Photo by Richard Lin
Photo by Richard Lin

Last Friday night at HUB 302, everyone was dressed their best in formal shirts and ties or dresses and heels. Along the walls, there were stacks upon stacks of fresh pizza and churros ready for sale, a variety of items for auction, and a professional photo area. And at the heart of it all was a bona fide stage, which would go on to host 12 performances by the end of the night. It was the Sixth Annual Kids Rock Benefit Concert (K-Rock) held by UCR’s branch of Circle K International (CKI), and it wouldn’t have taken long for one to notice the grandeur in the room and know that they’re in for a hell of show.

Of course, that grandeur really shouldn’t come as a surprise; Circle K International is the largest collegiate volunteer organization in the world (with branches as far out as China and Haiti) and UCR’s own branch has upward of 130 members. And while K-Rock is their largest-scale event, CKI remains committed to its mission of service year-round. “We do anything, and everything, really,” said CKI Vice President Katerina Yu, “Whatever speaks out to us.” Some of their ongoing services include tutoring at Longfellow Elementary School every Monday, working with a food bank on Jefferson Street every Wednesday and a different community service project every Saturday. “I feel like that kind of differentiates us from other service orgs in that we have so much service for people to do that they can pick and choose which ones to attend,” said CKI President Vincent Ng. “But the best part is you’re helping people, and sometimes you get to see them smile.”

K-Rock started six years ago when a past CKI president was able to gather a few musicians together to play at the Barn to raise money for Pediatric Trauma Program, and has been a great success every year. Last year’s concert brought in $2,000 in just one night! But it’s not just because of the monetary success that CKI keeps putting on this show. “It’s more of an outreach thing. One of our goals was to get the campus involved and supporting each other and supporting other organizations. It creates this great community and network not only of service, but enjoying music together for a good cause,” said Yu. “And everyone likes music,” added Ng.

This network of organizations was apparent in the slew of performances from UCR groups and artists as well as other reputable performers like headliner and prominent YouTuber David Choi. With so many artists lined up, K-Rock started at 5 and ended at 10 p.m. for a whopping five hours of continuous performance.

The first performance was from UCR’s Senryu Taiko, whose signature booming drum beats and stick rattling filled the air as the audience went from a collection of early birds to a modest crowd. Next up was the student a capella group, Not So Sharp, who started drawing the audience to the stage with their melodies and talented beat boxer, ending their set with a particularly great medley of “Billie Jean,” “September” and “Smooth Criminal.” After that was Hip-Hop Congress, who brought an incredible energy to the stage, bringing more of the audience away from their chit-chatting clusters in the back of the room and toward the front of the stage chanting “K-Rock! K-Rock!” Then there was Kat Padlaan, who presented an acoustic rendition of the great 90s childhood classic that is the Pokemon theme song before delving into some of her original work. And then there was HMWK (pronounced “homework”), a hip-hop duo that pumped the energy back up in the audience after the preceding, more relaxed tunes.

Easily noticed near the end of HMWK’s set was the giant horde of yellow shirts, suspenders and beanies that began pouring into the room. It was the dance group Collective Faction, who performed a huge dance number with music and costumes to the theme of “Despicable Me,” complete with the absurd collar of Vector and a giant, stuffed “it’s so fluffy” unicorn. The sheer amount of people moving in perfect synchronization was almost hypnotic, and looking away for just a second would mean missing at least seven things at once.

After that was violinist Albert Chang, also known as Sleightlymusical, who attempted to use music in a different way than the other performers. Specifically, by showing the audience how his special knowledge of music and tonology can be used to read people, turning his piece into more of a magic show than anything else. He took volunteers, had them draw on large sheets of paper what they felt from his violin-playing and was able match up each drawing to its artist based on who their favorite musician was. For his last trick, he upped the ante by recreating the last volunteer’s drawing without ever taking a glance at it.

The lights came on then for an intermission, answering the question in many minds that yes, all that entertainment was just half of the night. But with the lighting back, it was noticeable that now the amount of people in the room had grown exponentially since the early performances. Also noticeable was no significant drop-off in attendance — a pleasant rarity among most HUB 302 affairs, especially so for those of this length. It seemed as though everyone was enthusiastic enough to stick around laughing with one another, dance, line up for photos with David Choi or grab another churro. The friendly sense of togetherness that permeated the room the entire night really resonated with the second tenet of CKI’s new slogan: “Come for the service, stay for the fellowship and aspire for the leadership.”

The intermission ceased and a slew of student performers brought the students back into the music. Mark Mejia, Dianne Tulud and Joshua Quinto, and Natalie Yip all produced serious cheering and praise for their own renditions of classics and top 40 songs. Following them was the hip-hop artist and one-man-show DanakaDan, whose unceasing hype had everyone’s hands in the air nearly the entirety of his performance. Finally, David Choi and his band took the stage, and despite having stood, swayed, bobbed and danced for four hours prior, the audience warmly received their headliner. While he kept apologizing for being jet-lagged, it was impossible to tell if he actually was bringing anything less than his very best to the table. His smooth jams and warm vibes were a perfect way to end the night.

“The golden moments for me (of being in CKI) are when I see our influence outreach to other people,” said Yu. “Hopefully that fosters a whole new generation of people who give back.” And after attending the Sixth Annual Kids Rock Benefit Concert, one can’t help but be inspired to become a next part of that new generation. Because whether it is for serving those in need, or for a marathon of music, Circle K International really knows how to bring people together.