The Downfall of Sun God Festival and ASCE


Lea Vazquez, Senior Staff Writer

Before coming to UC San Diego, I didn’t know much about the school. During college decision season, I researched every UC I was accepted into, learning about what each campus had to offer. Digging into every university’s reputation was how I first learned about UCSD’s Sun God festival. Looking at the Wikipedia page, I was shocked to see how good the past lineups were. No Doubt, Joji, My Chemical Romance, and Snoop Dogg are just a few of the artists that have performed at the festival years prior. Sun God is included in many lists of top college festivals, with even the Sun God website stating that it has been named one of the “Top 5 College Concerts That Should Be Actual Festivals.” After a two-year hiatus during COVID, I was excited to see what my first Sun God would have in store. 

So, when last year’s lineup was released, I was disappointed with what I saw, and a lot of students were in the same boat. When Associated Students Concerts & Events first announced the 2022 lineup, comments expressed discontent with the performers. With @/filipinospahettii writing, “When the headliner is worse than the rest of the acts,” and @/genevievecogar commenting, “Aren’t u guys embarrassed to bring us a bunch of artists that we’re gonna embarrass by not being into their music/ being completely uninterested in front of them??” The problem with the lineup for me was that most of the artists had blown up on TikTok. And, listen, as someone who checks the app daily and has discovered a lot of different artists through it, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that. 

The main issue was that the headliner was only known for one song that blew up on TikTok. If we look at the 2022 Sun God headliner Iann Dior, his top song on Spotify, “Mood (feat Iann Dior),” has over a billion streams. His next most popular song has about 300 million, which, yes, is still a lot, but if you’re comparing it to “Mood,” you can argue that Iann Dior is a one-hit-wonder. Sure, I knew the song before finding out he was headlining, but I never knew who sang it until I saw him perform on stage. The same goes for Peach Tree Rascals; while their most famous song, “Mariposa,” has about 300 million streams, the next most popular song has only 12 million. It felt like ASCE just thought, “Oh yeah, everyone knows those two popular songs on TikTok; let’s book them!” This, in turn, created a mundane festival experience with artists attempting to offer an energetic performance but resulted in several students, including myself, watching from the grass. 

On to this year! “Hey, Associated Students got a lot of negative feedback with last year’s festival lineup. Hopefully, they, as a student-elected government, will consider student input and try to improve this year’s lineup,” one might assume ASCE would think to themselves. Unfortunately, not only is the lineup still a strong point of contention among the student body, but ASCE also responded to negative responses in a childish manner. They created a cringe-inducing “response video” to the backlash towards this year’s lineup that was so arrogant and passive-aggressive that it had to be taken down a day later. I agree that some comments about last year’s and this year’s lineups were harsh, but as a student organization that is supposed to be for the students, that response felt like something out of high school. 

The only thing in the video that gave students any knowledge about the process of the festival was the budget breakdown, which is the most frustrating part for me. Only a quarter of the budget goes into the lineup, while 40% goes towards security. For what? Of course, people sneaking in drugs and alcohol is always a concern, but is it enough of an issue to warrant allocating almost half the budget for it? It’s a music festival, not a being-surrounded-by-security extravaganza. Rather than banning all alcohol and creating a problem that doesn’t need to exist, why not create a wristband system that allows students 21+ to drink? Then, alcohol can be served at the festival, like at other ASCE events, and they can make more of an income and decrease the number of people trying to sneak in alcohol, effectively creating a safer environment. Current security goes to great lengths to breathalyze the students, only to throw them in what’s basically purgatory: a yoga mat and trash can lined room filled with many students who are as drunk as a sailor — more than likely as a result of needing to pre-game and then sneaking in more alcohol due the stringent no tolerance policies. What is meant to be a “safe space” is anything but, and a totally humiliating experience!

Despite my complaints with ASCE, I will say that the lineup has improved from last year. However, students still expressed discontent with the lineup in the comments on ASCE’s Instagram. I wanted to get a more in-depth understanding of how students felt about this year’s Sun God. So, I made a Google Form asking students about their experiences. When asked what they thought about the lineup, many responded with critiques about the choice of performers. One student writes, “Personally, I think half of the lineup did offer an enjoyable experience. I wasn’t a huge fan of the lineup and wished there might have been more relevant names, even if they’re considered ‘small.’” 

However, not all responses were negative; one student stated, “I thought it was good; I feel like it could’ve gone in a different order because I feel like Knock2 as the headliner would’ve been excellent.” The sequence in which each performer went on stage was unusual. Boys World, a predominantly pop group, was the opener. The group offered an upbeat performance, and while I have my quips with their vocals, I can let it slide because it was a much more lively performance in comparison to Khai Dreams, who was probably the poorest choice of performers this year. The crowd was stagnant for the whole set. That’s not to put Khai Dreams down, but their music genre is simply not one that is right for a live performance at a music festival. It’s soft and doesn’t offer the crowd any opportunities to dance or mosh. 

Instead of popularity, the bands should be arranged in order of how lively their genre of music is. The biggest thing about festivals is the atmosphere the artists create; it is supposed to be upbeat and high energy. The artists that ASCE books sometimes miss the mark on that. And many students feel that way, with one student writing, “I think a lot of students at UCSD really want the music festival experience, high energy music and upbeat with Sun God, and the lineup didn’t really deliver.” It shouldn’t be about whether or not their song is relevant on TikTok or how many monthly listeners they have; it should be based on whether they have the potential to offer a quality performance for students. 

ASCE needs to learn to hear its student population out. However, because of how they deal with their criticism, it feels like they’re curating a festival in their own interest rather than the interests of the student body. Working with students to give them the event they want is something they deserve. While it is hard to please everyone, pushing aside constructive criticism will not do us any good — not just with music, but with all the other factors of the festival too. The only way to re-earn the title of one of the “College Concerts That Should be an Actual Festival” is to listen to what students have to say. While many students enjoyed their experience this year, a lot of work still needs to be done to return Sun God to the glory that it once was. There’s always room to improve, ASCE just needs to be open to it. Will they be more receptive next year? I guess we will have to wait and see.


Image courtesy of UC San Diego Today