Over the mic, the announcer welcomed over 100 people to what he called the “Woodstock of UCSC.” Band after band shuffled on and off the wooden stage, playing for a crowd that only grew as the day progressed.
Porter Palooza invited a handful of student bands — both local and from out of town — to play last Saturday for the annual outdoor music and arts festival, organized by Porter College Residential Life. Ten community assistants (CAs) from Porter College collaborated to plan Porter Palooza, a longtime tradition for the college with the motto, “Life is short, Art endures.”
Third-year and bassist for Totoake Sean Lahey said even though he just joined the band around two months ago, it’s been a great experience playing with other people.
“It gives an opportunity for bands of the college to come out and show what they’ve been working on,” Lahey said.
Totoake was recently given a day to record in a studio in San Francisco by Converse, who found them on Soundcloud, an online audio distribution platform. Totoake was among nine bands invited to play this year — mostly student bands, including some with UCSC students. Bands like Totoake, Ancestree and Moo — last year’s UCSC’s Got Talent winners — play venues like the Catalyst, the Crepe Place and Moe’s Alley.
Third-year Asher Sefami, a Porter CA, was the music coordinator for the event. He had been thinkin g about Porter Palooza since he and a friend planned the The Great Timbre, a music festival in February. What started with just a few select bands turned into a full blown festival, with a crowd of well over 100 people.
In addition to the obstacles of coordinating and long-term planning, Sefami said it can be difficult to plan an event when the university is concerned about “random people” coming up to campus or making sure the event does not go too late into the night.
“It’s really hard to organize,” Sefami said. “This school doesn’t want to take a lot of risks, but it’s important for Porter to remain the arts and music college.”
Porter College housing coordinator Joe DePage was a student at Porter in the 1990s and remembers the first Porter Palooza around 15 years ago. The music festival started as a small event with all cover bands, including Bjork, Radiohead and Blur cover bands. DePage said opening up space for all musicians on campus is important.
“It allows for a venue for UCSC bands and Porter bands to play and have an audience to play for,” DePage said. “There’s very little music space on campus, even to rehearse.”
DePage said Santa Cruz had a strong indie punk show scene before the city passed noise ordinances, fining any house or venue not abiding by the restrictions. Before these restrictions, the house show scene was “famous.”
“It used to be where seven days a week you could find a show,” DePage said.
Even if Santa Cruz isn’t the same house show capital it used to be, Porter Palooza focuses on keeping the culture of alternative music alive. While Porter Palooza’s main focus before was strictly music, it is now expanded to be a wider gathering of the campus community.
This year, bands played on the outdoor stage, while giant bubbles drifted through the quad — some wider than arm’s length. There was a lively watermelon eating contest, pie throwing, a blow up slide that would make any sixth grader jealous, henna, tie-dye shirts and face paint.
Despite an ever-changing cast of students and staff, Porter College’s constant support for music and art keeps Porter Palooza a firm tradition. Julie Oberts is in her first year as a coordinator for residential education (CRE) for Porter College and said it has been rewarding to advise the students organizing the event and seeing them have fun while doing it.
“It’s the best part of my job,” Oberts said. “We often meet with students when we’re talking about conduct. So getting to help in this way is a great way to get involved in the community.”