Despite a lopsided programming schedule, Aldrich Park After Dark (APAD) 2018 on September 25 was more enjoyable than a free Week Zero concert has any right to be.
DJ duo Phantoms opened what seemed to be a promising night with hilarious hype man ad-libs and a genuinely entertaining set reminiscent of a “Top 50 Club Songs” playlist. Although their songs didn’t blow my mind production-wise, they were easy to dance to and sampled popular music just enough to liven up the crowd without playing the song outright.
Phantoms also had the best build-ups and drops of the night, mixing exciting instrumentals with cliche yet endearing calls for the audience to lose control. Although both of these were sometimes drawn to comedic lengths (one buildup must have lasted a solid minute, leaving me doubled over laughing before the satisfying drop brought me back up) Phantoms seemed partly, if not fully, self-aware of their schtick and embraced it.
Party Pupils, another DJ duo, followed with a set that mirrored APAD’s strong start and weak finish. Although initially winning me over with samplings from Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” (brief aside: Slim’s song has a wonderful music video everyone should watch at their soonest convenience) and various Kanye West songs, they slowly shifted towards less-recognizable pieces that were much harder to gel with.
These songs made up the last half of Party Pupils’ set and all of the comically similarly named closing act Party Favor’s. Their original, electronic heavy songs weren’t bad, but disappointed more than they impressed.
I don’t dislike EDM as a whole, but I do find it hard to get excited about a song when a wild build-up ends up delivering a fairly weak drop. This is my biggest problem with both Party Pupils and Party Favor, both of whom offered filet mignon builds only to deliver In-N-Out patties. Sure the latter isn’t bad, but it’s something you can just walk over to UTC and get it whenever you want.
Party Favor also dedicated about five minutes of his set to mashups of popular songs, including the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” mixed with Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” lyrics with the instrumental from Van Halen’s “Jump.” Mashups are alright, but these came out of left field and felt very out of place in his set. To make everything even more confusing, he later played Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again” without any remixing at all. Again, I like Blink, but it just didn’t really make sense in the context of Party Favor’s set as a whole.
While their music wasn’t as fun as the first half of the concert, the graphics for the two Party performers were neat and reminded me of something that might play on an Adult Swim commercial reel. The offbeat, lo-fi artwork and Photoshops were on average more interesting to watch than a guy on his laptop bobbing his head and jumping every 30 seconds.
Besides the music, ASUCI provided more than enough booths and small amenities to keep bored students from drifting out of Aldrich Park. An insane amount of glow sticks were handed out during the event and this small but impressive touch made APAD feel like more than just a cobbled together concert. The free water and energy drinks, a staple of most UCI concerts, were a welcome sight as well.
APAD 2018 wasn’t the best UCI concert I’ve been to, but for an introductory concert leading up to the real headliners of the school year (Shocktoberfest and Summerlands), it surpassed my expectations and made me hopeful for the rest of whatever ASUCI has planned for us.