Student collective offers platform for local talent post-COVID

Los Angeles witnesses a revival in live-performance concerts thanks in part to several undergraduates and their passion for music.

Two students play guitars on stage at a musical showcase.

Following a year in isolation, many are once again flocking to social gatherings. Places are opening back up, restrictions have been lifting and life is slowly beginning to feel as it once was. And at the center of this social reprise lies musical concerts.

On Sept. 25, Live2 and 29th St. Productions, a student-run organization that aims to highlight USC talent, held its second music showcase. Located off campus, approximately 200 people (according to 29th St.) showed up to support the onstage performers, one of which was a USC student.

“I’ve been getting a lot of DMs from strangers being like, ‘Hey, saw you on Saturday, it was really cool, when’s your next show?’” said Jacob DeGuzman, a senior business administration major.

DeGuzman, or rather known by his stage name “Guspy,” is a musical artist, producer and performer who has collaborated with 29th St. Productions on multiple occasions. “We actually have a running joke that it’s not a real 29th Street unless I’m performing, which is not true because they have more diverse shows.”

Artists such as Guspy hit a roadblock in sharing their content with public audiences because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. While this resulted in the rise of virtual concerts, both musicians and fans wanted to return to in-person experiences.

“Out of the pandemic, we were itching to play shows, and [29th St.] was just there. And they were ready,” Guspy said. He credits the organization for providing USC talent a platform they have long missed, calling them the “spark” that revitalized student musicians like himself. “It’s funny, after that show, everyone was thanking me,” Gupsy said. “And I was thanking 29th Street.”

The student-run collective could not have asked for a more perfect and safe evening, according to 29th St. co-founder and senior communication student Joseph Arboles.

What originated as a fun, “ragtag” dream between Arboles and his friends eventually became a seizable opportunity during the pandemic. “As COVID was getting lifted, people wanted to go out,” Arboles said. “We always wanted to throw a show together and just said, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’”

It did not take long for 29th St. to gain a following. According to Johnny May, a senior double major in classical piano performance and music production, the organization earned its reputation and credibility throughout the area by lending USC artists “a certain level of professional legitimacy to a music scene that otherwise tends to lack it,” while still upholding the casual mood that makes college shows unique.

The co-founder added the movement’s ability to help artists, friends and small businesses come together to appreciate good music while in pursuit of a creative outlet. This expansion in community outreach has also led 29th St. Productions to branch out from exclusively promoting USC artists like they’ve done in the past.

Intent on growing their fan base, the promoters plan on bringing back an alternative rock scene to the area while also appealing to larger audiences outside the university. “Just any creative artist, in general, we want to work with them and help them build their careers, and help put on a good show for their fans,” Arboles said.

May, a regular attendee who has worked with 29th St. both as a sound engineer and performer, offers praise for their contribution to the music scene in the midst of the pandemic by providing a “consistent, local and accessible destination at a time in which the performance scene lacks a lot of structure, especially at the college and pre-professional level.”

Although they are taking a temporary break, keep up with their Instagram to stay up-to-date on their latest events in the near future.