The Anisq’Oyo Park amphitheater was lit up Saturday night by the second leg of the Isla Vista (I.V.) Spring Concert Series, featuring six hours of live performances from five up-and-coming local bands.
The conditions — clear skies, cool weather, and a light breeze — were ideal for an outdoor concert. Attendees of all ages took their seats on the grassy slope opposite the stage, many having brought their own picnic blankets to better enjoy a day of live music. Even the famous UCSB “duck couple” was in attendance, ready to cheer on its favorite local bands.
The crowd had only begun to trickle in by the time the night’s first act, Drifting Dimension, struck its first chords. The three-piece instrumental rock group, featuring self-proclaimed influence from progressive bands Tool and Rush, entranced the audience with their raw attitude. The band’s long, epic original tracks, such as their opener “Awakening,” boasted heavy bass and unorthodox time signatures. Their covers, which included Rush’s “YYZ,” also drew passionate reactions from the still-forming crowd, prompting one invested attendee to set aside his cane and dance wildly at the base of the stage as if there were no tomorrow.
By the time a sizable crowd had trickled into the venue, the concert’s second act, Lemon Generation, had already taken the stage. Sporting smiles and colorful dresses, this co-ed indie rock quintet contrasted Drifting Dimension’s brooding guitars with their poppy, upbeat sound. With a setlist that included covers of Willow’s “transparentsoul” and Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” as well as a trio of original songs about a traveling space cowboy, the group provided a lighthearted charm uncharacteristic of most rock acts. Caroline, the band’s lead singer, showed off her humor on the mic between songs, once calling attention to a gopher in the field that kept popping its head above the ground during one of the band’s numbers.
Feel Better, the third group to perform, brought the crowd back to earth with their primal melodies — a stark difference from Lemon Generation’s dreamy pop appeal. This local alternative group reduced rock to its bare essentials, beginning as a two-piece outfit before expanding to a trio with the addition of bassist and special guest Gavin Swerdloff midway through the set. The band’s sound was characterized by a heavily distorted, ear-piercing lead guitar and repeated changes in tempo. Lead singer Seth Saunooke interacted with the crowd, prompting them to “get up and bounce” during the final solo of the band’s original song “Lovesick at the Disco.”
The night’s biggest stylistic surprise came from its fourth act, genre-fluid duo Solar Ray (listed as “Sunray” on the event’s flier) and Syrxp8008. The performers’ styles clashed from the onset, with Solar Ray’s seductive vocals and slow, bass-heavy R&B tracks differing greatly from Syrxp8008’s hyper-modern blend of EDM and rap. Still, the duo managed to work together seamlessly on covers of popular tracks such as Kolohe Kai’s “He’e Roa” and fan-favorite song “It Wasn’t Me” by Rik Rok and Shaggy, trading off vocals and attempting to outdo each other with increasingly outrageous dance moves.
The highlight of the concert, however, was undoubtedly its closing act. After day turned to night and the cold wind had caused most of the audience to head home, local alt-rock trio Loc Dawgs provided a real treat of a performance for the few who chose to stay. Not a single aspect of the group’s performance fell short of extraordinary — their songs were complex and well-written, their solos were technically stunning, and their on-stage theatrics brimmed with passion.
The sole hiccup occurred in the form of a technical issue only minutes into the band’s set, which was quickly rectified and followed by frontman Christian Pelonis’s reassurance of “We’re back. We’re loud.” Show-stopping original tracks such as “Day By Day,” featuring soaring vocals and huge crescendos, prompted whoops and cheers from the scattered crowd as the day wound to an end.
I’m usually opposed to the phrase “you had to be there,” but you had to be there. It’s not too late though: the Isla Vista Rec & Park District will be holding two more concerts as part of the I.V. Spring Concert Series, including a four-band event on Saturday, April 23 at Anisq’Oyo Park as part of the Environmental Affairs Board’s annual Earth Day celebration.