On Saturday, May 13, UC San Diego’s Sun God Festival kicked off, the second since the pandemic. It was an uncharacteristically cloudy day, with overcast skies hiding the quintessential San Diego sun for the entirety of the festival. However, the missing sun couldn’t dampen what would be, on the whole, an enjoyable day of music.
First up was Boys World, an all-girl pop group who have garnered comparisons to the Spice Girls. Members Olivia Ruby, Queenie Mae Villaluz, Lillian Kay, Elana Caceres, and Makhyli Simpson each boast unique and powerful voices, hitting notes as flawlessly as the accompanying choreography. Their catchy melodies and spirited energies were infectious, with their 25 minute set feeling all too short by the end.
Pop group Boys World perform at Sun God. Photos by Hana Tobias.
The next set was a rather disappointing performance from Khai Dreams, a bedroom pop artist. The singer felt lost on stage, their voice drowned out by their own backing track, to the point that it gave a lip-syncing affect at times. When their vocals did come through, they felt nervous, sometimes struggling to hit notes. Combined with the rather subdued nature of Khai Dreams’ songs, this led to a crowd that felt rather checked out for most of their set.
Khai Dreams performs at Sun God.
The lack of enthusiasm didn’t last long, however; Knock2, an EDM artist who grew up in San Diego, quickly brought the crowd’s energy up to a fever pitch. His bass-heavy songs flowed seamlessly into one another, mixing tunes of his own like “dashstar*” with popular hits like Pink Pantheress and Ice Spice’s “Boy’s a liar, Pt.2”. The crowd seemingly doubled in size during Knock2’s set, creating a pulsing energy that the artist called “fuckin’ electric”. With that enthusiasm, unfortunately, came some issues with students being crushed at the barricade, some having to escape over the rails with the help of security. Luckily, the majority of students relished the infectious spark that’s rarely present at UCSD, dancing and jumping continuously for Knock2’s entire 45-minute set.
Students enjoy Knock2’s set at Sun God.
Between performances, students flocked down the field to partake in the myriad of other experiences present. Several rides, along with a bouncy house, stood at the very back of the field. Spots for photos were abundant, including a large blow-up Sun God statue replica and a colorful balloon arch. Student contributions also provided entertainment; non-vocal student acts performed at various spots on the field, including a saxophone group, and student art hung on display. Podcast But Outside, a duo who interviews guests—you guessed it—outside, had a table. Interviewees seemed to enjoy themselves, but the exhibit could’ve benefitted from some speakers, so passersby could hear anything being said.
A student poses for a photo, and a jazz group performs on the field.
Dayglow provided direct support with a vibrant set that felt perfectly matched to the (unfortunately absent) San Diego sun. After some slight guitar tuning issues at the start, the band kicked off a jubilant mashup of new songs, old songs, and a few deftly selected 80s covers. The artist (whose real name is Sloan Struble) had excellent stage presence, dancing around the stage and barely dropping his grin for the entire 45 minutes he played. Struble saved his most popular song, “Can I Call You Tonight”, for last, ending the performance on a high note as the crowd screamed along.
Dayglow performs at Sun God.
Finally, Smino burst onto the stage after an intro set from his DJ. It was at times apparent that the rapper, having just returned from Europe the day before, was slightly fatigued, but he fought valiantly to save the crowd from the same fate, hyping them up and engaging them in a cheering contest. His unique brand of soulful rap, although lacking some energy in slower songs, created a complex soundscape for festivalgoers to bask in. “Z4L” and “90 Proof” stood out as highlights, both songs that felt simultaneously electric and effortlessly chill. After an hour-long set, Smino wrapped up his performance, and students trailed off the field en masse. Behind opaque clouds, the sun set on another successful Sun God.
Smino performs at Sun God.
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