Photos By: Ezezz Redd
Although funk and Motown singer Cee Lo Green was the headlining act for the thirty-second Extravaganza music festival that took place on May 15, many may argue that it was his fellow performer and Dubstep pioneer Rusko who stole the show during the six-hour-long event in Harder Stadium. While Green jived audiences to his Grammy-nominated song “F*** You,” Rusko’s heavy bass lines and catchy electronic beats drew the largest crowds and elicited the most energetic and enthusiastic responses overall. The two artists were preceded by New York hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, the multi-genre band The Expendables, and UCSB’s Battle of the Bands winner and folk/blues band Sprout.
After a slight delay, Sprout opened the festival and set the laid-back mood of the afternoon. The combination of their retro organ melodies, tambourine beats, bluesy guitar solos, and funky bass lines paid homage to blues artists of the past while simultaneously putting a trademark Sprout spin on the music.
Following Sprout, Santa Cruz natives The Expendables took the stage and shifted the atmosphere from one of relaxed blues to one punctuated by catchy guitar riffs and stoner-friendly rhythms. To close their set, the group played their popular song “Bowl for Two” off the album Getting’ Filthy that prompted the unveiling of previously obscured weed paraphernalia in the audience and the gradual formation of a haze cloud that settled in the air.
“We’ve been playing Santa Barbara for a long time, so I’d always hear about this event. It’s a big deal at this school; I’m stoked to be playing with Cee Lo Green and Rusko,” Geoff Weers, lead singer for The Expendables, said. “We sing a lot about drinking and smoking weed, so I think that automatically speaks to younger people. We’ve also played a lot of parties and we’re a party vibe band, so I think that helps.”
Talib Kweli, who is a rapper revered by his fan base but not known as well in the mainstream media, threw the lax beats of Sprout and The Expendables to the wayside when he went up for his set and reverberated the stadium with a one-two punch of intense lyrics layered against synth chords and backup percussion. Audiences were treated to songs off his newest album Gutter Rainbows including the title track, “Palookas,” and “Cold Rain.” He also sampled from unexpected artists of the past, taking the chorus from The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and showcasing his own rendition of The Beastie Boys’ “The New Style.”
By the time Rusko hit the stage, attendees were pumped off of Kweli’s raps and hard-hitting beats and samples—the perfect primer for Rusko’s speaker-shaking songs. He opened his set by walking onstage, turning a few knobs on his soundboard, and saying, “I know you like dubstep, so I’m gonna get this rolling” before dropping the first of many beats seconds later. Notable mixes included “Woo Boost,” a remix of the Tetris video game theme song, and “Hold On,” which used to close his set.
“The crowds in the U.S. like it [dubstep] harder, and generally I play it here a lot harder than I do in the U.K. In the U.S. it’s all about playing the high-pitched, craziest, most up-tempo stuff that people go wild crazy for,” he said prior to his show. “Fun. Fun is always the number one; making everyone have a good time. It’s not like making deep music I can listen to in 20 years and it’ll be really meaningful- not at all. It’s just making fun tracks to make people jump up and down. A lot of people get really serious about it, especially producers. Maybe that’s what sets me apart. It’s all just a bit of fun.”
Cee Lo Green finally graced the crowds with his presence and all-female band members as the sun set, and surprised audiences with a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” that erased any previous conceptions that he was only a funk and hip-hop artist. While some received his departure from what was expected with enthusiasm, others didn’t seem as impressed and the residual level of excitement in the audience from Rusko’s performance seemed to decrease. But Green reinvigorated interest when he played a rock version of his Gnarls Barkley song “Crazy” and followed it with his single “F*** You,” which got the crowd singing along.
“I think it was a great show. The music that raised us will always run concurrent with everything that is going on. Everything else that is gong on is nowhere near as timeless. It feels good right now and it’s hard right now, but it won’t be forever. Motown is forever,” Green said after his set.
Reception to the different artists at this year’s Extravaganza varied, but many expressed favoritism towards Rusko’s performance overall.
“Honestly, I thought Rusko did the best to incorporate everyone into the performance. Cee Lo Green kind of lost us towards the beginning but he picked us up in the end with ‘F*** You,’” Amanda Goad, a first-year Computer Science major, said.
“I was just here to see Rusko,” Carlo Didomenico, a first-year History major, said. “Basically, he’s the man. Isla Vista lifestyle is electronic music, and it gets you fucked up.”
“I’ve seen him [Rusko] at two different raves. I wasn’t sure how good he’d be, but he was still good,” Desiree Ramirez, a second-year Biology major, said. “He’s so energetic, so it’s fun to watch him.”
Even Green admitted that Rusko stole the show.
“The DJ before me [Rusko] though, he was kicking ass. I don’t know who that was,” he said. “He was rocking. I was like, yo, he probably should have closed the show.”
According to Associated Students Program Board Publicity Coordinator Casey Capachi, the lineup for this year’s Extravaganza was selected to give concertgoers a more dynamic range of music genres and promote less mainstream artists.
“We’ve really listened to students about what artists to bring, and we just wanted to provide good vibes and a day for students to spend with their friends,” she said. “We set up this day as a festival and set it up to build it up for each proceeding act, and have something for everyone.”
But many festival-goers expressed discontent regarding the new rule implemented this year that prohibited non-UCSB students from attending the music festival.
“I think they should let everyone in, because I was actually having a friend who was coming down but since they didn’t let [non-students] in she couldn’t get in,” Justin Spivack, a first-year Chemistry major, said.
Gene Alksnin, one of the members of the Events Crew for Extravaganza, also had similar sentiments.
“I think we should keep it open; at least give people more options to get in,” he said.
Capachi said that the ASPB recognized those concerns, but problems with Harder Stadium’s capacity conflicted with the desire to allow non-UCSB attendees.
“The capacity is 10,000, but last year we had over 12,000 people attend and there were stampedes,” she said. “We did look into selling tickets this year, but it didn’t work out. Maybe in the future, but for now we’re primarily concerned about the UCSB students. Extravaganza is a day for students not to worry about crowds, and to join artists and enjoy the day with other students because it’s a UCSB festival. We’ve seen a lot of our events fall to out-of-towners, so we want to keep it safe and fun.”