The past two years, UC Riverside’s HEAT music festival has been riddled with problems — namely, cancellations due to poor weather — and questions looming around whether the beloved concert would be discontinued by the HUB Board. This year, when ASUCR announced that HEAT would be back on, many were curious as to how it would play out, especially given the storm season that has plagued California this year and the decrease in budgeting allotted to the event.
But this year’s HEAT definitely did not disappoint, with stellar performances by artists SZA, Marian Hill and Post Malone along with brilliant DJ sets by student DJs and an army of food trucks. On the heels of Winter SOULstice and Nooner @ Nite, this one-night music festival made the previous concerts this quarter feel like mere preludes to the real thing and, judging by the packed crowd which made watching Post Malone feel like being stuck in a can of sardines, the student body definitely felt some type of way at the return of HEAT.
While the clear draw in for the students were the headlining performers SZA and Post Malone, the majority of the five hour long event was constituted by DJ sets which included student DJs and well as Oshi. Taking place right in front of the HUB patio, these sets were filled to the brim with students bouncing and jiving to the sets by these musicians. Equally split between saccharine EDM anthems, hip-hop classics such as Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” and pop hits like “Bad and Boujee” that got the entire crowd singing lyrics, these sets maintained the bashful atmosphere of the festival in between the performances. There was no shortage of life in between sets, whether it be impromptu group chants or the occasional scuffle as a result of pushing and shoving, ultimately making waiting between artists not too bad. This transition between Marian Hill and SZA was smooth due to the raging atmosphere that these sets provided.
First to grace the Highland stage was pop duo Marian Hill. Attendees were still trickling into the venue, allowing those who came specifically for Marian Hill plenty of room near the front of the stage without being pushed and shoved by a large crowd. Consisting of Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol, the act hailing from Philadelphia began their set with one of their hit songs, “Down.” Met with ecstatic applause, vocalist Gongol swayed and danced around the stage as she sang the lyrics to thrilled concertgoers. They kept the momentum going by performing another one of their hit tracks, “One Time,” immediately after. It was obvious that those who were idly standing by and not too familiar with the duo recognized the track, as many attendees began moving closer and raising their phones to capture the performance.
While Marian Hill’s set was particularly early, their reception by the student body was positive, with many people singing along with their bigger hits such as, “One Time” and “tBack to Me,” performed alongside collaborator Fifth Harmony vocalist Lauren Jauregui.
As Marian Hill left the Highland stage, the crowd slowly began to swell up upon SZA’s arrival. It was refreshing to see that, after the electronic hip-hop duo’s set, SZA mellowed things out a bit with her vivacious vocals. Combine that with an overpowering smell of marijuana in the air and her super down-to-earth personality, SZA proved to be HEAT’s most relaxing set.
Her downtempo R&B was an interesting change of pace from the DJ sets that were playing hard-hitting EDM and trap mixes, but it managed this change incredibly well due to SZA’s stage presence and energetic performance as she danced every which way on the stage. She played tracks such as “Child’s Play,” “Babylon” and even covered a song by toronto artist PARTYNEXTDOOR.
Apart from the raging at the DJ Sets, SZA brought a nocturnal vibe to HEAT which really resonated with the students who were lucky enough to see the TDE-signed artist’s set.
Mid-set, the R&B performer also took the time to talk to the audience about following their dreams. She resounded to everyone inside the tent that even if it means you have to drop out of college, make sure you still hold on to that dream. As cliche as it sounds for an artist to give fans generic advice, the audience got a kick out of it. It only further cemented the artist as a crowd favorite among them.
Aside from all this, SZA’s set unfortunately proved to be rather short, which led to an onslaught of slightly obnoxious DJ music that seemed to take forever until HEAT’s headliner, hip-hop artist Post Malone took the stage inside the tent. It was so short I’m pretty sure SZA didn’t make use of all her stage time. Nonetheless, SZA definitely brought the groove to HEAT this year.
HEAT’s headlining act, late as he was, brought the stuffy night to a close with an entertaining blend of R&B and hip-hop amidst a haze of marijuana smoke. If only the crowd would have dropped their phones for a second to let the energy fully possess them — but that phenomenon is neither here nor there and is nothing new for frequent concertgoers. Nevertheless, Post got the crowd raging for some time, performing his track, “I Fall Apart” live for the first time. Love him or hate him, Post put on a show, with his performance of “Go Flex” showcasing the young star’s charisma and ability to amp a venue up exceptionally.
Toward the middle of the set came the deep cuts, which lost the crowd’s enthusiasm for the “White Iverson” songsmith. Those in the front, likely jaded from ignorance of his discography, left early in disappointment. Post also took the time to address the haters a couple of times, with his track “Big Lie,” but it felt slightly out of place considering the atmosphere of HEAT favoring mindless fun over vague animosity. But for a musician often considered a one hit wonder, Post took the ambivalence in stride and clearly enjoyed his time performing. The hooks saw the energy returning for finite moments until the more well-known bangers like “Congratulations” came on, drawing many peripheral viewers closer to the heart of the pit. The climax of the night easily went to his live rendition of “White Iverson,” full of voices repeating the lyrics in merriment before the R&B crooner joined the crowd for a final hook. Attendees were generally unsure as to whether he fell into the crowd or purposely stepped down; regardless, the single was well-performed and even gave reluctant critics something to admire.
Overall, HEAT 2017 maneuvered presumed shortcomings to deliver a resounding success, properly topping off a winter quarter already filled with shows. For those second and third-year students who never experienced this winter quarter concert, this year’s HEAT served as a fulfilling reparation for its cancellation two years in a row, delivering an unforgettable night (at least for those sober enough to remember it).