REVIEW: NEEDTOBREATHE Acoustic Live Tour

I was familiar with the South Carolina-based soft rock band’s music, but NEEDTOBREATHE’s concert last Monday at the Michigan Theater was not the kind of event that I usually would go to. That said, I enjoyed the performance for that very reason.

I couldn’t help but be excited as I stood in the buzzing line on the sidewalk to get in to the concert, under the marquee sign lit with NEEDTOBREATHE’s name. It was clear that there were many loyal fans in attendance, and so that was surely a good sign!

After an opener by singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs, the concert began with golden lights onstage turning on one by one, like lanterns in the dark. The band then entered, and launched right in to several songs. One thing that was very fascinating to me about this concert was the set: the background consisted of many twinkling lights, like stars in the sky, with a wave of vertical lines of light at the bottom. The color and intensity of the lights changed according to the mood of the song they were playing, and the bars of light would move at times and turn off completely at others. I thought that it was very well-done in that it was interesting and added to, rather than distracting from, the music.

It was quite a long concert (almost 3 hours with the opener and an intermission), and NEEDTOBREATHE played a host of songs, of which a few of my favorites were “Wasteland,” “Difference Maker,” and “Multiplied.” However, the one thing that I didn’t like was that I found that the music was generally too loud. I expected it to be a rather loud concert, but it was their acoustic tour after all, and so I thought that it would be a little more manageable (I can only imagine how loud their non-acoustic tour concerts must be!). The volume was distracting from the actual music, though, I found that to be frustrating.

On that note, the best part of the concert was hands-down the last songs, during which NEEDTOBREATHE disconnected entirely from the sound system and came to the front of the stage. No microphones, and no amps – just human voices, two guitars, and a single drum. I didn’t want it to end, and I wished that they had performed the entire concert like this! It was in this configuration that they concluded the concert with their hit song “Brother,” to wild applause. After what seemed like a long time filled with shouts of appreciation and unabated applause, NEEDTOBREATHE returned to the stage for an encore of their song “More Heart Less Attack.”

I had a great time at this concert, and it showed me that it’s good to get out of your artistic comfort zone every once in a while!

 

REVIEW: Parsonsfield

On May 2, 2019, I experienced one of the most exciting live shows I’ve ever been to, and it all took place in front of the stage at The Ark.

The night started out with the opener, Jamie Drake. With just a guitar, her beautiful voice pierced through the air for a simple yet stunning sound. “Pill” and “Plumbline” were lovely sing-alongs that evoked powerful emotions, and “Wonder” was a really cute song as well. She closed with “Allison,” a song inspired by a toddler that acknowledges that it takes time to find your voice and that it’s okay. I didn’t know who she was when the night began, and as soon as she opened her mouth, I was instantly captivated, and I left The Ark a passionate fan of hers.

Then, Parsonsfield came out onstage, singing some of their most popular hits, such as as well as new works that had yet to be performed. They played “Everyone Dies,” “Weeds or Wildflowers,” “Kick Out the Windows,” and “Stronger,” among many others, seamlessly transitioning between all the songs with constant music. They also unplugged for a couple raw, sad numbers that showed off their amazing vocal blending and prowess without reverberating instruments. They finished the night off with their encore, “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me,” a fun little tune to wrap up their exciting show.

One of the most amazing things about Parsonsfield is the variety of instruments they use and the different sounds they can make with only four people in the band. Chris Freeman, the lead singer with unbounded energy, played the banjo, guitar, pump organ, and harmonica. Max Shakun also contributed his flawless vocals, playing guitar, pump organ, synthesizer, and bass as well. The mandolin man Antonio Alcorn and drummer Erik Hischmann finish off this multifaceted combination of a band. The musical talent of every single member gives the band its one-of-a-kind style that fuses rock and folk into headbanging yet meaningful music.

I saw Parsonsfield at Folk Fest, but sitting right by the stage made the experience way better than sitting in the top balcony and barely being able to see them. This live and intimate show at The Ark made Parsonsfield seem bigger than life, filling up the entire stage and room with joyful music, and the audience, far from being sold out, filled the room with endless applause and cheers that made it seem like the show was sold out. With Jamie Drake setting the stage with her wonderful set that I never wanted to end, Parsonsfield capped the night off with heart-pounding and wonderful music.

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Symphony – Beethoven 9

Saturday’s performance by the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra was celebration of the number nine: The program included Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 70, as well as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. Appropriately, this concert was the conclusion of a season that marked the Ann Arbor Symphony’s 9th decade (90th anniversary!).

However, although both pieces were their respective composer’s 9th symphony, the difference between them is clear. Shostakovich 9, composed just after the end of World War II in 1945, is a whimsical piece, but with, in my opinion, very little melodic material. The composer himself noted that “It is a merry little piece – musicians will love to play it and critics will love to bash it.” I certainly did not leave Hill Auditorium humming motives from Shostakovich’s 9th symphony, but the piece gave me the feeling that it was depicting something electric and fleeting, like fireflies in the dark of night. I also did enjoy the plaintive clarinet solo in the opening of the 2nd movement, “Moderato.”  However, it seemed to me as if the piece lacked the energy that I, as a listener, wanted it to have, and I am not entirely sure whether it was the actual score of the music, or the performance of it, that caused me to feel this way.

