The annual UCSB Extravaganza music festival took place May 15, and for the first time in its long history, the free event was closed to all but UCSB students and staff. This significant change came after last year’s show drew unprecedented crowds and subsequent security problems. But that didn’t deter thousands of the fortunate students with the proper credentials from flooding into Harder Stadium.
Spirits were high throughout the bright and sunny day as a succession of five very diverse musical acts took to the stage.
Hometown band Sprout opened the show to a small but eager crowd of early birds. This young band with an old soul would have fit in perfectly at a 1970s concert in Isla Vista, offering a very traditional blues rock sound. The band, chock full of talented musicians and singers, keeps the memory of bands such as the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd alive and well in their own California take on old-school Southern rock blues.
By the time Santa Cruz ska-punk-reggae rockers The Expendables arrived onstage, the massive sound system had been cranked to full volume, and the crowd swelled dramatically. This hybrid band offers a fierce frontal assault of high-velocity and high-volume rock mixes of the blended genre that they embrace. They had fans fist pumping and crowd surfing by the end of their set.
Between acts, festival-goers were treated to a gambit of free activities, from pinball machines to sumo wrestling in large blow-up balloon suits. Casual beach attire was the order of the day in the near-perfect weather conditions, with dark rain clouds hovering over the mountains just out of range. A sea of magnificent bronzed bodies glistened below the ominous mountain backdrop.
When famed New York rapper Talib Kweli took the stage, a crowd of thousands had formed around him. Eager fans embraced his hip-hop style and waved their arms in perfect sync with the charismatic word meister.
Christopher Mercer, better known as Rusko, appeared next. The skinny, pale Englishman was an unlikely looking dubstep DJ star performer, but his electronic bass drenched dance remixes captivated thousands of young fans. In what proved to be the largest and most intense crowd of the day, thousands of frenzied dance music fans gyrated to the deafening beat.
By the time famed singer Cee Lo Green made it to the stage, characteristically behind schedule, a large portion of the crowd had dissipated. But for those who stuck it out, Green and his band of voluptuous female rockers played an encompassing set of classic hard-rock covers. The set list included songs from bands as diverse as Black Sabbath, Journey, Tom Petty and Iggy & The Stooges.
But the biggest cheers of the night went up for his own two biggest hit songs, “Crazy” and the most recent “Forget You” — the latter offering the infamous and unforgettable chorus that can be heard in any nightclub throughout the land on any given Saturday night.
All in all, Extravaganza 2011 offered five hours of pure fun and excitement for a ready-made crowd of enthusiastic music fans from across the UCSB campus.