Sun God 2013: Behind the Music


    Click here to listen to our Sun God party playlist on Soundcloud.

    Kendrick Lamar

    It makes sense to have a west coast rapper headline Sun God. The sun is out. It’s basically summer. Sun God has all the makings of a day like Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” It’s a break from school’s usual oppressive monotony, a celebration of dodging tests and essays instead of bullets and police. But for the past decade or so, west coast rap has been pretty dormant. For those who still prostrate themselves on the altar of the California scene, the 2000s were a rough time. You can only play “Gin and Juice” so many times before it gets old.

    Luckily for all these poor nostalgic souls, the West is back at Sun God. In fact, the West in general is back, mostly due to the impressive efforts of our beloved headliner, Kendrick Lamar. The Compton rapper received the west coast torch from Dr. Dre and has infused the otherwise stale subgenre with a vitality that’s been missing for years.

    Lamar’s major debut, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City,” put this vitality on full display. Released in October 2012, the album has received accolades from just about everyone. The album has gone gold, topped numerous “Best of” lists (including Pitchfork’s and the BBC’s), and came in second on Billboard’s annual best albums list.

    While some of this acclaim is due to the hype from Dre publicly anointing Lamar the future of the West, most of it is because Lamar is talented. His raps are clever. He shifts tempos, rhyme schemes and personas with ease. He raps about conflicting impulses. He talks about shooting people and partying and then bows into a prayer without betraying any insincerity. Even “Swimming Pools (Drank),” which on the surface seems like a lighthearted celebration of alcohol, subtly explores the darker parts of drinking and alcoholism. “Some people like the way it feels/ Some people wanna kill their sorrows/ Some people wanna fit in with the popular/ That was my problem,” he rhymes, turning an ostensible party anthem into a meditation on the art of peer pressure — and making “Swimming Pools” an appropriate anthem for Sun God.

    What helps Lamar discuss these topics without sounding preachy is his storytelling ability. He couches what would otherwise be moralistic preaching in personal narratives. In fact, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City” is such a cohesive narrative that it’s almost hard to listen to individual songs. This autobiographical touch lends his work a poignancy that makes it all the more powerful.

    All of this makes Kendrick Lamar a great Sun God act: He brings a lot of emotional power to the stage while still being a dope enough rapper to not kill anyone’s vibe.

    — Sebastian Brady
    Senior Staff Writer

    Porter Robinson

    Hailing from North Carolina, 20-year-old Porter Robinson has already achieved more than most EDM artists do throughout their career. Inspired at age 13 by video game sounds from “Dance Dance Revolution,” Robinson taught himself how to mix as he slowly built an online following via his releases on Beatport. In 2011, during his senior year of high school, he signed a deal with Skrillex’s label, OWSLA, and his first single “Language” brought him near-immediate success in the electronic scene.

    Robinson kicked off his career as a touring musician in 2011 by playing for huge crowds at esteemed festivals, including Electronic Daisy Carnival and South by Southwest. While touring as the opening act for Tiesto later that year, Robinson remained level headed despite his newfound success, managing to play house parties on tour as chronicled in a mini-documentary on YouTube.

    Showing no sign of slowing down, Robinson tackled the European scene in 2012, playing for audiences abroad at Tomorrowland in Belgium. Meanwhile, in the U.S., he became a staple artist in the electronic scene, which earned him a prominent spot at Coachella. 

    Robinson has dubbed his fresh blend of electro house as “complextro” due to the massive amounts of cuts, skips and transitions in the music. Utilizing hundreds of sound clips and effects, it coalesces into a heavy beat that keeps the crowd going but has enough melodic and harmonic content layered on top to please more sober concertgoers.

    If you’re not convinced of this youngster’s prowess yet, this might do the trick: Robinson was booted last month from Matador Music Festival, allegedly because his music was inciting the crowd to riot.

    Get ready, UCSD.

    — Dieter Joubert
    Staff Writer

    Portugal. The Man

    Imagine an Alaska without Sarah Palin, and you’ll see many other nice things, particularly the beautiful landscape, giant king salmon, igloos and the unapologetic style created by the boys of Portugal. The Man. By synthesizing the cooled-off steel drumming sounds of the Beach Boys, heavy guitar licks a la Jane’s Addiction and lyrical poetics akin to Bon Iver, Portugal. The Man is hard to pigeonhole, whether it be through style, delivery or work ethic. Having already released six albums since their 2006 debut (along with a 13-minute short film that uses the songs “Sleep Forever” and “Got It All” as narration to a haunting tale set in the Alaskan tundra) PTM has a flair for grandeur. 

