Summerlands 2018 was surprisingly enjoyable and well-rounded, finally delivering concrete evidence that ASUCI is trying to coordinate better concerts. Despite an uninspired social media campaign leading up to the event, the effort put into the night itself was on full display, providing a satisfying distraction from the hell of midterm season.
Opening act Inaijsa kicked off the ceremonies with jaw-dropping covers, winning over UCI once again after winning the Grand Prize (and many other awards) in Soulstice this past March. It’s been said before — and the same goes for follow up act P-Lo — but her voice is impossibly beautiful, legitimately sounding more like a recording than a live, dancing human. Her energy and calls for the audience to liven up seemed sincere, a nice change of pace from the typical hype-man lines other performers are full of.
Her short set was followed up by P-Lo, the de facto top performer of the night. The Bay Area rapper had the funniest audience asides and interactions I’ve seen from any performer, genuinely engaging with members of the audience with the intention of giving a great performance.
P-Lo pulled a multitude of stunts while onstage, most notably bringing a student on stage after noticing that he was wearing his tour merch. The fan’s enthusiasm was clear as daylight, and the look on his face as he and P-Lo danced and rapped together was delightfully infectious.
P-Lo fired off jokes and well-intended platitudes in between his songs, confusing most audience members but earning a ridiculous smile from me. After bringing up all the afterparties concertgoers would surely attend following the event, he urged students to shower before going to sleep and making sure to brush their teeth first thing in the morning. Also, before launching into a song devoted to the art of grinding, he told men to ask for permission before getting down with a woman because nonconsensual grinding isn’t what he’s about. His remarks were pleasant reminders that respect for yourself and others is key at concert, although the message seemed to be lost on many dumbfounded audience members.
His songs were the typical low-profile rap joints you’d expect to hear at a college festival, but his constant energy and great use of hype ad libs put him at a level I wasn’t prepared to enjoy. One track, which P-Lo apparently produced, “Smoke and Drive,” used a slick sampling of Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” and featured former UCI performer Blackbear. The worst part of the song is the corny chorus (luckily and obviously written by Blackbear), but overall the track was a nice change of pace from the hip hop laden first half of Summerlands.
P-Lo was out of breath his whole set because he put his all into each song he threw at the crowd, and his efforts did not go unnoticed. To put the final touch on this P-Lo lovefest, he sat with his legs in the crowd for a minute before being swarmed by concertgoers and yelling out, “Jesus criminy!” Simply perfect.
Midliner Ella Mai brought smooth vocals and a great band to make way for Madeon in the final act. Her R&B-heavy songs were fun to listen to and a hit with the ladies so I’ll definitely be listening to her in the coming weeks.
Madeon’s set closed out the night, but, as someone who never understood the hype of EDM, I’m not sure how good it really was. It was fun in spurts, featured some neat production, and was far from the worst performance I’ve seen at UCI. Curiously, he ended the concert with Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” with no production from his side put into it. I expected something really big and mind-blowing (not to say that “September” isn’t) actually made by Madeon, but what the crowd got was good, too, I guess.
The performances were much better than in previous years, and although some social media hiccups — like posting at 11 a.m. Thursday morning that wristbanding began at 9 a.m. — created small roadblocks that seemed to spell trouble for the event as a whole, luckily they didn’t. ASUCI seems to be making some headway in giving students the better concerts everyone asks for.