By Julia Clausen
Freshmen were the first to arrive, timidly wandering in large packs up the hills of Aldrich Park 15 minutes before the annual ASUCI After Dark Concert was meant to start Tuesday of Welcome Week (most likely worried that they were late and had missed all the fun).
The event has a history of bringing in notable but not quite mainstream acts, like JR Aquino and Yuna, and usually draws a sizable crowd.
When asked by a loyal ASUCI representative if they were excited for any of the artists performing at this year’s concert, freshmen from all corners of campus responded in unison: “Blackbear!”, this year’s anticipated headliner.
Upperclassmen weren’t quite as enthusiastic. Mutters of, “Who’s Blackbear?” made the rounds.
Regardless, as the sun set behind the biological sciences buildings, crowds continued to cautiously amble onto the field, as if afraid to look too interested in front of their classmates.
But once the sun was down, the party could finally start. Anteaters best show their spirit under the cover of darkness.
The show began with a warm up set from DJ Fook, followed by UCI student and SOULstice winner Ellen Shieh and the Bon Iver-esque songwriting duo, Common Souls.
By the end of the third act, crowds were still arriving and sitting down in the grass behind the sound booth. The event had the feeling of a music festival. All it needed was a few food trucks and some prohibited libations — the likes of which the anticipated Blackbear seemed more keen to partake in than his own concert. But more on that later.
The majority of the night was spent in a strange duality between the sizable — though not enormous — crowd of awkwardly enthusiastic people at the foot of the stage and the people who sat way in the back to observe; a dichotomy recognizable from countless lecture halls and classrooms.
However, the atmosphere began to liven up with the arrival of The Grinns, a pop/rock band clearly formed in high school and the American equivalent of The Kooks — all hair and personality. About halfway through their set, the front man, Joey Kolk, shouted “Yo, UCI, move around a little bit.”
And they did… eventually.
The rapper DCMBR and bass/trap artist Yetep certainly got the crowd shouting and dancing and waving flags (yes, actual flags bearing Greek letters from various fraternities) with their enthusiasm and powerful beats.
The artist Yetep, in particular, was a crowd favorite, a clear indication of the popularity of EDM on campus. Amid the billowing clouds from the smoke machine that threatened to swallow him whole and the blinding stage lights roaming the ever-growing crowd, Yetep brought an energy that none of the other artists were able to recreate.
A genuine, almost carefree feeling swept over all students from the front row to the back, and when Yetep was finished, the crowd was ready to enjoy themselves.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last long.
The preparation for Blackbear’s set, complete with hype man and loud choruses of cheering, soon faded into silent disappointment.
Lauding the use of prohibited substances and encouraging students to skip classes that weren’t actually happening until Thursday, all the while forgetting almost an entire song, Blackbear offered little to the uncharacteristically eager-to-be-pleased crowd.
Not even Blackbear’s sympathetic complaints about the lack of liquor on campus got as many cheers as the previous performer Yetep did when he dropped a beat. Small groups of students began leaving after his second song, as did I, so the number of students remaining by the end of the set might never be known.
It is safe to say that a number of freshmen left disappointed that night. Better to learn sooner rather than later.
And yet, overall, fun times were still to be had, and, from the safety of the enveloping darkness and loud music, UCI was able to come together for one night and (almost) let loose before returning to the realities of university life.
And for that, despite everything, the concert was a success.