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Every year since 1979, Associated Students Program Board has put on the free music festival Extravaganza for the students of the University of California, Santa Barbara; every year people are upset about the lineup. It is impossible to appease the tastes and hopes of all 22,000 students at UCSB; we cannot console those who are upset that they won’t be seeing Kanye, T-Swift, or a Beatles reunion. But what we can do, is inform readers of the exciting acts that will be performing at Extravaganza.
On Sunday, May 17, our own Harder Stadium will host the funk-inspired rock of Bad Rabbits, the synthpop duo AlunaGeorge, up-and-coming rapper Joey Bada$$, house music wunderkind Madeon, and the universally acclaimed R&B artist Miguel.
This diverse and electrifying lineup is not something to tolerate, but rather something to celebrate. The “lack of a headliner” criticism that has surrounded this year’s event is not only unfounded, but also short-sighted, as all five acts are expected to deliver headliner-worthy performances.
For Extravaganza, it can be fashionable to arrive late and leave early (even some of us have done it before), but this year that should not be your default attendance technique. Perhaps the two most intriguing acts this year will open and close what is sure to be a fantastic event.
Prepare yourselves, Gauchos, because the Rabbits are upon us. I’ve heard some gripes over the past week from people who aren’t entirely familiar with some of the acts on the lineup, but let me tell you something: not only is this one of the better X lineups in recent memory, but I can think of no band I’d rather entrust the responsibility of the opening spot to.
Starting off a concert is serious business; if an opener can’t put on a good show or get the crowd pumped up for the music to come, then the entire event is shot. This shouldn’t be a problem for Bad Rabbits, who have received five Boston Music Awards since 2010, including a Live Artist of the Year nod in 2014. The band members first met at Northeastern University in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they found their true direction and came together as Bad Rabbits. For the next four years, they cut their teeth as the backing band for the seminal Golden Age rapper Slick Rick and released two EPs in 2008 and 2009, The Bad and Stick Up Kids. In 2013, the band released their first full-length LP, American Love, which hit #12 on the Billboard Heatseekers, and #1 on the iTunes R&B Albums chart.
The vibe of Bad Rabbits’ music can be summed up in one phrase: this shit will make you want to party. Whether it’s the heavy-hitting “Booties,” the opening track on Stick Up Kids, the energetic “We Can Roll,” or the shameless dance floor anthem “Take It Off” (both from American Love), every track is relentlessly catchy, excellently produced, and so infectious that even the stick-up-his-ass minister from Footloose couldn’t help but bust a move. Aside from their outstanding studio recordings, Bad Rabbits have also built a reputation as a knockout live act. Their résumé includes supporting the likes of Kendrick Lamar, and Steve Aoki on tour, a pair of appearances on Vans’ Warped Tour, and TV performances for Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Arsenio Hall. Bolstered by undeniable musical talent, some impeccable vocals from frontman Fredua Boakye, and a sincere wish to get every person in the audience off their feet and dancing, this is one band that is best experienced live.
In a time when popular rock music seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis (think of how dissimilar Alabama Shakes, Alt-J, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, and The Black Keys are), Bad Rabbits have appeared to bring funk rock into the modern day. Forget soulful southern ballads, experimental post-rock, and Icelandic folk tales—sometimes you just want to go out and hear some grown men sing about their unabashed love for large posteriors (and the Rabbits really, really love butts). Sure, when you’re out at a party, the crowd always loves a good electronic track to get the energy up, but I’d take a Bad Rabbits song over an EDM drop any day. They’re fun, they’re cheeky, and they have some serious soul.
We’re lucky to have Bad Rabbits kicking off Extravaganza for us this weekend. I’ll put it simply: if you like fun, do not miss this performance. Get there early, get close to the stage, and then get out of your mind.
“Let my love adorn you baby/Don’t you ever/Don’t you let nobody tell you different baby/I’ll always adore you/You gotta know now.” These words were sung by Los Angeles R&B crooner Miguel Jintel Pimentel on the chorus of “Adorn”, the leading single off his newest album, Kaleidoscope Dreams. Miguel is a virtuoso in the art of getting straight to the point. His lyrics are simple enough to be understood at first listen by any person regardless of age, level of education, or generation, but Miguel himself is not simple. The lyrics are intentionally straightforward. They are meant to convey Miguel’s passion for love, his desire for true emotional comfort between him and his lover, and inspire the same feeling in whoever hears them.
Like any great R&B singer, Miguel’s true power lies in how he uses his voice. It strains without breaking one moment, then soars into falsetto the next, but never for too long. Miguel may be deeply emotional, and daringly unafraid to express it, but he knows how to keep his cool. In concert he is accompanied by a drummer, two synth players, and a guitarist, all of w4hom bring his raw, psychedelic soul music to life for his hundreds of gathered fans that pack concert halls, intimate clubs, and neon-lit polo fields. Their instrumental virtuosity matches his vocal virtuosity, melding together to create a radiant collage of sound whose infectious rhythm pulses to the beat of Miguel’s passionate heart.
His sound has earned him approval from every publication from Pitchfork to The Guardian, impressing both mainstream, Top-40 loving audiences and strongly critical, alternative music enthusiasts. Very few artists are capable of achieving Miguel’s balance of accessibility and musical savvy, acquired through working with a basic lyrical framework and filling in the gaps with imaginative, soulful vocals and instrumentation. His festival appearances are equally revealing of his audience’s diversity of taste. In 2013, he appeared at iHeartRadio Music Festival, the epitome of mainstream approval, performing alongside the likes of pop acts Katy Perry, fun., and Ke$ha. That same year, he also played on the other side of the world at the underground leaning Roskilde Festival in Denmark, along with alternative favorites Sigur Ros, Animal Collective, and James Blake.
An artist with this much hype and universal respect is definitely worth checking out. Miguel is headlining Extravaganza 2015 for good reason: he is a star on the rise. No other artist on the lineup has written music so widely loved, yet uncompromising of originality and personality. No other artist on the lineup’s latest project is as soulful as Kaleidoscope Dreams, with the quality of his songs serving as proof of his patience as an artist and his persevering imagination. In concert, Miguel brings his recorded music to life, giving it a visual identity beyond an unmoving album cover on a computer screen. His live show is beautifully balanced; the guitar player brings the heat, the keyboards bring the chill, the drummer brings the foundation for them to stand on–and Miguel brings the show.