support each other. 

“It’s just a really welcoming community. If you ever need anything, like a speaker or you need an amp or something, you just ask another band,” Soul Tide lead vocalist and bassist and fourth-year communication major Steven Bizzoco said. “It’s just a lot of really friendly people that really just want the best for everyone else.”

Dawn Patrol lead vocalist and guitarist and third-year economics and accounting major James Lloyd spoke to how this tight-knit community is fundamental to performing in I.V. 

“With the equipment and stuff, everyone kind of has to be willing to put something into it. Whether it’s finding the house, providing the PA or the amps or anything, everyone kind of has to be willing to work together to put it on,” Lloyd said. 

In addition to collaborating with each other, bands also collaborate with members of the community to host shows and concerts throughout I.V. 

“You can’t have the band shows without great houses and people willing to put on stuff like that,” Borrelli said. “I think that is an extra huge part of it.”

Fourth-year psychological & brain sciences major Ray Holmberg, part of music duo Ray and Paul, spoke to how the music scene has expanded over time and how a variety of new bands have emerged in the past few years. 

He noted how I.V. band shows can inspire others to contribute to the music scene.

“The fact that there’s so many bands makes people think that it’s more attainable, and that is an awesome thing,” Holmberg said. “There’s been a couple bands that have come up to me and said that they saw a show my freshman year in Isla Vista and then they started their own band.”

While the band scene has increased over time, UCSB and I.V. have implemented various limitations to practicing and performing that have hindered the ability for some to engage with the music culture.

UCSB’s Parking Lot 22 — a five-story parking structure on the UCSB campus adjacent to I.V. — previously served as a popular practice space for I.V. bands. However, noise disturbance and administrative pushback prompted the university to restrict bands from using the parking lot to rehearse. 

UCSB posted a sign at Lot 22 on May 15, 2023, stating that bands should not practice in the space. The university subsequently turned off the power to the parking lot’s outlets, which bands would use to plug in amplifiers and other instruments.

The closure of Lot 22 significantly impacted many bands’ ability to practice. While some bands are able to rehearse at their houses in I.V., many musicians who live in dorms or apartments relied on the parking lot as their primary practice space. 

“The closure of Lot 22 definitely had a huge effect on bands,” Sweet Appeal lead vocalist and second-year pre-biology major Makayla Caliendo said. “Specifically, freshmen and sophomores who tend to live in the dorms or who are in apartments, they don’t have full houses to practice in.” 

As an alternative to rehearsing at Lot 22, some bands have sought out spaces to practice in downtown Santa Barbara.

“Now we have to pay rent currently to go to a studio downtown, which is just kind of unfortunate because it’s 30 minutes away,” Lagoonies guitarist and second-year psychological & brain sciences major Ella Todd said.

Bizzoco emphasized how the closure of Lot 22 also eliminated a core social environment and networking space among I.V. musicians.

“When we were starting out, people would just come up and ask who we were and tell us how much they liked it, and we got to meet people from other bands that way,” Bizzoco said. “We got to meet these random strangers that really just liked our music.”

“It’s really different now because we have to basically practice in private,” he continued. “Being able to share a practice with just the community was something else.”

Additionally, Santa Barbara County implemented amendments to The Outdoor Festivals and Social Host/Nuisance Party ordinances — which address party-related issues in I.V. — preventing gatherings from selling tickets, selling alcohol and limiting the maximum number of people who can attend a gathering in I.V to 250 people.

While several bands expressed concerns with capacity constraints on parties, since the bands are often not able to control the size of their audiences, some said that they agree with the amendment that prohibits ticket sales.

“I don’t really want anyone to have to pay to come to see me,” Bizzoco said. “I want to share my music for free when I’m in I.V.”

However, while band shows are typically free events, many UCSB student groups have previously partnered with bands and sold tickets as a form of fundraising to support their group or cause. 

“We’ve played for a lot of fundraisers in the past, and it’s just great because you’re able to have a good time,” Caliendo said. “You’re helping others, and that’s just a great feeling.” 

“It’s just a bummer to not be able to play for a good cause, to be able to raise money for a good cause anymore,” she continued.

With the various changes to the I.V. music scene occurring in the past year, several bands touched on how they hope the scene will continue to evolve going forward.

Lagoonies lead vocalist and second-year biochemistry major Hannah Jacob brought up the gender disparity within the music scene and how it has become a less male-dominated and more inclusive environment in the past year.

“I feel like we’re seeing more women. When we first started, I feel like we were one of the only bands that were majority women. This year there is definitely more,” she said.

Caliendo expressed positivity toward the future of the band scene and the addition of new musicians. 

“I’m hoping that more bands are created and more freshmen are coming in with musical talent and they’re hoping to express that creativity in the band scene.”

Holmberg said that regardless of how the scene evolves, he hopes I.V. bands will continue to be able to perform for the community.

“Music just brings people together, all different types of people,” Holmberg said. “I love that we’re able to bring people together.”

This appeared in the May 30 printed edition of the Daily Nexus


Alex Levin
Alex Levin (he/him) is the University News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Levin was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. He can be reached at alexlevin@dailynexus.com.