    While present-day pop might have laid waste to eardrums everywhere, Portugal. The Man — though swept up by big business Atlantic Records — has maintained its offbeat, unique sound while still being accessible to mainstream listeners.

    Co-founded by John Gourley (vocalist/songwriter) and Zach Carothers (bass player/vocalist), Portugal. The Man soon moved out of the wilderness and into the hipster’s homeland of Portland, Oregon, gaining members Kyle O’Quin, Noah Gersh and, eventually, Kane Ritchotte.

    Their latest album, “Evil Friends” (out June 4), certainly maintains the band’s knack for spectacle. After news that producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton (heralded for his work with Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys and Cee Lo Green) was interested in collaborating, Portugal. The Man scrapped over 10 songs and two weeks of recording time to work with him. The result retains PTM’s varied sounds and loner lyrical themes (i.e. “Creep in a T-Shirt”) while incorporating radio-friendly (and blunt-friendly) hip-hop and hook-heavy elements (“Hip-Hop Kids” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” respectively), making PTM a band that can appeal to fans across genres.

    That’s the rub, really. Whatever style Portugal. The Man aims to infuse — be it pop, electronic, hip-hop or blues — their strange delivery stays prevalent in their work. It’s why they’ve gained such a loyal clan of followers, from their northeastern stomping grounds to Europe to our own sunny California. At a Sun God that will be writhing with drunken, sweaty tomfoolery, what better way to close the evening off than with a heavy dose of that cool Alaskan breeze reverberating through the air?

    — Jacey Aldredge
    A&E Editor

    Danny Brown

    A piece of lore is stewing out there about Danny Brown: He received oral sex on stage during an April 26 show in Minneapolis and kept on rapping, making him either a disgusting pig or an unexpected victim of sexual assault, depending on your opinion. It’s easy to see why people would rush to consider the former, though, since Danny Brown is more of a character than a real man, and unsolicited chicks grabbing dicks lies squarely in the sphere of fantasy.

    Consider the way he looks,  — tongue out, skinny jeans, cartoonishly choppy hair sprouting in every direction — and he seems like precisely the type of guy to respond to public falatio from a stranger with nothing but a gap-toothed grin. Of course, sexual assault victims come in all shapes and sizes (and races and genders), and it’s never fair to make assumptions about them. Regardless, the incident may turn Brown’s Sun God set into a spectacle of curiosity that will make his cutthroat performance all the more shocking to those uninitiated to his crew, the Bruiser Brigade.

    Danny Brown is, after all, an off-kilter playboy. Screaming about fucking while “higher than Swizz Beats’ hairline,” his music is both sexual and substance-abused and his voice is the same: a high-pitched, nasal yelp bred from a heavy diet of Adderall and women. 

    His most recent album, 2011’s “XXX,” is a hedonistic trip through the streets of his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, at once exposing the trappings of the crumbling city and the vices it supplies. On album highlight “DNA,” he admits over plaintive horns that addiction is “in my D.N.A., cos my pops used to get fucked up the same way.” On “Fields” he takes on Detroit itself: “We living in the streets where options is limited / Because there’s burnt buildings instead of jobs and businesses,” — making it clear that the drugged-out bravado of much of the album (the pinnacle of which is “I Will,” a salacious ode to oral sex over a pitched-up female vocal sample) is a failed means of escaping the sludge of the Motor City. 

    Yet us hardcore Bruisers know: Despite Danny Brown’s raw background, the 32-year-old rapper is a gleeful performer. Though much of his crotch-grabbing ego is tongue-in-cheek, he’s the perfect man to command the beer-soaked, horny masses of Sun God.

    — Arielle Sallai
    Senior Staff Writer 

    Youngblood Hawke

    Just as it did with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, UCSD has likely booked another act that is just about to become an international hit. After two years of constant rehearsing, songwriting and reputation-building, Youngblood Hawke is positioned to explode onto the music scene in the next few months. “Wake Up,” the band’s debut album, climbed to 58th place on the Billboard 200 after its debut on April 30, and lead single “We Come Running” can be heard regularly on modern rock and pop stations.

    The attention is well deserved — Youngblood Hawke spent years honing a warm, poppy sound worthy of commercial success. Their music is heavily layered, containing overdubbed vocals, bright synth sounds, acoustic and electric guitar, grand piano and even children’s choir and xylophone as heard in “We Come Running.” The result is a sound that, while very densely arranged, remains clear, straightforward and beautiful.

