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Summerlands 2019 Garners Mixed Reactions

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By Stephanie Osborne

Under the light of a bright moon, UCI students danced their post-midterm stresses away to contemporary R&B, EDM, and remixes of popular songs at UCI’s annual spring music festival, Summerlands. The Summerlands buzz has been building for months. Who did ASUCI get this year? Can last year’s Madeon be topped? Will Summerlands be as ill-fated as fall quarter’s Shocktoberfest? Summerlands was fighting against its inherited bad reputation from catastrophic Shocktoberfest incidents. From not releasing the full lineup until the day of, to diverting marketing to the side attractions, Summerlands seemed doomed to flop, as if it were to be UCI’s rendition of Fyre Festival.

The festival only took up a fraction of Aldrich Park, and featured various activities like caricatures, airbrushed tattoos, a beer garden with inflatable beer pong, giant versions of Jenga and Connect Four, and photobooths. Many students snagged free Summerlands merchandise, which included fanny packs, drawstring bags, stickers, and bandanas. If games and merchandise weren’t appealing enough, attendees could also make flower crowns, “kandi” jewelry, or bedazzle their face with glitter and plastic gems to perfect their festival look. Some may have thought that all of these different attractions were childish and marketed more than the artists, but the crowds formed lines at many of them anyways, making them their first stop of the night.

Whether to build anticipation or to avoid a dangerous overhype, the full lineup of Summerlands was not released until hours before the event. Ayokay opened, Gallant midlined, and Masego headlined this year’s festival, but did they live up to the anticipation? They may not be mainstream performers, but they did have some recognition among Summerlands’ audience.

Photo by Ashante Robinson

“The lineup was great, and I appreciated the exposure of some unexpected artists. The headliner Masego has been on my radar, but after seeing his freestyle and creative impromptu set, I know I’ve got to watch him live again!” said Nina Federizo, a graduating fourth year.

Ayokay’s opening set created a calm atmosphere with his EDM-infused, slow tempo pop, along with remixes and electric beats. While most of his songs were electronic with remixed samples, some were calming and rhythmic. “Swing Swing” was uplifting and catchy, allowing for an easy sing-along. Summerlands was his first time in the OC, but he was still very humble and down to earth. “Queen” drew in more of a crowd, as it was another one of his well-known songs. Ayokay’s music is a mix of pop, EDM, and electronica: a recipe for potential success. On Friday, it set the tone of Summerlands.

The midline act, Gallant, was leaked a few hours ahead of ASUCI’s schedule, but that was a happy accident. More people knew who Gallant was, and he fit the tone of the festival. He was amazing live; his voice smooth and on pitch, even during his ear-shattering high notes. His melodies were hypnotic, especially as the crowd sang along to “Weight in Gold”, the singer’s most popular song. Gallant’s emotions were high and audibly translated through his lyrics. Just for Summerlands, he performed two unreleased songs that he’s been working on, eager to see the crowd’s reaction. As Ayokay did, he drew more people into the crowd, so his unreleased songs were taken well.

Photo by Ashante Robinson

Masego, the headliner, was mind-blowing. His predecessors brought the energy to the crowd, and he rode that same wave, never faltering. Many people wanted an EDM artist, but Masego’s music is jazz, R&B, and soulful with EDM supporting the music, not overpowering it. He began by playing the sax and went on to say he loves UCI’s energy and made friendly banter with the crowd. Masego led into his songs with his interactions with the audience, like with “Old Age,” “Wifeable,” and “Queen Tings.” Not only was he friendly with the audience, but he also gave appreciative shout outs to his band members and let his backup singers have vocal solos. His music and the heart of the audience beat as one.

Photo by Ashante Robinson

In between acts, student DJs played pop and EDM, bringing the crowd’s energy up and up. People took advantage of the time between sets to visit the activity booths, bathrooms, or get food and drinks. Other people also let loose on the grass dance floor, enjoying the change in tone. Some students believed that the contrast between popular, upbeat songs like Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and the relaxed tempo of the main acts of the show was too extreme, though.

“There wasn’t a vibe,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous. “People responded well to EDM, but when they played sad stuff, the crowd died,” referring to the DJ’s sets and the live performances, respectively.

However, despite some reservations about the organization of the event, many other students understand that nobody wants a repeat of the disaster that was Shocktoberfest, and everyone involved with Summerlands wants to have a fun time. Dilraj Toor, outgoing Student Services VP, even made light-hearted jokes about the fall festival as the night continued, signaling a successful event.

“Rather than a super hyped atmosphere, it was a feel-good community vibe,” said Maizy Stern, a third-year student. Stern could only stay long enough to see Ayokay, the opening act, but she was glad to experience Summerlands.

Summerlands occurred safely and efficiently, despite the shadow of Shocktoberfest looming over it. Summerlands is a way to experience a free concert on a beautiful college campus but without the stressors of academia. There will always be mixed opinions on the events that occur at UCI, no matter what they are about. Even though some students may prefer the constant beats and noise of EDM, many found the different genre of Jazz-EDM to be a nice change and a relaxing way to signal the end of the year. Overall, while Summerlands suffered from terrible marketing prior to the event, the actual show was a beautiful way to connect with fellow students and just let troubles go, even for just a night.