Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications
Students were drawn to RIMAC Field from all corners of the campus Friday, mesmerized by the pulsating music, eager to escape the pressures of exams and get lost in the moment with friends.
The annual festival, which has been a campus tradition for more than three decades, once again reached capacity this year, with 23,000 students, alumni, faculty, staff and guests attending. This year, the lineup was led by up-and-coming rapper Kendrick Lamar, punk rock band Portugal. The Man and singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon on the Sun God stage. Across the field at the Dance Stage, electronic rhythms resounded from top DJs—including Porter Robinson, RAC, Adrian Lux and UC San Diego DJ Battle winners VIKINGQUEST—enhanced by psychedelic video displays and smoke jets.
During his performance, rap artist Danny Brown encouraged students to "Go ahead and express yourself," and indeed they did: students donned floral headbands, morphsuits, glow stick glasses, tin foil crowns, neon tees, body paint—even a chicken suit. Students reveled in the freedom to dance, act silly, laugh and bask in the collective vibe of the thousands of students and alumni in attendance.
"I love how everyone has the same energy level. It makes me realize why I came to UC San Diego," remarked Sheenal De O, a junior. "This is my third time at the festival, but I always remember every second of each one."
Magicians, comedians, singers, acrobats and more occupied the newly-designed Midway Tent that featured a diverse group of performers, including acts by MTV's America's Best Dance Crew season 5 winners Poreotics; renowned magician Joe Mystic; and singer Savannah Outen, who got her start on YouTube. In addition, numerous UC San Diego a cappella and dance groups took the stage, including UCSD DOTS, The Beat, Ascension and the UCSD Dance Team. Midway tent host Lauren O’Brien—comedian, actress and radio personality—entertained the crowd in between sets."I'm married now since I'm over 30," said O'Brien. "You guys have that to look forward to."
The giant inflatable Sun God presided over the event atop the batting cages, watching students pass from one stage to another, sharing laughs and spontaneous dance sessions and lounging on the grass and fluffy bean bags at the Red Bull lounge. Sun God Avenue was bustling throughout the night with students munching on kettle corn and dining on funnel cakes and pizza in between sets.
The festival opened with a performance by UC San Diego's own Soda Pants, who won the Battle of the Bands competition this year. Their unique folk-rock sound is produced by an energetic melody of vocals mixed with sounds from a diverse range of instruments, including harmonica, violin, banjo and mandolin. The band was formed a little over a year ago by alumni Erin Bower and Will Chapman and current seniors Mike Sierks and Grady Kestler, each multi-talented musicians and songwriters. Their music is recorded and mastered by Kestler, who is enrolled in the ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major) program at UC San Diego.
“We pride ourselves on being non-pretentious, approachable, friendly people. It is just an all-out fun fest when we play on stage,” Bower said. “We are honored to be able to share the stage with these amazing artists at Sun God Festival this year. It is quite surreal and very exciting as we gain momentum as a band.”
Soda Pants has already gained a large following, both at UC San Diego and in the local community. Last summer, the band hopped in a truck and traveled up the coast of California to tour the state and play in as many venues as possible, from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. Locally, they have played at The Casbah, Soda Bar and House of Blues and will be opening this June at the SPF FM 94.9 (Sandy Parts Festival), where they will perform alongside indie rock bands Matt & Kim, Capital Cities, The Mowgli's and more.
"We hope to be making music for a very long time," said Bower. "We'd like to professionally record an EP or album in the near future and hopefully continue to grow by wowing crowds!"
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