“Better Together:” Why Jack Johnson’s Performance Brought the Community Closer


Sarah Beaver
Staff Writer

Masses of students and faculty crowded around the stage set up in Storke Plaza on Oct. 8 to witness an uplifting memorial service for the tragic shooting that occurred on May 23, 2014. There were several a cappella performances, followed by speeches from important campus figures such as Associated Students President Ali Guthy and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young. Then, there was a “surprise” performance by UCSB alumnus and singer-songwriter Jack Johnson.

The purpose of the event was to bring our student body and staff together in remembrance and to instill a sense of community once more, but it is arguable that many probably made the decision to come because there were rumors flying around by the middle of the day that Jack Johnson would be performing. Is this an acceptable way to get people to show up to such an important event? In short: yes.

Using these unrelated incentives is not a new technique, and it should not be one that is immediately looked down upon. Granted, some of the people who show up to events like this probably do not care about the underlying cause, but the point is to get people there. Think about, for instance, when you are a part of a club or an organization on campus that provides free food at meetings; are you more likely to go because of this? We are all college students on a budget, and it is a difficult thing to pass up an opportunity for a free meal, so your answer is probably yes.

Why should it be any different on a larger scale? Most of the time, it is with good intentions that the planners and event coordinators for these kinds of programs book big names to draw a crowd. They want the crowd to come and be somewhat forced into hearing out an opportunity for a good cause. It is the same idea behind the song “We Are the World.” Popular music artists came together to record a song, and every time someone buys the song, money goes to charity. Listeners are more drawn to the song because their favorite artists are singing it, and the money goes to a good cause.

Just because people may be drawn to something for the wrong reasons, does not mean that they will follow through for the wrong reasons. There will always be those select few who go for the wrong reason and make it known. However, there will also always be the people who may have shown up for the wrong reasons, but stayed for the right ones or benefited from going.

Sometimes it is for someone else’s benefit that decisions like this are made. Whoever made the song “We Are the World” happen did not do it for the people who bought the song–they did it for people in need who they knew would benefit from the money raised, and later for the victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti. The A.S.P.C.A. got Martina McBride to sing and be the spokesperson for arguably the most depressing commercial in existence to grab the viewer’s attention and get them to donate. The commercial does not exist to ruin your day; it exists to help animals in need.

Sometimes it is for the benefit of the people. Perhaps many of the students who attended the community event last Wednesday went because they heard that Jack Johnson would be performing, but they also got to experience the rest of the event. Some may argue that the benefits of this event may not be of the same value as the resources and aid that go to other events of the like, but this is not true. There is no way that one can compare such drastically different causes. For the Isla Vista community, attending this event brought us together and helped us heal. There was a feeling of hope and resilience in the crowd despite the excitement over Jack Johnson, and that is what is most important. People remembered, and people celebrated, but most importantly, people cared enough to show up.