San Diego welcomed its newest venue this weekend, as UCSD opened the Epstein Family Amphitheater, a 2,500 seat bowl nestled on campus.

While there were some kinks to still work out – stage lighting, for one, as the lights pointed at stage from the seats were not yet functional – there’s no doubt the place is a strong addition to the San Diego concert scene. Sight lines were good from any seat, the sound was good, and it’s easily accessible since it’s directly next to the UCSD Central Campus trolley stop. Additionally, concession and bathroom lines were short and quick, even serving a sold-out crowd.

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard twice pointed out the other (easily addressed) flaw with the venue – an unused pit area that easily could have fit hundreds more fans, and created an oddly empty gap between the band and the evening’s revelers. It didn’t stop the crowd from taking in a long set from the indie rock staples, filled with favorite classics and songs off their new album, Asphalt Meadows.

Gibbard seemed ageless, bounding around the stage with equal passion for new singles Roman Candles, Here to Forever, and dark horse hit Rand McNally. The mostly-student crowd, however, really amped up for The New Year and Cath early in the set, and while a brief rain storm dampened the audience, it did not dampen their spirits.

The standout song was still I Will Possess Your Heart, though the hit I Will Follow You Into the Dark, performed solely by Gibbard, held the audience rapt. Before the show-closing Soul Meets Body, the finisher of a four song encore, Gibbard promised the band would make their return to San Diego at a venue with more intimacy, apologizing to the lawn seats for the wasted space in front.

Photos and Review by: David Israel