Ranking the biggest events of the year, from the hot to the sultry to the disappointing
In addition to the celebrity lecturers, free early movie screenings and their fall and spring concert series, UCR’s Associated Students Program Board (ASPB) also hosts the three biggest events of every Highlander’s academic year: fall quarter’s Block Party, winter quarter’s Winter Soulstice and spring quarter’s Spring Splash. Although Winter Soulstice is a lowkey, small scale occasion compared to the two giants that open and close the year, all three annual events are an incredibly fun way to spend time with friends, enjoy free live music — from artists that usually tend to blow up not long after performing at UCR, as most students brag — and get that necessary photo for Instagram to commemorate the college life. Every year, ASPB manages to put on a fantastic show at best and a tolerable experience at worst; while Block Party and Spring Splash 2020 were unfortunately canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, students may still be able to experience the priceless memories that these events will undoubtedly bring.
- Coming in at the best concert of the year is Block Party — aside from the decent musical acts, diverse array of food trucks, giveaways and arrangement of interesting activities to do with friends, the true magic of Block Party is in its timing. Block Party is held at the end of Week 0, at a time when most professors have opted to only go over the syllabus and the only things to truly worry about is finding parking and how to strike up a conversation with that cutie in your discussion. The flurry of classes is gearing up but only slightly, which allows students to indulge with their peers without guilt. And Highlanders know how to indulge — one negative about Block Party is that, with the optimal timing and all students back on campus, the pregaming skids too much into the extreme and medics have to be on standby to assist the college kids on the verge of blacking out. It’s not uncommon to bump into intoxicated students in line or in the crowds despite the heightened security of recent years. But sober students need not fret; there are plenty of attractions for those who don’t want to spend hours pressed against one another under the sweltering September sun. In 2017, students were able to go on carnival rides, rock climb or take free photobooth pictures while they waited for ASAP Ferg and Playboi Carti to perform. Since, ASPB has ensured that there are plenty of attractions, like bungee jumping and henna artists, on hand and has hired performers sure to keep the crowd pumped.
- For rhythm and blues (R&B) music lovers, Winter Soulstice is the concert for you. While Spring Splash and Block Party are notorious for featuring trap and electronic dance music (EDM) artists, Winter Soulstice is all about sultry vibes to brighten up the dull winter. Winter quarter is like the Wednesday of the academic year — the enchantment of college life has faded a bit, California transitions from blue skies to dreary rain and the students are bogged down by readings, internships and jobs. Winter Soulstice manages to turn things around, at least for a day, to deliver an groovy experience for the Highlanders who don’t want to be trapped in massive crowds listening to booming beats. While Winter Soulstice has no food vendors, there are still giveaways leading up to and at the event. Better yet, this is the one annual event aimed for people who prefer softer sounds and calmer crowds. The lineup is always top notch for those with any sort of interest in indie or R&B. In recent years, ASPB has brought on H.E.R., Doja Cat, Brent Faiyaz, Omar Apollo, Alina Baraz and Kehlani.
- Last but certainly not least, Spring Splash closes off the year and provides one last hurrah during the middle of spring quarter. Unfortunately, being held smack dab in the middle of spring means that students cannot indulge guilt-free in the same way they can during Block Party — although people will still try, despite the approaching midterm season. This is a bittersweet moment for graduating seniors, who get to enjoy one last free concert as a Highlander before finals and commencement, but again, the timing makes Spring Splash more inconvenient than its predecessor. Add to that the unpredictable May weather and you might be listening to Amine (Spring Splash 2019) under the rain or under the blistering sun. Spring Splash and Block Party occasionally throw in an indie act to open the event, like Lauv (2018), but this concert is a return to rap and EDM artists, which may be disappointing for fans of other genres. Food trucks and attractions are still present, like the mechanical shark ride and free Colourpop lipsticks of past years. Even if some things aren’t perfect, you can’t knock a free concert and a chance to hang out with friends outside of house parties, class or the University Village. Spring Splash and other ASPB events provide a nice opportunity to do so at a minimal cost.