By David Jenison
UCR’s Heat Music Festival marks its seventh year staying true to students’ tastes and delivering the hip-hop and EDM goods
How much anticipation is there for the 2013 Heat Music Festival at UC Riverside? When rapper Tyga leaked his involvement before the official announcement, it created such a stir that campus organizers had to issue an immediate response.
“We thought, ‘It is what it is, we cannot do anything about it, so how do we turn it around so it looks like we leaked it?’” explains Kent Endsley, programs manager for the UCR Highlander Union, which produces the annual event. “You obviously don’t want it to leak when you are planning a big announcement, but we saw a lot of hype, and people were really excited about Tyga. It became a good thing because it gave us another week of people talking about the festival and pumping them up to see the rest of the lineup.”
Compton-born Tyga is a member of Lil Wayne’s Young Money crew known for tracks like “Rack City” and “Faded,” and he is expected to be one of the biggest draws at the campus event on Saturday. Now in its seventh year, the 2013 festival is heavy on EDM and rap artists, including Porter Robinson, Kid Ink, The M Machine, Awolnation and Audien. The rock acts Surfer Blood and Best Coast round out the Heat lineup.
“We are looking forward to the Heat Music Fest,” says The M Machine member Andrew Coenen. “The college crowd tends to be the most forward-thinking consumers of dance music.”
The Peoples’ Choice
“During our summer program, we issued a survey online and in person, and we collected over 1,100 unique artist suggestions,” explains Vicky Garza, also a programs manager. “From there we just narrowed down the list.”
“It is a real reflection of our students’ tastes” adds Todd Wingate, director of the Highlander Union. “Hip-hop is big on our campus. EDM is big on our campus. Those types of artists led in the surveys we did. We tried to stay true to what our students like.”
Tyga was the leading name on the surveys, but Endsley and Garza are most excited about Porter Robinson.
“During the festival each year, I got to see how student tastes have gone, and EDM has really taken off since 2008,” explains Endsley. “The students love where the stage is in the plaza and love coming to have a good time and dance. I can’t wait to watch the crowd during Porter Robinson’s set.”
Garza adds, “Every year has gone more in the EDM direction for artists. He’s going to close the night, so it is probably going to be the most attended stage we have seen over the past couple years.”
When the festival launched in 2007 with Lupe Fiasco, it was only meant to be a one-time event. A group of school administrators wanted to increase student pride and activities on campus, and the initial idea was to throw fraternity and sorority parties after the homecoming basketball game. Construction had just begun on the new Highlander Union Building (HUB), and Wingate thought they should throw the party to set the expectation for what HUB would be down the road. He got input from several students, and the initial idea was to expand already existing activities, but within a week, the Highlander Union decided to go big and stage a music festival.
“That first year, honestly, we thought it would only be that one year,” admits Wingate. “It never occurred to us that it would become this big ongoing campus tradition. By 9 o’clock the next morning, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs sent an email congratulating us on our new campus tradition, and I knew then we were in for a while. After about two years, the festival became so ingrained in the campus tradition that everyone just came to expect it. We are now graduating students who have never not (sic) had a Heat.”
Wingate was already UCR staff when Heat launched, but Garza and Endsley both got involved as UCR students.
“I was actually a senior in high school for the 2007 festival, and I came with one of my good friends,” Endsley recalls. “I already planned to apply here, so when I did come, I expressed interest in joining the programming team, and Todd graciously accepted. I graduated in 2011, and I am still here.”
Garza also attended the inaugural festival, but she was already a UCR student. She recounts, “I had just come from a homecoming basketball game, and I was covered in little spirit tattoos. As soon as I got to the venue grounds, I knew this was different from anything I’d seen before. I thought it was incredible. My friend was on the team that year and said they were looking to expand next year. I applied, and here I am. I graduated in fall of ’08, and I got hired after graduation.”
The 2008 event featured 311, Mos Def, Moby and Girl Talk, and the university heavily promoted the festival off-campus. Subsequent festivals also featured marquee lineups—including N*E*R*D, Taking Back Sunday, Crystal Method, Lil Jon, Major Lazer and Travie McCoy, who happens to be Tyga’s cousin—but the festival eventually returned its focus to being primarily a student event. For this year’s Heat, the university gave out 10,000 free tickets to students and made another 3,000 available for sale to the public with a discounted rate for students who buy tickets for friends. Except for Tyga, the lineups are traditionally announced four weeks in advance, and tickets are available a week later. This year’s tickets were gone in 10 days, a new festival record.
Garza remarks, “I felt nervous before we announced the entire lineup. ‘Are students going to like it? Did we reflect what they wanted?’ Seeing all the tickets go out in a week and a half was a real positive reinforcement that we did a good job and went after the right artists. It’s going to be a great event.”
Endsley adds, “I like to emphasize that we really do take student input into consideration. We tally every single suggestion that we get on Facebook and that students suggest on our paper surveys. Every single person has a voice in how we book this festival.”
Can’t Go Home Again
The Heat Music Festival is the culmination of homecoming week, but the event overshadows homecoming to the point that the relationship might soon be severed.
Wingate explains, “Heat is still part of homecoming, but that is likely to change next year. We are not, and I say this often, a very good partner for homecoming. We kind of eclipse it. We have this massive construction project during the entire week of homecoming that takes over the core of campus where student-initiated activity takes place. Heat is an absolute standalone event, and lots of students may not even associate the two.”
Interestingly, the expectation is that homecoming will be moved, not Heat, since the festival has become the university’s flagship event. This year’s tickets are completely sold out, but non-students can track future events through the festival’s Facebook page.
As far as Heat 2013, Wingate concludes, “As people talked about the lineup, it was interesting to me that every artist has somebody excited to see them. The weather is also going to be great. Usually it is cold and rainy, but it is supposed to be 82 [degrees] that day. I think this is going to be one of our best shows ever.”
Heat Music Festival. UC Riverside, 900 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 827-1012; heat.ucr.edu. Sat, 7pm-12am. Sold out.