Only in its second year as the Summerlands Festival, students and local Orange County residents were treated to a slate of live performances from various up-and-coming artists, right in the heart of UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park.
“The vibe is pretty chill this year,” said fourth-year student Amber Por. “But I do like the Rockstars.”
As Friday’s event was sponsored by Rockstar, students were treated to a “Rockstar Garden,” in which endless cans and drinks were being handed out to attendees to amp up their energy on this eclectic night of performances.
Ranging from indie-rock, blues, electronic and pop, the show started at 4pm with third-year student Timothy John and his band.
“Things are getting more real,” he said. “I’m losing more focus on school.”
With a performance featuring moody blues tunes, breathy indie covers and jam-filled musical interludes, John noted that things have been looking up for him. With a Kickstarter and plans for an EP in the works, he hopes his blues-guitar and natural singer-songwriter style can create something “authentic” and “different” within the Asian-American community, but also for his potential career as a musician.
Local Orange County indie-rockers Island Apollo, who have been making music since they were just tweens playing in a family band, have also felt excited to put themselves out there as a band who has learned a thing or two from the past eight-years of their involvement with music.
“If we listened to what everybody said throughout those eight years, we wouldn’t be here as Island Apollo today,” reflected singer and guitarist Heath Farmer.
As recent graduates from CSU Fullerton and Long Beach, the band expressed how important the local community is to them.
“Supporting the Orange County area is a big thing for us,” drummer Matt Champagne noted. “We love LA, we love San Diego, but this area is really our real roots.”
One-woman-band Jeni Suk, famous within the online YouTube community, went on to serenade the gloomy-skied crowd with her smooth R&B tunes, with only a keyboard and loop station.
As an Asian-American with the traditional strict parents, she encouraged young musicians that “if you’re gonna go against your parents, against what they really want you to do, show them that you can do what you love and survive.”
With a laugh, she confessed, “Being a musician is sort of a short-lived thing. So I’m trying to ride this as long as I can.”
Mr. Little Jeans, the moniker for Norwegian songstress Monica Birkenes, went on to grace the UCI community with her moody, electro-synth tunes as she carelessly danced around on stage. With a background studying drama in London, waitressing and then having a few of her tunes featured in film and TV soundtracks, she revealed that she has finally gotten used to the idea of touring and performing.
With six-years under her belt and a debut album “Pocketknife” released in the past year, she mentioned that one of her major goals at the moment is to be able to “confidently pay rent.” But, she felt particularly honored (and mystified by the campus’ buildings) to have UCI as her first college campus performance.
As alt-rock headliner Bad Suns went on at 7:30pm to close the night off, the audience–including outsiders, long-time fans, friends and new listeners–wasn’t quite ready for the power-driven performance the band was to put on.
As Southern California natives, the band, inspired by the sounds of ’70s and ’80s post-punk pioneers The Clash and The Cure, delivered a solid performance full of lush guitars, catchy verses and explosive interludes.
Lead vocalist Christo Bowman noted, “We like to feed off [the crowd’s] energy. It’s cool to see when people are taking home the music with them and coming to the concert and [to] see the energy from the crowd and share that.”
Senior transfer student and avid Bad Suns fan Emmalyn Jouglet was particularly excited for the band’s performance.
“‘Cardiac Arrest’ is my favorite song ever. I was bummed I missed them at Coachella so I loved it,” she said, still recovering from her dance-high from the performance.
Though the slate of performances at this year’s Summerlands was particularly diverse and “very indie,” the community, although smaller in number from last year’s festival, still enjoyed the good vibes, chill tunes and power-driven performances from this year’s artists.
As Jouglet noted, “There are so many good things going on here at [UCI]. I love this whole new year.”
This article was featured in The New University.