Volunteers in cream-colored T-shirts, embellished with the simple word “Vote” on the front, walked around with voter registration forms as a small crowd formed on Lower Sproul Plaza at 5 p.m. Friday.
A collaboration between the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President and ASUC SUPERB Productions, Voteside Lands was a celebration of civic engagement — to “exercise your right to vote while also exercising that right to turn tf up,” as a SUPERB Facebook post put it — and was filled with frequent reminders about the deadline to register to vote and an announcement about the new official ballot drop box next to Sproul Hall.
The dedicated few who showed up early enough to catch the student-run Mariachi Luz de Oro de Berkeley’s set seemed to have already cast their vote for who they were there for. Roughly half of the early crowd came clad in Girlpool shirts, while dedicated CupcakKe fans reserved most of the front row, sharing phones to watch CupcakKe’s live Instagram story as she traveled to UC Berkeley.
Girlpool, the first main act of the evening, did its fair share to encourage voter turnout. Cleo Tucker pointed to the primary-colored bounce house filled with “Vote” shirt-clad volunteers and said, “That’s sick.” They then pondered the faded sickness of fidget spinners with Harmony Tividad — the other half of the Los Angeles-based indie rock duo — before then declaring voting to be “sick,” too.
“We’re going to be on tour, but we’re going to vote,” Tucker said.
“Absentee,” Tividad added.
Tividad shined during the delicious bass licks of “Soup,” off 2017’s Powerplant, the entire song given a new exuberance and cinematic quality when performed live. The “Can you feel it?” of the second verse and the song’s softer whispers amplified the song’s apparent classic rock influences while the sun began to set and the crowd started to grow.
Tucker and Tividad stood without accompaniment for the crux of their set, with Tucker adding a hyper-electronic sounding guitar solo finale to the opener of 2015’s Before the World Was Big, “Ideal World.” Both bandmates managed to make the open-air space of Lower Sproul feel closed in, conducting a soft crowd sway to the gentle “I Like That You Can See It,” the closer of the same album.
CupcakKe delivered a performance devoid of voting references, electing instead to express herself through her sexuality, offering far more in audience — rather than civic — engagement.
“Am I voting for more dick or what?” the 21-year-old rapper asked in reply to someone offstage asking if she registered to vote at the end of her set. This irreverent hilarity shone throughout her performance, from leading the crowd in collective moans over the slinky (and slurpy) Latin beat of the self-produced “CPR” off 2017’s Queen Elizabitch — “If you a virgin, you not anymore,” she declared afterward — to asking if the students watching from the glass walls of Eshleman Hall above were “on punishment,” to pretending to give her mic a blow job.
While CupcakKe’s staging might seem simple — technically, she simply crossed the stage and sang along to track recordings — her effervescent enthusiasm brought the performance to full throttle. Her set was undeniably charming as she flashed her wide smile, gave purposeful nip slips and led the crowd in a bubbly chant of “I’m about to go suck some dick.”
This enthusiasm continued in her performances of her unabashedly pro-LGBTQ+ anthems “LGBT” and “Crayons” — “Boy on boy, girl on girl / Like who the fuck you like / Fuck the world,” she raps in the latter. Her upbeat positivity radiated and was received by a crowd with just as much, if not more, joyousness, a crowd that bounced to the chorus while screaming along with each lyric.
Whether or not CupcakKe is voting, be sure to vote this election day — for more dick or for whatever you care about. Vote.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
Caroline Smith covers queer media. Contact her at [email protected].