The Driver Era Brought the Energy to Rock N’ Roosevelt

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Photo of The Driver Era performing at Rockin Roosevelt UCSD in 2020
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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As a new transfer student, I haven’t had the chance to attend many UC San Diego events yet, so as I got ready for Rock N’ Roosevelt, I was buzzing with excitement. Rock N’ Roosevelt, an annual concert organized by Eleanor Roosevelt College, has previously hosted student bands as well as popular indie acts like COIN and Bad Suns. At 7:30 p.m. on March 7 (close to finals week), I wasn’t expecting the line that greeted us at Price Center (PC) to wrap around the corner and past the bookstore. My friends and I hunkered down for a long wait, but things moved surprisingly fast. Before we knew it, we were ushered past security and into the packed PC West Ballroom.

With laminated floors and a disco ball hanging from its high ceiling, the interior of the room was reminiscent of a gym decked out for a middle school dance, but the energy was far from awkward or nervous. The first opener, Tessa Violet, was already on stage when I entered. Violet, a popular Youtuber-turned-musician, warmed up the crowd with indie-pop jams like “Not Over You,” which was studded with relatable lyrics about unrequited love, boredom, and discontent. In between songs she got everyone laughing with call-and-responses and knock-knock jokes. She also took a moment to remind us that being in college is an amazing accomplishment. During a time when the workload of the quarter system can feel overwhelming, it was a much-needed reminder. Violet finished out her set with “Crush,” her most popular song, and the crowd whooped and jumped around so much that the floor vibrated beneath my feet.

After a short break in which student volunteers tossed out paper airplanes containing passes for free merch to hyped-up fans, it was time for the second opener.

Coast Modern, a duo composed of Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp, had the vibe of a local high school band that made it big. They were happy to engage with the crowd at every turn and seemed genuinely stoked to be performing at UCSD; Atlas announced to a chorus of cheers that he had been born on campus. In addition to their well-known songs “Hollow Life” and “Guru,” Coast Modern performed a wide array of upbeat surf-pop jams, even gracing us with a “never-before-heard” unreleased song. In between songs, Atlas invited us to close our eyes and guided us through a short meditation, a moment that exemplified the band’s laid-back, positive energy. By the time they finished their set, the encroaching stress of finals week seemed a world away, and enthusiastic applause followed them offstage.

Finally, it was time for the headliner of the night. The Driver Era consists of brothers Ross and Rocky Lynch whose previous claims to fame include Ross’ appearance on the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally and both of their former membership in the band R5. R5 also included their brother and sister Rydel and Riker, who are now touring members of The Driver Era, contributing keyboard, guitar, and backup vocal parts.

As The Driver Era took the stage, the crowd went wild, erupting into ear-splitting screams and applause that reached a fever pitch when Ross took the mic. They opened with their popular song “A Kiss,” and the crowd cheered even louder when we all realized how great they sounded live. The drumming was tight, the vocals were clean, and Ross Lynch commanded the stage with all of the swaggering, hair-flipping confidence of a former boy band member.

The Driver Era’s set showcased their impressive range, from classic-sounding alt-rock songs like “Preacher Man” to slow, thoughtful tunes with funky basslines like “San Francisco” and a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” My personal highlight of the night came when Ross and Rocky sat down with only their acoustic guitars to perform a mashup of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” which had all of us swaying and belting out the classic lyrics.

Although the crowd in PC Ballroom West was small compared to the venues the band usually frequents, The Driver Era turned the energy up to 11 for us, often leaning into the audience and asking us questions about our lives. As he paused between songs, Ross asked if UCSD was a party school.

“NO!” was the resounding reply.

“Do you guys all get good grades?”

“YES!”

He responded by laughing and good-naturedly calling us nerds. The crowd laughed along, happy to bear the title. The energy was warm, positive, and happy throughout their performance, and after they took their bows, the ensuing chant of “Encore! Encore!” was so loud that I had to cover my ears. Our pleas worked; The Driver Era came back to perform one last song, a slow jam called “Feel You Now.” After they left the stage for good, it took a long time for the cheers to die down.

When I stepped out into the lobby, I noticed my sore legs and ringing ears, but I also felt a buoyant sense of happiness looking around at the smiling faces of my fellow students. Each performer at Rock N’ Roosevelt brought energy and enthusiasm, and the crowd responded in kind. As I started the walk home, the excited chatter still hadn’t died out. Rock N’ Roosevelt 2020 was a great concert, and although I will graduate before next year’s event, I encourage everyone to go out and experience it for themselves.

Sophie Mazoschek is a Staff Writer for The Triton.