REVIEW: The Timbre of Cedar

The Ark never fails to bring a night of wonderful, fun, and meaningful music — even on a Wednesday night. Last night was no exception.

Right off the bat, shoeless, self-proclaimed goofball Chris DuPont opened the stage with honest music, many of which haven’t been performed before, that touched on subjects from forgiveness to violence, from a loving lullaby for his children to encouraging a liberating internal rebellion. The mix of acoustic guitar with violin — more specifically, the mix of the artistry of DuPont and Katie Van Dusen — created a one-of-a-kind sound, as Van Dusen’s violin voice accompanied DuPont’s own voice in a mesmerizing way. This raw, organic performance proved exactly why he was ranked as the #1 live album on Ann Arbor’s 107one best album countdown of 2017.

And with that opening, The Timbre of Cedar took the stage, continuing the powerful energy that DuPont so beautifully set up. With married couple Marrissa and Sam Parham on keys/lead vocals and bass, twins Andrew and Eric Grzyb on guitar and percussion, and Alex Rahill on guitar, The Timbre of Cedar’s sincere love for music, life, and the future radiated off the stage with every note sung, every string strum, and every beat tapped on the cajón. Focusing on hope and restoring the light (as their newest full-length album is called), their songs, with religious undertones, reflected an optimistic outlook on life that everyone should carry.

Usually an indie rock band, the acoustic spin they took last night was no less electrifying. Marrissa’s vocals rang through the room, and Rahill had a rocking solo on his acoustic guitar on their cleverly-named song “F Sharp”. Singing originals off their EP and Restoring the Light, and even a rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You” (because who doesn’t love classic love songs), the band captured the tension underlying reality while shining a ray of hope onto the unknown possibilities through the fiery acoustic instrumentals that were bursting out of their souls and into the audience’s.

The room in The Ark was filled with good vibes in the middle of the week, from DuPont’s “sad” yet insightful songs followed by The Timbre of Cedar’s inspirational message of perseverance, hope, and belonging. When given the option between listening to these rising musicians or studying, I’m sure glad I spent my Wednesday night the right way.

PREVIEW: The Timbre of Cedar

From the Metro Detroit area, The Timbre of Cedar is coming to Ann Arbor to conquer the stage at The Ark. This 5 member alternative indie band is bringing their unique sound to the music scene. Strong vocalist Marrissa Parham will tantalize the stage with the soulful lyrics and emotions this band passionately evokes. With songwriter Chris DuPont opening, the night is bound to be one to remember.

8:00 PM. January 17. The Ark. Be there.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at http://theark.org/shows-events/2018/jan/17/timbre-cedar or at the Michigan Union Ticket Office. This event is also free with a Passport to the Arts voucher! All the more reason to go!

 

REVIEW: Pitch Perfect 3

Objectively, Pitch Perfect 3 was not a good movie. Several plot choices were odd and unnecessary (especially for the best musical comedy trilogy since High School Musical; no need to deviate from the formula that worked). The character development was uneven, especially when it came to Emily.

But a movie doesn’t have to be good to be entertaining. Pitch Perfect 3, despite its cringe-worthy moments, was a ton of fun. It’s a movie I wouldn’t watch again, but at the same time I’m glad I saw it.

What Pitch Perfect 3 did best was the way it seemed to not take itself too seriously. At times the writers almost seemed to be making fun of themselves. One of the best parts of the movie was the running joke regarding Jessica and Ashley, two members of the Bellas who were introduced in the first movie but seemed to disappear. Jessica and Ashley’s amazement at Fat Amy’s acknowledgement of them is the writers poking fun of themselves for essentially forgetting their characters, and as a comedic device it completely works.

It wouldn’t be a Pitch Perfect movie without a riff-off, and this one follows the trend. The riff-off is altogether unrealistic and doesn’t do a lot to advance the plot of the movie, but then, the same was true of the riff-offs in the other movies and I loved them anyway. The riff-off is a pure joy to watch, and this time it comes with a new twist that throws a wrench into the Bellas’ plans.