In contrast, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 contains what is probably one of the most recognizable melodies in all of music. Even if you don’t know it as coming from Beethoven 9, you most likely know “Ode to Joy.” Related to this, although I knew that “Ode to Joy” was from this work, and although I have heard recordings of the symphony, it was interesting to hear the famous melody in its original context. It is almost as if “Ode to Joy” has, in popular culture, lifted itself out of the confines of Symphony No. 9 to become its own entity.

After the mildly disappointing Shostakovich, Beethoven’s famous work drew me and held my attention. It was awe-inspiring to fully process that Beethoven wrote his 9th symphony after he had gone entirely deaf. At the work’s May 1824 premiere in Vienna, he was unable to hear a single note. And yet, listening to the work, I realize that it is abundantly clear that the music was still very much alive in his mind’s ear. The beauty of the music cannot be captured in words on paper – it must be heard. In fact, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor has become one of the most widely performed works in classical music, and it established itself as an impossibly high standard by which other composers’ 9th symphonies would be evaluated.

PREVIEW: Parsonsfield

Celebrate the survival of finals, the end of another semester, and the coming of summer by listening to some nice indie folk music at The Ark! Parsonsfield, who performed at Folk Fest back in January, will be performing on May 2 at 8pm with opener Jamie Drake. Tickets are only $20 for the chance to listen to this multi-genre band explore the intersections between bluegrass, rock ‘n roll, and folk!

PREVIEW: NEEDTOBREATHE: Acoustic Live Tour

Hailing from South Carolina, NEEDTOBREATHE is a Grammy-nominated soft rock band founded by brothers Bo and Bear Rinehart. They will be performing at the Michigan Theater at 7 pm on Monday, April 28.

I, for one, am excited for this concert because it is a completely different genre from the performances and arts events that I usually choose to go to, and I’m looking forward to the experience!

For more information about the event and ticketing, visit https://www.michtheater.org/show/needtobreathe-acoustic-live-tour/. $1 from each ticket sold will be donated to OneWorld Health.

REVIEW: SpringFest

This past week marked the annual SpringFest capstone event hosted by MUSIC Matters. Founded in 2011, MUSIC Matters purpose is to “utilize the power of music to unite the Michigan community and promote educational accessibility.” The organization spends the entire year hosting various events on and off campus to promote music and create cohesion amongst students. SpringFest is their culminating project that attracts an audience of 10,000 people for their daytime and nighttime events.

 

This year, the Daytime festival took over State St. and North U., hosting over 80 student organizations, 7 food truck vendors, live performances, and various pop-up shops. One of the newest additions to this year’s Daytime festival was hosting Ann Arbor artisans. Traditionally, corporate sponsors were invited to have pop-up shops but this year focused on inviting smaller companies and student sellers. Aside from this addition, the festival included live dance and music performances from student organizations such as Maize Mirchi, the Men’s Glee Club, and FunKtion. Another component of the festival that I personally enjoyed was the presence of various orgs that promote health, wellness, and sustainability. There were interactive events for yoga, sustainable food practices, and CAPS even had representatives from their CAPS In Action student committee. It was really inspiring to see so many talented, ambitious, and creative students showcasing their work and talent to the campus community.

 

Following the immersive Daytime festivities is (what I believe to be the more known of the two) the Nighttime Concert. Since 2012, MUSIC Matters has hosted artists Common, J. Cole, 2 Chainz, Migos, and Lil Yachty in Hill Auditorium. As a junior who is also a big fan of well-known hip-hop artists, this was surprisingly my first time ever attending. This year’s headliner was A$AP Ferg, otherwise known as a member of A$AP Mob. Amongst some of Ferg’s most popular songs are Plain Jane, Shabba, New Level, and Work REMIX. His opening acts consisted of two DJs and two performance groups.

 

The first DJ was Jeff Basta. Had it not been for him being the DJ to play as people were still entering the auditorium, I think he could have gotten a lot more energy out of the audience. I really enjoyed his music choice and his energy while playing was admirable considering not many others were entertained/paying attention. The second DJ was Namix who served as a transition for the first opening act — Tracy Money (IG: prodbytracy). “TracyGang #333” is a group of three current and former U-M students who go by the names of $cottie Pimpin’, Fatz, and Tracy D. Although this was not my first time seeing them perform, this was my first time seeing them own the stage in a large auditorium. Their performance got the crowd on their feet and ready for the night.

 

Following Tracy Money was B Free from Detroit. I could be biased, but my personal preference for style, originality, and overall entertainment purposes would choose Tracy Money over B Free’s performance. Nonetheless, both performances were a well-needed segway into opening for A$AP Ferg.

 

Ferg was full of energy and was an authentic performer. You could sense his desire to be just as engaged with the audience as we were with him. However, this desire quickly led to some shockingly inappropriate comments on his behalf targeted at several women in the audience. I think it’s reasonable for a performer to want to feel more connected with the audience and interact with them but to single specific women out and express sexual desires in front of everyone, into the microphone, was embarrassing and disgusting. The remainder of the concert left me feeling odd and distraught as I was stuck questioning “Did he really just say that”?? Carrying on, he performed all of my favorite songs and it was a fun concert. I’m certain that this will be remembered as one of my favorite undergraduate experiences, despite the belittling comments that put a damper on my overall impression.

Photos courtesy of IG: vinsanityproductions.co