As I walked among the hoard of University of California, Santa Barbara students who filed into Harder Stadium on Sunday, May 17 for Extravaganza 2015, I could feel the intense excitement and energy that ran through the packed event. Despite the incredible amount of people there, the open space of Harder Stadium provided a calm and chill atmosphere where students could lounge around on the grass or partake in various activities. There was a strong police presence at the event, but they did not interfere and actively seek out misbehavior, and managed to foster a safe environment. Because of this, the crowded concert never seemed too big or too unwieldy, and the free event that could have devolved into chaos was able to be the fun concert experience it should have been.
While the police presence and organization allowed for a great event, this year’s underwater theme left something to be desired. Rather than filling the open space with dancers and performers like last year to enhance the theme, their decorations were not as interactive and intricate as in the past. With an underwater theme, I was looking forward to roving performers dressed as mermaids, mermen, and sea creatures, but was forced to settle for a giant inflatable octopus. Instead of adding to the theme, the decorations and presentation failed to live up to their potential, and I was left slightly unsatisfied.
Although the execution of the theme was not quite as hoped, there were many amazing things that made Extravaganza a worthwhile experience. The variety of food stands and activities to do made Extravaganza a lively, fun place to be, even before the first performance. On a hot day of music and dancing, every attendee needs to refuel at some point, and the food was definitely not lacking. There were many options available to students, including tacos, pizza, and churros, and Program Board very considerately provided reusable water pouches.
However, while there were alternative activities provided, such as body paint, caricatures, and a photo-booth, I felt that there was room for more options. This could have lessened the problem of ridiculously long lines, which were reminiscent of amusement parks during peak hours. Splitting up the activities and food to their respective sides of the stadium, allowed for easier navigation of the vast area, but because of the long lines, if you weren’t willing to commit to waiting over an hour in line it was better off just to lounge around on the grass.
As for the main event, Bad Rabbits opened, and they did an excellent job of pumping up the atmosphere with their funk rock. I especially liked how they interacted with the crowd and encouraged us to sing along. At this time the crowd was still sparse as many students arrived late, but they missed out on a very energetic and strong performance by this up-and-coming band.
After a spectacular set by DJ Kuro, AlunaGeorge hopped on stage and presented the crowd with her unique take on electronica and sythpop. Her trendy outfit caught my attention and her bubbly personality showed throughout her performance. On the other hand, Joey Bada$$ was not my cup of tea, but it was hilarious when he pulled out a blunt and passed it around to the audience at the end of his set. This act surely endeared him to many of those in attendance (and especially for those with whom it was shared). While I could see why he was one of the most widely-liked performances, I wish he had stuck to his time slot and didn’t cut into Madeon’s set, because Madeon left me speechless.
Madeon took me to another place and I was left without a care in the world, wishing that the trance would never end. The transition from Joey Bada$$’s hip-hop to Madeon’s electronic house music definitely was not the smoothest, but he made up for all that and more by delivering a remarkable set.
As Madeon concluded his set, the screams of thousands of fan-girls could be heard throughout the Stadium as Miguel made his appearance. Many were disappointed about him headlining, but I truly believe his set was great and that he is a wonderful performer. As he transitioned from song to song, he included short inspirational speeches that were added bonuses to his already exceptional performance. While performing, he flashed his perfectly chiseled abs while his voice wrapped around my body and cradled me in a warm embrace. The bass vibrated through my chest, pierced through my body, and vibrated in my throat. Miguel proved to be a great crowdpleaser and a thoroughly enjoyable performance, and he delivered an excellent headlining set, ending Extravaganza on a very strong note.
Overall, Extravaganza 2015 was a wonderful experience, and I hope that Associated Students Program Board will continue to come up with a diverse lineup, fun activities, and a unique theme, just like they did this year.