Much of the plot, in which the Bellas travel overseas to compete for the opportunity to open for DJ Khaled on a USO tour, feels contrived. Some of the subplots, especially the quasi-action movie one with Fat Amy and her father, felt like they belonged in a cartoon.

The subplot with DJ Khaled and his decision on which of the groups to choose was also ridiculous and contrived, but I enjoyed it. Khaled played himself perfectly, poking fun at the lavish and eccentric celebrity lifestyle. Many of his parts were hilarious and the humor was enough to make me forget about the writers’ other questionable choice.

However, at its heart, Pitch Perfect 3 is about all the same things the first two movies were: the desire to belong, balancing personal desires with others’ expectations, and above all staying true to oneself. And despite the odd plot choices, those themes were as relatable as ever.

In one of my favorite exchanges, Chloe strikes up a conversation with a soldier named Chicago. She begins by asking about the Bulls and Cubs before realizing that he’s not even from Chicago and had no idea what she was referencing. I laughed out loud at that moment because it felt so much like something I would do.

Throughout, the Bellas struggle with finding their people and their passion now that they have to move on from college and the a cappella group that shaped them. Each character realizes how to do what she loves while still maintaining an upward trajectory in her life. As someone who has struggled with many of the same feelings, I found that part of the movie relatable and I appreciated how the writers handled it with both humor and heart.

I wish that this struggle had taken more of a main role in the movie’s plot; I think it could have done just as well as a movie about the Bellas coming together one last time to do what they loved, finding themselves in the process, without the Fat Amy action-movie subplot.

The movie culminated in a perfectly cheesy Pitch Perfect sort of way: with a musical number that pulled together all the loose ends. (I also appreciated Beca using live looping onstage.)

And in the movie’s very last scene, the sexist commentator John Smith gets absolutely owned by his female co-commentator Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger — a moment the entire series seemed to be building up to.

It was the perfect culmination to a film and series that was sometimes dumb, sometimes weird and sometimes hilarious, but always a lot of fun.

PREVIEW: Pitch Perfect 3

There were only a few weeks left until I started high school, and the first thing on my to-do list was to see a movie.

Everyone at camp that summer had been talking about this film, making jokes and references and telling me I just HAD to see it.

That movie was Pitch Perfect.

Soon, it became one of my favorite movies. I learned the cup song, incorporated “aca” into my vocabulary, and recreated the audition scene every time “Since U Been Gone” came on the radio. It was like High School Musical but for teenagers, before we realized that no dorm room looked like Beca’s (I wish) and that college parties didn’t actually contain riff-offs.

Now I’m actually in college, and I know these things. I’m morally opposed to sequels and (especially) trilogies. And yet, despite all those things, I’m going to see Pitch Perfect 3 because of the nostalgia, yes, but also because I know that regardless of whether it’s a good movie in the critical sense, I’ll laugh. I know there will be catchy songs involved. And I know that I’ll be entertained.

In the first movie, Beca, an aspiring DJ, is a freshman in college and in the second, she’s a senior with a slightly different group of girls around her. The third movie chronicles their adult lives out of college and what happens when the OG Barden Bellas reunite for one last time.

Pitch Perfect 3 is the final movie in its namesake musical comedy trilogy. It is rated PG-13 and playing in theaters nationwide.

REVIEW: The Nutcracker – Ann Arbor Ballet Theatre

It’s always rather conflicting when attempting to indulge in the holiday spirit during the everlasting finals season. Time spent seeking out the festive spirit typically leaves one in guilt for time loss from studying. However, The Nutcracker was being performed on campus so this would be exempt! There were two different groups performing The Nutcracker on campus. So, I chose to see the Ann Arbor Ballet Theatre perform at the Power Center.

