Concert Review: Rock N’ Roosevelt 2018

Free of charge, this year’s Rock N’ Roosevelt brings the charismatic indie-rock band “Bad Suns” to UC San Diego with support from “Moontower” and student band “Rookie Doyen.”

Desperate for respite amid the upcoming finals season, students lined up outside of PC Ballroom West a full hour and a half before the doors opened at 7 p.m. The anticipation continued to build as the hour passed, and the line stretched all the way to Library Walk.

With a more-than-substantial turn out, students huddled together in the hopes of being as close to the stage as possible. While many came not knowing anything about the bands, a decent amount of concert-goers were fans of the headliner “Bad Suns.” Nonetheless, the prospect of free music and a little downtime before Spring Break brought the students together. The open space of the ballroom combined with dimmed lights and the soft chattering of students provided an easy-going atmosphere that buzzed with enthusiasm. Once the lights hit, the crowd eagerly met the first opener with a roar.

“Rookie Doyen” sauntered onto the stage, proudly displaying a hand-crafted sign with its band name written in capital letters. As the band declared, the crowd would not forget “Rookie Doyen” anytime soon, and no, even they were unaware of the meaning behind their name. The quintet started off high-powered and full of energy, despite technical difficulties with its keyboardist. Thankfully, this did not hinder their sound nor their momentum. Lead vocalist Sanjay John scrunched his shoulders alongside high notes and pulled faces perfectly matching the mood of each song, and the crowd responded with a generally warm response.

In the second half of the set, the band incorporated the keyboard, introducing a jazzy flourish to to their brand of power-pop. Though confusing and a bit awkward, the unique performance still garnered enthusiastic audience participation. “Rookie Doyen” finished their set with a mellow track –– a sharp contrast to their previous piece and the perfect interlude to the next act.

The second opener, “Moontower,” felt like a secret; no one knew what to expect. With no music released at the time or accounts on Spotify or Soundcloud, the band emitted an air of mystique. However, the group delivered exactly what the crowd was waiting for: some synth, some bass, and some colorful flashing lights. Illuminated by five glowing towers flickering to the beat of each song, “Moontower” successfully cultivated an ambience that blended chill synthwave with a futuristic sound. Each song flowed into the next, and students threw open hands into the air, following the pounding bass.

The entire set of “Moontower” could be described as a sneak peak as the band performed songs not yet released, enthralling the audience with tracks like “Can’t Be Dreaming,” featuring a groovy baseline and an impossibly growing tempo. “Pilot,” the only song released thus far, highlighted a deeply pulsing synth beat that had the crowd bouncing on their heels. Despite “Moontower” facing a crowd completely unaware of their sound, the band’s performance and stage presence served as a well-received and certainly welcomed surprise.

However, neither opener met the same amount of hype and cheer as the headliner “Bad Suns.” Considering “Bad Suns” had performed the year prior at UCSD’s very own Sun God Festival, an overwhelming excitement swept through the crowd. Most predicted a set predominantly comprised of tracks from “Disappear Here,” the most recent “Bad Suns” album. Instead, “Bad Suns” opened their set by catering to tracks from their debut album “Language” and “Perspective,” including the angsty but bright “Transpose” and “Cardiac Arrest,” the song that catapulted the band to recognition with its catchiness, melody, and earworm of a chorus. While the wait for a newer song was longer than expected, the audience’s patience soon paid off.

The heart-warming “Daft Pretty Boys” proved to be the most anticipated song, amassing an overwhelming amount of cheers within the first few seconds as well as throughout the entire performance, becoming the undeniable crowd favorite of the night. Throughout the set, lead vocalist Christo Bowman displayed his signature quirky dance, a combination of shuffling his feet and zigzagging his body to the beat. As always, Bowman did his best to connect with the crowd, even venturing into the sea of students during a rendition of the plucky track “Rearview.” Soon afterwards, “Bad Suns” closed off their set with “Salt,” a song featuring poignant lyrics coupled with a grooving bassline.

While the concert ended abruptly with “Bad Suns” rushing off stage, it was favorable to lingering around aimlessly. Most students scurried outside, either to catch a picture with “Moontower,” pick up some “Bad Suns” merch, or escape the sweaty crowd. Overall, this year’s Rock N’ Roosevelt featured three fantastic bands with distinctive sounds that definitely met students’ expectations, and even exceeded them in some regards. One can only be hopeful about who Rock N’ Roosevelt brings next year for the opportunity of enjoyable and enthusiastic live performances in the comfort of our very own campus.

Grade: B
Date: March 9, 2018
Location: Price Center Ballroom West

Image courtesy of Spotify