Before Anderson .Paak’s performance in Quarry Plaza began Saturday night, lead intern for the dean of students Lily Haile called for the crowd of about 250 UC Santa Cruz students to pause.
“Before we start the performance we would like to have a moment of silence for Kenya, Nigeria, Paris, Beirut, Japan and acknowledge the lives of black students who have been threatened at Howard University and Mizzou,” Haile said.
After the moment of silence, excited chatter swept the crowd in anticipation of Paak, the Oxnard, California native featured on six of the 16 songs on Dr. Dre’s “Compton,” an album inspired by the award-winning film “Straight Outta Compton.” Paak, originally an underground performer with his first release in 2012’s “O.B.E. Vol 1,” gained popularity through his work on Dre’s album.
Anderson .Paak, born Brandon Anderson Paak, took the stage an hour late with his band Free Nationals but the audience exploded with applause as he started the show off with “Animal.” The track off “Compton” rose to popularity for its lyrics that reflect a reality for black people in America.
“And please don’t come around these parts/and tell me that we all a bunch of animals/the only time they wanna turn the cameras on/is when we’re fuckin’ shit up, come on,” Paak screamed to fans who couldn’t help but dance to the band’s funk soul rhythm.
“We went through the process of looking at this artist, talking about this artist, listening to his music,” said Gabriel Pulido, a fourth-year and program coordinator in the dean of students office. “[We want] a show that is very live and welcoming to students and also something where they can come and have a good time in this cold weather. All of these thoughts went into it — what do we envision for this first pop-up concert series?”
Paak is the first artist to be featured in the “pop-up series” that will consist of shows throughout campus in the school year. The next pop-up show has not been scheduled or booked.
“A pop-up concert series means anywhere. There will be a random location and we won’t disclose it, we won’t promote it,” Pulido said. “The method that we did was there is going to be a pop-up show and we’ll tell students around two weeks before and they’re going to come.”
And come they did as Paak and the Free Nationals blasted soulful, high energy sounds influenced by rap music and the church gospel of his childhood. “Where all the lovers at,” Paak shouted as his latest single “Luh You” reverberated through the crowd. The Free Nationals mirror the ‘70s R&B your grandma used to jam to that moves through your bones without permission, as Paak moved from the microphone to the drum set highlighting his musical talent.
This is the first show hosted on campus since the Edge of Eden Music Festival in 2013-14.
“This is our way of trying to bring a little bit of color, a little bit of urban, a little bit of multiculturalism and unity,” said Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes. “[A sense of community] has been fragmented in ways over time, and it’s time that we all line ourselves up and I’m happy to work with the students.”
As with Edge of Eden, student fees funded this show. To garner student input in the planning process, Gabriel Pulido said five new student interns were hired.
“It’s a new job so I’m still learning, but a lot of it is just consulting with Jose [Reyes-Olivas] and being the voice for the students,” Pulido said. “Not speaking for the students but as a student having a voice […] it would be a very different dynamic if it was just Jose putting on this concert with no student support.”
Reyes-Olivas, the program manager for the Dean of Students office, consulting with students was a major part of the production. As a production manager for 18 years, he worked on events like SnowGlobe Music Festival, Bay Area Vibez and organized benefit concerts alongside influential activists like Angela Davis.
“Even if I would’ve had three or four weeks to publicize the event, I think it would have backfired because it would have spread outside of the campus and I really want to keep this for students,” Reyes-Olivas said in response to the publicity strategy.