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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Davis Rave Company: reinventing Davis nightlife

How Davis Rave Co. is cultivating a greater live music scene in a small town


By LILY FREEMAN — features@theaggie.org


When a long academic week comes to a close, UC Davis students can always look forward to mornings spent perusing the Farmers Market and afternoons reading in local cafes. Once the sun sets, however, they’re stuck settling for one of few bleak options as they decide on their Friday night ventures.

Quality nightlife is sparse in Davis, especially because most of the town’s establishments close before 9 p.m. Caden Velasquez, founder of Davis Rave Company (Co.) and recent UC Davis graduate, is looking to fill this gap. 

Created in Jan. 2023 by UC Davis Students, Davis Rave Co. pushes the boundaries of creative expression and live music, from throwing elaborate concerts to festival-like events. They promote local artists while giving the community experiences that go further than your average college party. 

“There were very few opportunities for the high number of talented people — musicians, producers and DJs — to show their work and perform on a big stage,” Velasquez said. “This is where I saw that I could make an impact.” 

What began as an Instagram account to promote local musicians in the area is now a team of student musicians, producers, videographers and content creators all dedicated to cultivating a greater nightlife scene in Davis.

“I established a reputation where if I promoted an event, it would be a good one,” Velasquez said. “Then, I realized that I could host the events myself.” 

Velasquez and his team tested the waters, putting together shows with lineups of several musicians at local venues and houses. Davis Rave Co.’s first show featured just two DJs and a saxophone player at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen. 

“We actually attracted a huge crowd,” Velasquez said. “I still go to Sophia’s today, and people will be talking about it. After that, I knew that there was potential here. There’s so many people who want to see local artists do their thing.” 

From there, the team grew, and their ambitions did too. With the desire to host an event that could accommodate hundreds, but a lack of affordable places in town to make that happen, Davis Rave Co. set out to create venues from open space. 

In Oct. 2023, residents of The Domes, a living co-op near campus, reached out to Velasquez with a vision for what could be hosted on their grounds. Davis Rave Co. then devised the Dome Rave. 

On the night of the event, Aaron Helali, fourth-year biological sciences major and production director of Davis Rave Co., said that he and attendees walked into what felt like a “festival ground.” 

With vibrant stages, strobe lights and several 16-foot inflatable LED mushrooms placed all around the space, the team designed a visually captivating atmosphere. To keep students safe, they established a security team — and with the goal of making the night especially memorable, they even hired a flash tattoo artist.

“It’s the holistic approach that we take toward planning events that makes us stand out,” Velasquez said. “We’re not a party group, we’re a creative agency.” 

With over 500 attendees, the Dome Rave exceeded Velasquez’s expectations. 

“It was more than live music; it was knowing that our team created an experience that a student in Davis had never had before,” Velasquez said. 

The Dome Rave grew the Davis Rave Co. name, where the group’s priority was next to keep the momentum going. They began putting together as many performances as possible in an effort to consistently give students something to look forward to. 

“Davis Rave Co. is a lot broader than the name really suggests,” Helali said. “With our wide range of musical talents, we have everything from jazz to EDM to ‘80’s themed.” 

Renting out smaller venues such as Rock Band University and the Root of Happiness Kava Bar, the team has been putting on weekly shows with varying admission fees since Jan. 2024. 

One problem that Davis Rave Co. faces is the proportion of eager attendees to the space that accommodates them. Not all shows can be like the Dome Rave, and many Davis venues don’t have the capacity to host hundreds of students. 

Nola Zimdars, a third-year design major and attendee of the Jazz Show hosted on Feb. 2, said that while she enjoyed the event, she also spent a good portion of it waiting to get inside due to the venue quickly reaching maximum capacity. Despite the fact that most had already paid $20 for a ticket prior to the event, many spent a lot of the night in line. 

“It definitely could have been organized better,” Zimdars said. “For something that’s  student-run in a town where there’s not much else going on, though, how much can I really complain?”

Zimdars further recognized that Davis Rave Co. is doing the hard part.

“Orchestrating an event with artists, lights, sound and lots of rowdy students is going to come with problems,” Zimdars said. “I appreciate the hard work that is going on behind the scenes, but they need to better prepare for their events as they grow in popularity.” 

The Davis Rave Co. team is learning from each show that they put on, according to Helali.

“There’s so much more to it than just a party,” Helali said. “We are always asking ourselves, ‘What can we improve?’ and ‘What did we do well?’ We get to harbor the vibe, and we’re trying to make it a good one.” 

Velasquez says that this is just the beginning of Davis Rave Co., where they are currently working toward putting on large-scale shows similar to the Dome Rave and even a tour across California. 

“Our vision is to set the stage for freedom, love and wonder, which can be achieved in so many different ways,” Velasquez said. “It’s a process where we’re taking baby steps, but we’re also thinking big. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew, but we’re also being ambitious with what we can achieve.” 

Those who want to find upcoming shows and purchase tickets can go to the Davis Rave Co. website. Community members can specifically look forward to their upcoming show on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m., where Gudfella and DJ Mandy will be headlining at The Melon Ball.  


Written by: Lily Freeman — features@theaggie.org


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