    Most of the songs by these Echo Park natives sound vibrant and upbeat even when the lyrics can be somber or heavy.  According to lead singer Sam Martin, this is what comes to them most naturally.

    “Sometimes, we’ll have some darker lyrics, and we like to balance that happy music in the background,” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s just fun for us to perform that style of music, and it’s what we’re attracted to. I don’t think we set out specifically to sound really positive and upbeat, but that’s just what makes us feel something.”

    Though their music fits somewhere within the modern pop and rock genres, their influences and favorite acts range from Radiohead to classic rock and roll.

    “[If I could work with any artist], I would like to work with Mick Jagger,” Martin said. “To work with him back in the day would be a dream come true.”

    Martin is also excited to be one of the bands opening for Sun God headliner Kendrick Lamar.

    “[‘good kid, m.A.A.d. city’] is one of my favorite albums,” he said. “I really like his lyrics. They’re very intelligent and storytelling-driven, and I love it.”

    With such a diverse appreciation for music, it makes sense that Youngblood Hawke defies fitting neatly into a genre.

    “I think we all kind of have individual styles, and I think we’re all really close,” Martin said. “I think the thing that we want to get across is that we’re a really tight-knit group of people who are insanely passionate about creating music together.”

    This attitude is precisely what has helped Youngblood Hawke advance in terms of sound and popularity, and it will likely help them become one of the most popular bands in modern rock.

      Kyle Somers
    Staff Writer

    DJ Geo-D

    In the wake of a “plug-and-play” DJ plague that has inspired a new breed of DIY house music, good ol’ classic turntables would seem like a dying art. Not to Geo-D though. Fresh out of San Francisco, DJ Geo “Geo-D” Del Carmen gets back to basics, rooting his style in now-vintage turntablism to create some of the best progressive electronica this side of the Mississippi. Working from age 13 without leaning on the play button other artists so frequently depend upon, Geo-D has made a name for himself by honing a heavy-hitting house style comprised of complex rhythms and breakdowns that will make even the biggest dubstep fans swoon.

    In 2012, Geo-D left his mark on the industry after he participated in Macworld’s first DJ contest in San Francisco, “RISE,” and earned praise for his back-to-the-roots turntabling. Having played alongside electronic greats such as Ferry Corsten, and Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, Geo-D has built himself a clear path into the spotlight. Now remixing and producing his own tracks, Geo-D’s musical artistry and track selection during his live sets reflect the crowd’s higher-than-life reaction to the music.

    The point is: DJ Geo-D was made to make you dance, and Sun God was made for dancing. So get to it. 

      Jacey Aldredge
    A&E Editor

    Adrian Lux

    From Coachella’s Sahara Dance Tent to the grounds of UCSD, we welcome Prinz Adrian Johannes Hynne, a.k.a. Adrian Lux — someone especially appealing to the raver crowd. This Swedish-born producer and DJ is famous for singles “Strawberry” and “Teenage Crime,” both of which integrate light, catchy beats with underlying themes of love and death quite akin to the styles of Kaskade and Crystal Castles. 

    Raised by a punk rocker and a filmmaker, Lux was exposed to music early on. But it wasn’t until the age of 17 that he truly took to music with Jamaican dancehall music and the hip-hop group Dipset as his two major obsessions at the time. After a trip to Brazil, though, Lux’s style drifted away from these reggae and rap subgenres to the sentimental EDM and cool electronic pop that he is famous for today.

    Lux’s flamboyant beats have been gracing European clubs for the past three years. A mix of indie, electronica and house, Lux has been shaped by (and is now shaping) Sweden’s thriving music scene from Calvin Harris to Avicii.

    Lux has already gathered an admirable group of supporters in the DJ world from David Guetta to Tiesto, and his recent American tour will no doubt bring in thousands more fans. Bridging the gap between cutting-edge pop and rush house, Lux touts a vibe unlike any of the other artists set to play Sun God. Great things are expected from this rising star: Don’t be a fool and blackout before this Swedish sensation.

      Lara Budge
    Staff Writer

    Andrew McMahon

    A man of many titles, piano-pop artist Andrew McMahon has remained beloved in an industry notorious for its wavering taste in artists. After selling millions of records as the former frontman of piano-rock bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon is now trying his own name out for size.  With the addition of his alternative pop inspired solo EP “The Pop Underground” to an already booming catalogue of rock music, McMahon is showing no signs of slowing down.

    “It’s endless, I guess,” McMahon said to the Guardian. “I’ve been doing it for so long. I’ve been on the road for 11 to 12 years now.” 