The opening scene takes place in the Stahlbaum Home on Christmas Eve. From the beginning, I noted that the acoustics could have been better given that they would need to compensate for not having a live orchestra pit. However during Act I, Scene I, I undoubtedly still felt the Christmas festivity transcending from an evening spent with gifts, sweets, and dancing around the Christmas tree. Unaware of the Ann Arbor Ballet Theatre and all of its members, I was utterly pleased to see so many young performers on stage. From ages perhaps as low as five years old to older teens, it was a sight to see so many young performers expressing themselves through theatre and dance.

Act I, Scene III, The Land of Snow, was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. To my surprise, they had fake snow falling onto the stage! From the snowflake-like blue lighting and  background to the complementing snow fairy outfits and dances, this scene was aesthetically pleasing and beautifully accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s “Scene in the Pine Forest” and “Waltz of the Snowflakes.”

Act II: The Kingdom of Sweets, carries the bulk of the story and most rousing parts. During this, Clara and her newly gifted nutcracker arrive at his Palace high atop Sugar Mountain in the Kingdom of Sweets. (How could we not be the least bit of enlivened by a scene held in a place called The Kingdom of Sweets?) This scene is composed of several intensive and rather intimate waltzes that represent various ethnicities. To begin is Chocolate: a high-spirited Spanish dance. Next is the Arabian Coffee, a sultry, languid dance. Arguably, the most detailed and personal dances of them all with slow, thoughtful movements in sync with their partner. Coffee was the most expressive dance where the audience had the chance to analyze each intentional movement according to the music. In all fairness though, Coffee is the lengthiest and has the slowest tempo of all six dances, so this impression may be biased. Following Coffee was a much more upbeat, high-pitched lively and athletic Chinese inspired dance called Tea. To trump Tea’s lively nature, Trepak outperforms its predecessor with a much faster-paced beat in light of a Russian folk dance that is filled with bravura. To close out the divertissements, we are left with Marzipan, which in contrast, is a pas-de-trois, performed by three people — all followed by an appearance by Mother Ginger and her beloved Sugar Plums.

The curtains begin to close as Clara’s wondrous dream begins to fade while she finds herself back at home with only memories of a magical night. Upon the curtains closing, we are left with a matched feeling in comparison to the characters as we have followed along on their adventurous journey overnight and also come to a silent, peaceful close. Even in a wicked time known as “Finals Season,” time should be allotted for the holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

REVIEW: Violet

Looking for something to do to help you forget about the stress of exams and assignments this weekend?  Violet is the perfect musical to do just that!  The University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance brought to life this story that has hilarious, beautiful, and heartbreaking moments interwoven in.  Even on a Thursday night, the audience was completely standing at the end after being left speechless.

Violet is about a young woman (Natalie Duncan) whose face was disfigured when her dad (Jamie Colburn) accidentally hit her with an axe.  She grew up her whole life with people staring at her scar, or even worse, refusing to look her in the face.  She finally decides to travel to meet a television preacher (Ben Ahlers) who she hopes will heal her scar.  Along the way she meets Flick (Justin Showell) and Monty (Charlie Patterson), two soldiers on the road.

Natalie’s voice couldn’t have been any more fitting for the role of Violet.  One must have a decent Southern accent and some killer vocal chords to captivate the audience; and she did just that.  The audience was laughing while she was singing “All to Pieces”, about how she wants her physical features changed up like those of celebrities.  They got chills during the strong performance of “On My Way” done by the cast.  And they sobbed during Violet’s solo of “Look at Me”.

I typically recommend shows here and there to see, but this one cannot be missed.  It is such a beautiful story with a cast who did not disappoint.  The expected, but still shocking, amount of talent in this show blew the audience away.

There are still three shows left at the Arthur Miller Theatre: 12/9 at 2pm and 8pm, and 12/10 at 2pm.  Tickets are $20 for General Admission and $12 for Students with ID.  More information can be found at http://tickets.smtd.umich.edu/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=3355.