Bring back the music: Restore Sun God to its former glory

    There is something missing this year.

    I am missing the excitement, the buzz, the hype, the rumors and that magic that surrounds the campus around mid-May.

    Perhaps I am running with a jaded circle of friends, but the usual allure and anticipation of the Sun God festival is missing. The evening concert does not seem to be the primary focus of the Sun God festival anymore. For many people the day is an excuse to sneak kegs into the apartments in big trash cans, evade the authorities and generally let loose from the daily grind of school. But despite the healthy attendence at the evening concert, people don’t seem very enthusiastic to rush up to the show.

    In previous years, the Sun God festival catered to such acts as Blur (1992), Blues Traveler and Gin Blossoms (1993), They Might Be Giants and No Doubt (1994), The Pharcyde and 311 (1995) and Rocket from the Crypt and Souls of Mischief (1996). In 1997 we saw De La Soul, Save Ferris and Clyde’s Ride. Social Distortion played in 1998 and Cypress Hill in 1999.

    In recent memory we have had to deal with Dishwalla, Rahzel from the Roots, The Aquabats and the local act, F.o.N. That was in 2000. Redemption came last year with Naughty By Nature, Face to Face, Xzibit and local band Ping Pong Mafia.

    All in all, the acts do not look too bad on paper: Blur was in the early stages of an illustrious career. Blues Traveler had three albums under its belt and had released “”Save His Soul”” just a month before their appearance at Sun God. 311 were entering into the best years of their career. And you cannot go wrong with Social Distortion and Cypress Hill.

    But many students still have the taste of Dishwalla to wash out of their mouths. And although Sun God 2001 was fairly successful, the memory of the concert quickly faded away for many people.

    The blame does not and should not fall entirely on the shoulders of the A.S. programming office. Those people are working day and night trying to get well-known acts to the campus. They run into bands who simply say no, bands who cancel at the last moment, or artists who were told by the court to serve the community in other ways (as in the case of rapper Ludacris). The limited budget also gets in the way — sometimes $80,000 is not enough to satisfy a fickle campus.

    I understand how hard the A.S. programmers work and I understand the hurdles they have to leap before the dreams of a successful Sun God is made a reality.

    But perhaps in the future there can be a different approach to Sun God and how to coordinate it all. Maybe a lot of these ideas won’t be feasible in the near future, but it’s definitely something to think about.

    First, look deeper in the pool of music: There needs to be more consideration of different genres of music. The Sun God format has generally stuck with the alternative rock, punk rock and hip-hop format. There seems to be little consideration of up-and-coming Brit-pop acts. British bands have slowly made their way up the American pop charts and why not take advantage of them while their popularity is strong but small enough to entertain a college? Fresh acts from a different genre may help avoid Sun God being associated with an event that brings tired one-hit wonder bands to UCSD and recapture some old glory.

    The festival needs to stay on the cutting edge of music.

    Remember, in 1992, Blur was not a very big band but they soon defined the Brit-pop scene. No Doubt was just a year away from releasing their hit album, “”Tragic Kingdom.”” Blues Traveler was a year away from racing up the charts with their album, “”Four.”” Sure, we have to respect the old-school acts but the Sun God festival needs to start looking at artists who are poised to become stars. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Dishwalla, Naughty By Nature and The Aquabats are on the tail end of their careers.

    UCSD also has to shed its discomfort with electronica.

    The DJ tent at the Sun God festival is a step, but it’s not quite enough. We should continue to expand the tent and maybe even look to a DJ as a headliner. Electronica has exploded all over the world but it has yet to make too much of an impact American pop culture.

    Perhaps it is time for UCSD to embrace a growing culture surrounding dance music. There are dozens of DJs on the West Coast who can be easily brought into San Diego to spin an incredible set. DJ Mark Thrasher here in San Diego has a residency at On Broadway in downtown San Diego and spins the latest house music and Top 40 club hits. Thrasher can give the underage students a taste of the post-21 lifestyle. Jon Bishop is another local DJ who can give students a taste of San Diego clubbing.

    Second, move the date of the festival: Why did Jack Johnson and The Strokes decide to play at UCSD within a week of each other? Because of Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. Johnson played a set at RIMAC Arena before he took a weekend trip to Coachella. The Strokes, who were fresh off a weekend in Indio, decided to stop by UCSD afterward.

    Coachella caters to dozens of rock, hip-hop and electronic acts. Maybe if the Sun God festival was set near late-April we could take advantage of the bands while they are in the area. I’m sure it wouldn’t take too much for a fairly popular act to stay in the gorgeous San Diego climate for a few more days to play a gig in front of an enthusiastic crowd of students.

    Third, shorter lineup, bigger acts: We should pool more money into two really good acts instead of three or more mediocre acts. And remember, we can’t make everyone happy so let’s not be afraid of not including a hip-hop act one year or a rock act the next year. Keep the Battle of the Bands winner, though.

    Four, money, money, money: Budget concerns seem to be a main reason why many acts do not get signed or even considered.The A.S. programming office has $80,000 to play with for Sun God. But remember, acts are very expensive. One year, Lenny Kravitz wanted $100,000. (Note to self: Rock stars are greedy).

    But the fact still remains, if UCSD wants the big-name artists, it has to pay the big bucks. One of the easiest things to do to increase the budget is to sell tickets for the Sun God festival. Sure, this breaks the tradition of a free concert, but it’s time that UCSD students cough up a few dollars for the show to help the A.S. programmers get us the good acts.

    Fifth, fireworks: Hey, if all else fails, drop a few thousand on a fireworks show. Everyone likes fireworks, right? Don’t worry, those old La Jolla snobs will get over it.

    Sixth, beer garden: Not essential, but it can make a big difference.

    The Sun God festival is the biggest concert that UCSD will see each year and every effort should be made to make it the best concert of the year. That means there must be a little more creativity involved when organizing the concert. Look at different genres of music. Embrace up-and-coming acts on the verge of making it big, not the old has-beens. Make the most of the money that is available by getting more quality, and sacrifice some of the quantity. Or sell tickets to the evening concert to increase the budget.

    The A.S. festivals coordinators have done an incredible job of working their magic to bring us the best possible artists for the concert. Cake is a definitely a step forward toward more established and well-known artists. They have the tunes and the energy to headline a festival. I am not trying to disrespect the coordinators of the Sun God festival but, hopefully, some of my ideas can stimulate some minds to start thinking of ways to make the Sun God festival bigger and better.

    In the mean time, enjoy the show, because it should be a good one.

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