On Feb. 22, for the very first time, the Associated Students Program Board (ASPB) introduced AREA951, an electronic dance music (EDM) concert accompanied by a photo booth and food trucks. Coming off of the positive reception to Knock2’s performance at Block Party and demand for EDM, the event promised an energetic night that capitalizes on UCR students’ love for EDM alongside ASPB’s sought-after trademark merchandise that still proves to be the main draw for their concerts.

Theme

The concert was outer space themed, which plays off of the notorious Area 51. Its aesthetic was channeled through its hoodie merchandise and marketing from its Instagram page. Since AREA951 was a smaller event, compared to the ASPB’s larger Block Party or Spring Splash concerts, the theme was scarcely utilized outside of the merchandise. The concert featured a small stage on Pierce Lawn along with various attractions surrounding the event. Although the event description on the UCR events calendar promised “an interactive 360-degree set where the DJ is playing in the middle of the crowd,” it ended up being off to the side. This is a typical stage setup of past UCR concert events that did not bring much change to this particular event. 

Attractions and Stations

AREA951’s attractions had an array of food trucks and a photobooth — both being ASPB concert staples. The three food trucks stationed were the Sweet Stop, Burning Buns and LA Hotdogs & Munchies. The Memory Makers Photobooth was an undergrad-exclusive photo booth fashioned with props. 

Other stations to visit were an ASPB station that handed out glowsticks and lightsticks to concert participants and a station manned by The Well Health Promotion and Education Department equipped with date kits that contain condoms, mints and lubricant, as well as fentanyl strips. At The Well station, a fourth-year biology major Kaylee ran the station and said “we focus on sexual health, safe drug and safe partying use,” as well as offering free health education, free Narcan training and more. They will also be found at the Spring Splash concert so concertgoers can look forward to that in the future.

Line

The line for the EDM concert circled around Pierce Lawn and stretched to the entrance of Pierce Hall. Security was more lax with the stanchions placed around the lawn separating the venue and the line, probably due to the smaller-scale nature of the event. With a projected 6 p.m. start, the event commenced at a later 6:20 p.m. time. The line would be let in quickly and dissipated even faster as merchandise ran out around 15 minutes after the first participants were let in. Stanchions were removed around 7 p.m., letting anyone from the outside come into the venue to enjoy the festivities of AREA951.

Artist Performances

Almost immediately after ASPB started to let students into the event, the first performer of the night took the stage. Although the stage was smaller than past ASPB events and the lights were a bit underwhelming, it was very fitting for the more low-key event. Student DJ, Runqi Li was up first and had the task of setting the vibe for the event as students started to enter. For the first half of Li’s set, students were preoccupied with getting their merch and checking out the other attractions and stations. Eventually, as more time passed, people started to congregate toward the front and enjoy the live beats. 

Runqi Li’s set was very typical for an EDM performance and house music. His set was more beat-heavy and rarely included lyrics. With a mix of beats from songs such as “Musica” by Meduza, “Seismic” by AC Slater and “Redlight” by Swedish House Mafia and Sting, Li got people to start dancing and vibing to the music. He even included a quick snippet of the instrumental from “The Olive Tree” by Chyi Yu, which is reminiscent of Taiwanese music. This was a strange but very unique addition to an EDM house music set. His mixing was heavily influenced by energetic beats that involved build-ups and fast-paced rhythms. This was perfect for those who were jumping around to the beat and had their hands in the air. Li was successful in setting the vibe for the rest of the night and getting the crowd warmed up in the cold February air for the next two artists. After Runqi Li’s set, he himself would cite his performance as a great experience: “It’s amazing … people enjoyed [it] more than I thought. It’s my first time on a stage like this.” He thanked ASPB for giving him a chance to perform.

The transition between Runqi Li and Julienne By had the organizers playing Knock2’s “dashstar* – VIP,” which was an instant hit that got people amped up as Julienne By took the stage. The Cambodian-American DJ is a rising artist as she has been featured in past Insomniac festivals such as Countdown and has even headlined her own shows. 

By did not disappoint with her mixing skills, starting strong by building up the beat and getting the crowd hyped up. Her EDM set mixed popular songs with strong beats that had the crowd head banging and singing along. She featured well-known songs such as “No Hands” by Waka Flocka Flame, Roscoe Dash and Wale, “Need to Know” by Doja Cat, “INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow and many more. Her mixing and transitions between songs were a highlight of her set as each flowed seamlessly and without any awkward pauses. The lyrics were also a great addition as they allowed for the crowd to get lost in the music and enjoy the high energy. The beats and lyrics were mixed together in a way that heightened the others’ quality, making for a good set.

Headliner, Cheyenne Giles was a highly anticipated performer, known for his unique sounds and ability to create “Big Room Bounce” energy. The San Diego native DJ started his set with high energy as he jumped along with the crowd while the music started to build. Giles had a great connection with the crowd as he called out to the crowd “All energy right f*cking now!” which had energized the crowd along to the beat. His set featured a mix of electronic beats and beat drops that amped up the crowd and had them enjoying their time. The energy was reminiscent of a real rave that had the crowd forgetting that they were still on campus. 

Giles had an engaging stage presence that had him moving around and jumping instead of sticking behind the table. His set has a mix of electronic beats, while remixing music such as “I’m Good (Blue) by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha, “Make Me Feel” by The Chainsmokers and Cheyenne Giles and “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice. Among these songs, he also mixed in his newest single “Let’s Rock.” Cheyenne Giles provided a great end to ASPB’s first AREA951 event. 

Reception

ASPB’s introduction of AREA951 is an interesting event when compared to their larger concerts. The marketing had been referenced by second-year mechanical engineering majors Kenny Nguyen (he/him) and Caroliza Kano (she/her) insofar as they were drawn to the event by ASPB’s Instagram posts. Kano herself also mentions that since “[ASPB] only has one EDM festival … [I was] trying to support that because I personally like electronic music.” Yuengchen, a graduate student pursuing a master of business administration also mentions how the event was bustling and seemed like a good time when he spotted it after class; “I [got] curious and I’ve never seen it before. And I see many, many people.” Yuengchen was then drawn to the concert and said that he liked ASPB events because they are a good time with friends.

On ASPB’s side, ASPB member and 2nd-year media and cultural studies student, Jara Dioum (she/her), felt the event turned out pretty well, despite some people upset over not being able to obtain the limited merchandise. “It turned out pretty well. I mean I know it’s a new event … but I think it turned out the way we wanted [it] to.”