NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles by contibuting writers from American colleges on the dance music scenes around their campus.
California is the place to be if you love electronic music, with EDM powerhouses like Los Angeles and San Francisco manufacturing DJs left and right, we’re quite spoiled with the best music around. Although these cities attract the biggest artist to play in clubs with major production budgets, overwhelming crowds, traffic and overpriced tickets can kill any vibe, this is why smaller towns like Santa Barbara are becoming popular destinations for both DJ’s and music advocates everywhere. Santa Barbara encompases the California lifestyle to the fullest, beautiful beaches full of lively students from local colleges, over 250 days of sun a year and of course, love for every genre of electronic music. We may not have the biggest clubs or the brightest lights, but Santa Barbara does attract some of the best artists to play in some of the most obscure events, from playing college house parties to renegade mountain raves that throwing you straight back to the nineties, there is something for everyone to enjoy here.
Welcome to University of California Santa Barbara, a place where regardless of what you’re majoring in, graduating from here will earn you an unspoken degree in the arts of partying through the eyes of every future employer. UCSB (or “U Can Study Buzzed”) hosts a wide array of electronic events that attract all walks of life, from your muscle tank bros to snobby techno lovers. With such an abundance of shows on campus (most of them free to students), everyone can find their niche. Recent shows organized by the Associated Students Board have included Purity Ring, Sweater Beats and Gorgon City and headliners of their annual Extravaganza festival have featured headliners such as Dada Life, Diplo, Wolfgang Gartner and Rusko. Equipped with its own student run radio station, KCSB runs 24/7 and hosts some amazing electronic shows and discussions about the current state of electronic music. Altogether, UCSB boasts great events for everyone while also nourishing raw talent to allow students to develop on experimental ideas.
2. Partying in Isla Vista
Adjacent to the campus of UCSB, lies a small beach community of students that is Isla Vista. The infamous party town can easily be mistaken for a festival on any given weekend, with dozens of aspiring DJ’s turning yards into dancefloors and thousands of kids stumbling through the streets. But like at any festival, club drugs can definitely play a big role in weekend festivities, ecstasy, acid and cocaine are usually more readily available than alcohol for anyone under the age of 21. Local DJs are everywhere, spinning a wide variety of genres and eager to slip some of their own productions in during a house party.
Up and coming producer Angel Vazquez from local group Nekbreakerz stated, “Due to Isla Vista’s huge student diversity, there are all types of artists and styles. The artists that are successful in their area are those who can keep the crowd dancing with mixed genre mixing of EDM, Hiphop and classics."
”Even after gaining much recognition, artist like Porter Robinson, Candyland and Seven Lions have all played house parties in this small college paradise. Students in the area have recently made a noticeable transition from playing popular EDM anthems to more fitting genres. Tropical house and deep house have become more common, with artists such as Kygo, Thomas Jack, Flume, Odesza and Disclosure routinely heard echoing through the streets.
3. Shows on shows
Santa Barbarbarians are often reluctant to leave their beautiful oasis for anything although Los Angeles is a mere hour and a half away. Fortunately, acts often make a stop in the area while on tour in California, sometimes completely unannounced. Local companies such as Red Eye Presents have been bringing high profile acts such as Flume and Porter Robinson for many years. Clubs downtown see weekly surprises from DJs touring through the area, RI Grime played a surprise birthday set at EOS Lounge in February, other artists such as Thomas Jack. J.Phlip and Justin Martin have also recently made appearances at the club. Upcoming shows RedEye are hosting include Duke Dumont and Odesza sold out almost immediately benefitting only local companies in the area who were involved. Shows in the area maintain a very local and intimate vibe with the absence of corporate intimidation, whether the capacity is 200 or 2,000 meeting your favorite artist is not uncommon.
4. Finding a mountain rave
Get lost in the mountains of Santa Barbara on a full moon and you might find yourself in the midst of a secret moon tribe mountain rave. Equipped with gasoline generators to power tribal techno beats all night and a staggering amount of drugs supplied for lights, these parties last well into the sunrise and are rarely ever shut down. These renegade events maintain a deep underground atmosphere, run by some serious veterans of the scene, you are sure to learn a thing or two about real raving. These events pop up out of nowhere often releasing information a few hours before they begin.
5. Lucidity Festival
Of the few music festivals in Santa Barbara the most unique and out of the ordinary is Lucidity. A small camping boutique festival held over three days, Live Oak campgrounds is transformed into a mystical wonderland full of mind-bending installations every spring.
This year featured artists such as David Starfire, Thriftworks, Luminaries, Christian Martin, Doorly and The Polish Ambassador and over 60 local DJs over the three main stages. Volunteer organizers at Lucidity bring together a huge variety of local food trucks, artists and merchants that will accept work for meals and other commodities, creating a vibe strongly resembling that of Burning Man. With over 200 workshops covering everything from music therapy to fire dancing lessons , Lucidity brings more than just amazing music to the campgrounds, attendees take with them experience and skills that last a lifetime.