It’s been another huge year for A&E in Riverside this year. From the huge and laugh-out-loud success of “Spamalot” to the thrill of seeing 21-year-old Chance the Rapper perform at UCR’s HEAT concert (which actually happened!), the bar was set high for us this year — but this year’s successes simply set the bar even higher. Students may go through the same motions of our quarter system — from bright-eyed, fresh and eager for school to begin by Fall, to darkened eyes and grey hairs by Spring — but our school’s artistic culture always manages to hold us together, as a reminder to always look on the bright side of life.

Music festivals: Turning up with the crowd

Block Party, the first major music festival of the year, was definitely a success. With performances by rapper Vic Mensa, pop reggae band MAGIC! and DJ Dillon Francis, UCR students experienced exhilarating sets from start to finish. Mensa got the party going with an energy-filled set, bouncing to and fro while spitting rapid flows to get the crowd excited and moving. The Save Money rapper was followed by MAGIC! who got everyone in the crowd dancing as they performed their hit song “Rude” along with several of their other reggae-influenced tunes and covers. Ending the night was Francis. His performance was not only impressive musically but visually as well. Lasers lighted up the stage as Francis performed from an elevated center stage, creating an unforgettable performance and ending the night on a high note.

Following Block Party in the line of music festivals was HEAT. Performers included Smallpools, Panic! at the Disco, Giraffage, 3LAU and Chance the Rapper. Smallpools proved to be a nice opener for the concert, getting the crowd warmed up and excited for what was to come. Following Smallpools was Panic! at the Disco. The crowd shouted lyrics at full volume while dancing along to the music and Brendon Urie’s impressive vocals. Both 3LAU and Giraffage provided great EDM sets that kept the crowd moving. Headliner Chance the Rapper, who also brought out The Social Experiment, put on a stellar performance. Chance’s energy was out of this world and he provided the perfect ending to a great night of music and dancing.

Ending the music festivals for the year was Spring Splash with performances by DJ Mustard, Pusha T, MS MR and Flosstradamus. DJ Mustard killed it with his personal mixes into top 20 hits, while Pusha T delivered a smooth show of his hit songs. MS MR’s relaxing indie sound brought some much-needed variety to the electronic-heavy show, and Flosstradamus ended the day with heavy beats and drops that brought the whole crowd together in a tight mosh pit of thousands.

Drama: when playwrights tug at our heartstrings

UCR’s Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production produced fantastic material this school year, with students and faculty directing and acting in pieces that worked our heartstrings like a pianist. The theatre department kicked off this year with “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” a comedy-musical based off the famous film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Behind the lead of Khalif Gillet and his spot-on portrayal of the ever-clumsy King Arthur, it was a great start in Fall quarter. Following that was “Measure for Measure,” another comedy and a Shakespearean “problem play,” re-imagined to be in early 20th century Mexico. “Mrs. Packard” dove into more serious territory as Bella Merlin directed a wonderful take on the true story of Elizabeth Packard, and the emotional truths that come about when a woman is silenced for speaking her mind. All together, the theater was excellent at what it does best: teaching us how to feel.

At the Barn: talent abound

This year featured plenty of indie artists to take the stage at the Barn, whether or not they held mainstream success or remained in the underground. Acts like Bad Bad Not Good and We Are Scientists sprinkled in bits and pieces of jazz-rock fusion and ‘80s synth pop to give students their money’s worth. Following the different music venues was Comedy Apocalypse and its ability to steal a few hours away from our busy lives to remind us that, amidst the stress and angst of college life, there’s always room for laughter.

Film: showing off the talent behind the camera

The film talent was even bigger this year at the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production’s third annual film festival, with dozens of talented student filmmakers debuting their movies at the Arts Building on campus. Pieces like “Azalea and the Mountaintop” by Gabriel Garcia Jr. and “Anamnesis” by Carlos Viejobueno commanded the seamless mix of highly striking visuals with fairy tale-like story telling. Other films like “Citizen Insane” by Adam Wagner and “The Who, What, And Why We Won’t Work” by Alex Gardels lightened the festival’s serious atmosphere with their own quirky sketches and dry humor. The festival culminated in the department film “Control Your State,” which was written and directed by MFA students Lisa Umhoefer and Nate Hochstettler, respectively, and was also guided by Dean Cundey, who shot classics like “The Thing,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Jurassic Park.”