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Photograph taken by Amahli Vivian

By Amahli Vivian

Only nine months ago in June 2023, Orange County-based Slater (Nichlaus Beaty) visited Santa Cruz to promote his mixtape Beneath the Motel. Earlier this year on March 14, he returned to the Catalyst Atrium for the ongoing Still Burnt Tour. Associated with the label and music genre “Vada Vada,” Slater is connected with the musical acts of The Garden (and their solo projects Puzzle and Enjoy), Cowgirl Clue, and 3l3d3p, amongst others. Despite being a casual fan of “Vada Vada,” seeing Slater live has led me to do a deeper dive into his discography. 

Throughout all the performers’ sets, there was a varying amount of collective dancing, jumping, and push pits. The liveliness of the opening bands, Watsonville-based emo Grad Nite and 80s-esque punk The Mainliners, allowed the audience’s energy to build and reach a crescendo once Slater took the stage.

Each of Slater’s tracks was distinct from the one before and after, showing off Slater’s versatility in sound. Kicking things off with “Burnt” riled up the audience before Slater jumped into a slew of songs from Flight 777 (2019) and ESI (2021). The melding of electronic beats and live music was well-rehearsed, which the crowd enthusiastically responded to. Clear crowd favorites were “Swallowed My Key,” “Sp33din,” and “Dj’s Up in the Club.” 

It’s difficult to characterize the genre that Slater is in. He experiments with electronic elements, bedroom and art pop, and rap. While the case can be made for each genre I listed, Slater’s discography most fits the parameters of “Vada Vada,” where the very intention is to be experimental and not be confined to a handful of genres—no matter how hard music critics and amateur writers, such as myself, try. Considering how heavily Slater leans into electronic synths and beats, it certainly caught my surprise how well his music translated into a live performance.

I will admit that at first, I was wary of the potential lack of energy from Slater’s performance. His musical influences are all over the place, but the vast majority of his discography has a relatively calm sound and atmosphere. I’m glad I was wrong about this false assumption. Each track played during his set became elevated from being effortlessly calm and cool, which is probably why I prefer Slater’s music live over studio versions.

Slater was in his element performing in front of a crowd. My post-concert-listening-rabbit-hole that I’ve gone on is a testament in and of itself: Slater has a way with the audience he attracts. I’ll no doubt try to see him live again.