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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Scouting the Picnic Day concert scene

In between Picnic Day favorites like the Doxie Derby, parade and chemistry magic show, it can be easy to miss the action at the event’s six entertainment stages around campus. But Picnic Day wouldn’t be complete without taking in a free outdoor concert or two. Here’s a handy guide to each stage’s lineup, previewing a few of the acts that are definitely worth checking out.

East Quad (Main Stage)

The largest and most prominent stage on campus, the East Quad’s Main Stage, will host 13 acts. Vanessa Ng, Picnic Day entertainment director, said that her intent was to create a cultural and diverse atmosphere at the East Quad stage.

“I would say it’s more family-friendly,” she said. “We were trying to find new groups around Sacramento and the Bay Area. Just something different – [several] more cultural groups, so we have more diversity.”

Just a few of the groups scheduled to perform are Makosa, an Afro-beat band made up of current and former UC Davis students, New Star Chinese School and Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, the campus taiko drumming club.

“We have a group called Sapo Guapo, a Latin salsa band from Vacaville, and there’s a mariachi group called Mariachi Tanantzi. They’re a family band – three children and their mom and dad will be playing,” Ng said. “I’m looking forward to all of the groups on Main Stage.”

Silo Stage

At the Silo, expect to see an eclectic lineup of musicians representing jazz, folk, rock and roll and a cappella.

Married UC Davis professors Charles Oriel and Julia Simon call themselves Chicken and Dumpling and are looking forward to playing their acoustic blues music for their biggest crowd yet.

“We play in a band called Black Cat Bone,” Oriel said. “Julia plays drums and I play guitar. We decided to form an acoustic duo on the side and do very stripped-down versions of the songs we were doing in the full band.”

Oriel said he’s looking forward to showcasing his musical talents to his students.

“It’s always fun for the students to see us in a context that’s very different from the classroom,” Oriel said. “It’s sometimes surprising to them that we have such a hobby on the side.”

Rock and roll tribute bands Custom Neon and Who Dunnit are also excited to perform for the Picnic Day festivities.

“We’ve played the last three years and it’s a blast,” said Who Dunnit’s Rob Elmore. “This year we’re going to keep it simple.”

“I grew up in this town. I love Picnic Day,” said Custom Neon member Dave Walters, who negotiated with the Picnic Day committee for an extra-long set. “We’re playing two or three Beatles songs, Eagles, Cars, Kinks. Picnic Day is a free gig, but we’re totally stoked to do it and we love Davis.”

ARC Stage

Several independent bands, as well as two dance groups, will perform in front of the ARC. Expect to see the UCD Dance Team, Life on Mars, CJ and the Canyons, Goodbye Gadget and UCD alum Jon Webber, among others.

“We’re calling [my style] West Coast country,” said Webber, who graduated from UC Davis in 2008. “It’s a fusion of Toby Keith, John Mayer but not as pretentious, Taylor Swift with balls, Jason Mraz but less esoteric.”

Webber said he is looking forward to returning to his Davis roots before embarking on a national tour and starting work on his first album in Nashville.

“Being able to play at Picnic Day in Davis, where I found myself and my own music career, is a real blessing,” he said.

Wellman Stage

Wellman stage will host a variety of UC Davis organizations and children’s groups, including The Spokes, UC Davis Gospel Choir and the Davis Swing Kids.

And if you thought rock bands were only for grown-ups, the performance by local band Hotwire is sure to prove you wrong. Made up of three sixth graders and one seventh grader, Hotwire has surprisingly classic taste.

“We all kind of have our own inspirations,” said guitarist and lead singer Brady Corcoran. “Drummer [Riley Donahue] likes AC/DC, I like Pearl Jam, guitarist [Cole Morse] likes Nirvana and the bassist [Theo Farnum] likes Weezer.”

“One of our favorite songs to play is ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by The Clash,” he added. Hotwire also performs original compositions.

Also performing is Kenny Eng, a 2007 UC Davis graduate and a talented singer-songwriter who recently opened for Jason Mraz. Comparing his style to Jeff Buckley and John Mayer, he said that being a music major at Davis helped him improve his musicality and songwriting.

“I really loved my time at Davis and I really loved the community that I was involved in,” Eng said. “I hope [Picnic Day] feels like homecoming.”

In addition to the above stages, the Grandstand Stage in front of Hunt Hall – hosted by KDVS 90.3 FM – has an impressive lineup of bands from Davis as well as Yoshitake from Japan and LA’s Halloween Swim Team. The Mondavi Stage in Vanderhoef Quad will also present performances by student and alumni groups including the Gamelan Ensemble and The Samba Group.

For more information, visit picnicday.ucdavis.edu.

ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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