Aldrich After Dark

Diane Oh/New University UC Irvine freshmen were treated to a free concert in Aldrich Park on Tuesday, Sept. 20 as part of the 2011 Welcome Week festivities.

With performances by Strange Birds, DJ Benzi, Young L and Shwayze, incoming freshmen had the opportunity to dance in the dark with hundreds of fellow new Anteaters.

After a cancellation by original headliner, DEV (best known for her contributions to songs like “Like a G6” and “Dancing in the Dark”), former Shocktoberfest headliner Shwayze (with musical cohort Cisco Adler) took the primetime slot of the night.
Irvine natives Strange Birds kicked off the night with their folksy, acoustic melodies, which are more in the vein of bands like Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear – not exactly what you might expect to hear on a night seemingly devoted to hip-hop, rap and electronic music. For those in attendance less inclined to the bass-bumping, techno stylings of the night, Strange Birds was a more pleasant way to kick off the party.

Following more with the theme of the night was Young L, the Berkeley-based rapper and member of “The Pack,” a rap group best known for fellow member Lil B and the aggravatingly popular 2006 hit “Vans” (you may remember the chorus: “Got my Vans on but they look like sneakers,” on repeat. Brilliant, right?). Young L entertained the crowd with rhymes about “loud pockets,” Vans shoes and (like most other rappers) fame, money and women. Obviously, the organizers of the night realized that rappers and DJs are more appealing to the general population of students, regardless of the talent level of the performers.

Students got the chance to dance the night away with a performance by DJ Benzi, who played a mix of Top 40 hits, remixes, and mash-ups. The DJ eagerly hyped up the crowd of swaying freshmen as he jumped around stage. From the music of LMFAO to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, the beat kept the crowd moving and happy.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a UCI event if there wasn’t a dance performance, and what better way to introduce freshmen to UCI life than with a performance by Kaba Modern, one of the best and most popular dance crews on campus. Even on the small stage, their energy and exuberance was contagious, as members of the audience caught on, and probably tried to imitate some of their moves.

Between sets, a house DJ kept the energy level up with a steady stream of dance music.

Shwayze took the stage as the last act of the night, and he brought his signature style of hybrid rap/rock accompanied by guitarist and singer Cisco Adler. No strangers to performing for UCI audiences, the duo played older hits like “Buzzin’,” “Corona and Lime” and plenty of new material. His lazy, laid-back rhymes were the perfect summer send-off, reminiscent of days spent at the beach and nights spent having fun with friends.

Shwayze had hands waving and bodies swaying, while Adler backed him up on guitar. The former elicited plenty of excited yells from the crowd whenever any mention of smoking pot or getting drunk was made, although it’s safe to assume that 80 percent of that approval came from freshmen just going along with the crowd. The laid-back rhymes and beats gave the audience a chance to chill before the headliners ended and the “after-party” began, with the Electric Dance Union providing the music.

Comparing this year’s festivities to year’s past, it’s easy to see how Welcome Week has changed. Three years ago, hardcore rock band Saosin was the headliner, with supporting acts like William Tell. The focus for these sorts of events has clearly shift to a more mainstream, pop and hip-hop base. Although there’s nothing wrong with bringing great rappers and pop singers to UCI, it would be nice to see a little more variety to the lineup.

Regardless, it was a surprise to see how excited many of the freshmen in attendance were to be there. It was a stark contrast to the apathy that many of us are used to experiencing on this campus. Hopefully this year’s crop of new Anteaters keeps the spirit and excitement going.