The Barn, which has hosted countless performers in its years at UCR, is being closed for renovations. Aside from the next Comedy Apocalypse on May 13, the Barn will not be hosting any more events for an indeterminate amount of time, and only time will tell how much will have changed when the doors reopen. The Barn is iconic, as many students and faculty have spent hours there, eating or seeing whatever musical act or performance the week has to offer. It’s recognizable to non-UCR students as well, as anyone who has seen the music video for Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” will undoubtedly recognize its wooden hypostyle columns and snaky lettering behind the stage.
One of my first memories of the Barn is from my first year at UCR, when I stood in line waiting to buy tickets to see People Under the Stairs. The tickets were sold out, I was still unadjusted to my new life in a new city, and some loud 20-something was loudly complaining about the Barn’s lack of alcohol, hoping someone would sell him a ticket. On Wednesday, People Under the Stairs returned to the Barn to give it a show that would serve as a proper send-off. I had a ticket this time, and I’m glad I was able to witness what may very well be the last Barn show I’ll ever see as a UCR student.
The night kicked off with little pomp and circumstance, as there was only a modest crowd of about 20 when the opening act, Open Mike Eagle, came to the stage. As a sort of pre-show ritual, he held out a plastic gold and rhinestone crown for the crowd to touch, which was then placed somewhere out of sight. Open Mike Eagle favored a very minimalist approach to hip-hop, wearing a modest outfit and carrying out all the DJing and rapping activities himself. His lyrics were dark and brooding at times, as he rapped about ISIS, Boko Haram and violence. Shying away from typical lyrics that glorify excess and materialism that is almost endemic to mainstream rap, Open Mike Eagle had a modest, thoughtful persona, and jokingly interacted with the audience about his life and equipment malfunctions between songs. One highlight of his performance was his so-called “The Advice Show,” where he asked the audience if anyone had any problems they needed help with. “I’m really good at giving advice, who has a problem?” “I smoke way too much weed!” someone from the back of the audience quipped. “My advice is to not smoke too much weed,” was Open Mike Eagle’s sage wisdom.
As he performed, the few stragglers who remained on the patio began to file in; drawn to the stage it seemed, by the sheer force of Open Mike Eagle’s lyrical will. The crowd continued to grow as Open Mike Eagle completed his set and started working the merchandise table, as Double K and Thes One of People Under the Stairs began finishing their equipment set-up.
At the point that People Under the Stairs began their set, the event switched from a typical Barn show to what will henceforth be known as “Aldo’s Party.” Now, People Under the Stairs is known for being irreverent and eccentric, with lyrics that mostly cover having fun, video games, drinking and smoking. The only social critique was when Double K offhandedly remarked “Fuck Baltimore” before their first song. The crowd at this size was about the size of a modest house party, with about 50 or so people pressed up against the stage. One student, Aldo, was at the front and center of the crowd, filming with his cell phone. After a brief bit of frank dialogue between Thes One and Aldo, during which it was ascertained that this was Aldo’s first hip-hop show, Thes One promised to make it a good one. Before almost every song, they would ask how Aldo was doing, ask what he thought about the music and during their two freestyle pieces, managed to mention both him, UCR and the Barn several times. “This isn’t a Barn show, this is Aldo’s party! All of you are fucking lucky to even be here!” Thes remarked midway through their set. At one point, Thes threw Aldo his jacket.
The Barn crowd was of modest proportions, with Double K and Thes One keeping the energy at a huge level and almost everyone in the audience waving their hands and jumping with amazing energy. Double K and Thes One took turns talking with other members of the crowd, occasionally grabbing their cell phones for the length of a set or taking selfies. “I took your phone and didn’t even call your momma,” Double K told one student. “You’re not supposed to be here, you’re supposed to be at home doin’ the dishes.” “Are you going to upload this to YouTube?” Thes One asked another audience member.
Aside from performing several of their hit songs, the two also had witty banter between them, and took a few moments to perform a spot-on rendition of ACDC’s “Back in Black,” complete with an Angus Young impression from Thes One.
For the last performance, which was of the duo’s popular track “San Francisco Knights,” the lights in the Barn were shut off, the stage illuminated by several cell phones and a smattering of lighters. Everyone sang along, and the band brought the room’s energy to a fervent climax, the voices of the room at the same level of the two performers. Though the lights did come back on to show the patrons to the door at the end of the set, it served as a perfect ending to the show and this chapter of the Barn’s history. Though it may be some time until the lights in the Barn come on again, it will undoubtedly burn bright in the thoughts of those lucky enough to have attended this show, or any Barn show, for the years to come.