    McMahon recently completed an extensive 25-date U.S. tour and will follow it up by a tour in the U.K. Since Something Corporate’s inception in 1998, McMahon has invented and reinvented his identity and music in line with the developing tastes of his fans.

    This transition from band frontman to solo act shows through in McMahon’s newest tracks. Songs like “After the Fire” exhibit a shift from the piano-rock era into far more upbeat synth-inspired pop that brings the summer heat out early in time for Sun God.

    “As far as this record goes, I think there was a lot of joy in its creation, and there was a lot of freedom in sort of cutting loose of some heavier subject matters,” McMahon said.

    Despite having lived on the east coast until eighth grade, southern California represents what McMahon calls his “promised land.” Orange County is home to both Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin and the inspiration for songs like “Miss California” where a “boxcar on the beach” is where the real fun resides. 

    “You hear quite a bit of regular references to southern California and living by the beach, and, for me, I pull a lot of my personal inspiration and creative inspiration from the Pacific Ocean,” McMahon said.

    And with over a decade of material to pull from, nothing is off limits come Sun God.

    “You can expect a pretty balanced set list between what we’ve been doing out on the road this past month or so — a pretty good amount of Jack’s, Something Corporate and also music off this new EP,” McMahon said.

    With an abundant set list that transcends several genres, McMahon encourages fans to feel the music as much as they hear it.

    “For me, I think I like the way for people to hear my music is to relate to it as personally as possible,” he said. “I think connection is sort of my biggest goal.”

     Pablo Valdivia
    Staff Writer


    With a mysterious background and a musical resume spanning various genres, IndO’s presence at Sun God will be a chance to catch a rising artist in one of his first live performances. IndO first began making music at the age of 7 and spent his childhood mastering classical pieces on the piano. The NorCal native then crossed musical terrain to become a rock guitarist. IndO enjoyed success touring with Versus Us and shared the stage with acts such as Amber Pacific, Sherwood and Quiet Drive. He then wrapped up rock and jumped genres again, arriving at the EDM scene.

    IndO set to work for months, training in his home studio to perfect music production. In 2012, his hard work paid off when he won the Insomniac Discovery Project’s remix contest and premiered at Nocturnal Wonderland electronic music festival. His feel-good dance single “W.L.I.F.A.” earned him a record deal with Manufactured Music. IndO’s sound strikes a similar chord as Daft Punk (such as in “I Wanna”). His heavy use of bass synthesizer and rapid build-ups are deliberate, focused hits of energy that, while aggressive, are more measured in comparison to acts like The Bloody Beetroots. Having finished his EP, “Eviscerate,” IndO is heading down to San Diego to enliven RIMAC field with driving beats and ferocious soundboarding. 

     Raquel Calderon
    Staff Writer


    In a music scene dominated by synth-based pop music and auto-tuned vocals, RAC keeps it simple. Otherwise known as the Remix Artist Collective, the group consists of a trio of members devoted to remixing, mashing and reinterpreting the work of other artists. Adding previously nonexistent melodies and complexities to some of today’s greatest hits, the group has evolved over time from a dorm-room hobby to a major force in today’s music industry, taking on anything from indie bands like The Shins and Penguin Prison to more mainstream fare such as Ellie Goulding, Radiohead and Lady Gaga.

    An underdog college success story, the group was founded from the ground up through the talents of then-sophomore Andre Allen Anjos who eventually joined up with fellow classmate Karl Kling and New York remix artist Andrew Maury. Beginning as just a musical passion, the “collective” drew the attention of big-name artists and recording companies after scoring their first big break remixing the song, “Sleeping Lessons,” for indie rock band The Shins.

    “Remixing was just something that came pretty naturally,” frontman Andre Anjos said in an interview with the Guardian. “I just started college really not thinking about a career or what I’d be doing in life, and all of it kind of happened… It’s all been a big deviation from the original plan. It’s just pure luck to find something that sets you apart, and that’s what we did.”

    The group’s music focuses less on David Guetta-like robot beats and utilizes a more equal combination of instrumentals and synth.

    “Honestly, our goal is just to make these songs better – jumping around genres and adding the RAC sound,” Anjos said. “It’s all about trying things out, never really planning anything, and it’s exciting to just see where things go.” 

    And where things are going is the Sun God Festival, where the former college musician will be playing for a crowd of thousands of UCSD students.

    “San Diego has always been a cool place for us to hang and play music,” he said. “Ever since our days playing at the El Dorado, we’ve always had a special connection, and we can’t wait to try some new stuff at Sun God.”

     Nick Yang
    Staff Writer

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