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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024



UC Davis’ annual big act rocks the Pavilion

On Monday, April 23, alt-J’s U.S. tour came to the UC Davis Pavilion. The concert marked the first big show put on by ASUCD Entertainment Council since last year’s Chance the Rapper gig. The British indie rock band was joined by rising pop artist BØRNS, who spent the last two weekends performing at the renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

As is typical for most UC Davis concerts, the show began at 8 p.m. on the dot. The late start that is characteristic of a big show was nowhere to be found in this sleepy college town. Because of this, as soon as BØRNS took the stage, it became clear that his act would be rushed. Such is the nature of a concert opener at UC Davis.

As he played, it also became clear that a large part of BØRNS’s music appeal is his image and subsequent stage presence. With BØRNS’ next song beginning almost as soon as the previous had ended, the rushed nature of the show understandably undercut his opening performance. Nevertheless, he was able to salvage his show by ending with his trademark song, “Electric Love,” wowing the crowd with his vocal range and guitar skills.

If one wanted a metaphor for his performance, it came during his final bow: after catching flowers from an adoring fan in the crowd, another fan threw a vinyl record at the singer, hitting him squarely in the face as he fumbled with his flowers.

After a 30-minute interlude for stage prep, alt-J made their long-awaited arrival. The three band members emerged shrouded in smoke and surrounded by flickering lights — an awesome sight. The band played songs from all three of its acclaimed studio albums, each track paired with a different intricate light show, serving to both engage the audience and convey the feeling and message of each song.

For “Hunger of the Pine,” the lights turned a dark orange. Coupled with the undulating smoke, the stage appeared to be covered in burning embers, perfectly matching the dark and mysterious song. In contrast, the track “3WW” from their most recent album, “Relaxer,” was paired with grass-green lights and amorphous shapes, backdropped by the lyrics: “There was a wayward lad / Stepped out one morning / The ground to be his bed / The sky his awning.”

The show took on a feeling much like that of last year’s Chance the Rapper concert. Between songs, members of the audience could audibly be heard wondering aloud, “Is this really alt-J at UC Davis?” It’s no secret that, until recently, Davis had often been overlooked by larger musical acts. The annual “big shows” at UC Davis are therefore all the more important for students, staff and residents — we all know these are special moments.

alt-J made sure that that moment became all the more special with their last two songs: uptempo renditions of “Left-Hand Free” and their most popular track, “Breezeblocks.” The energy throughout both songs assured audience members had the perfect nightcap. Even when the band walked off stage and the lights flicked on, signaling the end of the festivities, illuminated fans could be seen bobbing heads and dancing with trance-like happiness. Another “big show” in the books for UC Davis, another special moment.


Written by: Rowan O’Connell-Gates — arts@theaggie.org


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