REVIEW: Who Can Relate

After an amazing week full of mental health awareness, it all led up to the Who Can Relate concert featuring not just Logic but many many more, as Hill Auditorium filled with people committed to destigmatizing and fighting mental illness.

With a surprising video greeting from Bill Clinton as the opener, the UM Men’s Glee Club took the stage with powerful vocalists to perform “Glory.” Then Glenn Close came out, talking about her work with her organization, Bring Change 2 Mind, changing the narrative around mental health after her sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (fittingly, yesterday, March 30, was national bipolar day) and her own struggles with depression. And as the stage worked on some server technical difficulties, we got treated to an impromptu performance by Glenn Close, which was amazing in itself.

Kevin Hines, a Golden Gate Bridge suicide survivor, led everyone in shouting “Be here tomorrow.” A phrase so simple, yet so powerful. As the auditorium rang with these three words, I felt the reassuring tension as they echoed into silence. Hakeem Rahim performed spoken word pieces that struck a chord about rising up again. As the founder of I Am Acceptance, his work is also changing the world, and having his presence onstage was truly special. Finally, NFL star Brandon Marshall and his wife Michi talked some more about the importance of support groups and getting help, as Marshall himself lives with borderline personality disorder. Seeing these prominent successful figures united around a common cause that affects all their lives personally is a reminder that, though it is a hard journey, the future is bright and worth fighting for.

By the time Logic took the stage (wearing a Zingerman’s shirt no less), everyone was on their feet and ready for a night of great music. This was the very first time he was performing his newest Bobby Tarantino II mixtape, and though it was only released earlier this month, everyone was singing every word. At the end, he performed his hit “1-800-273-8255.” Seeing everyone sing this song with their phone lights waving in the air was truly touching.

Logic’s story is also one of great admiration. He started on food stamps, and now he has a Netflix documentary and is about to start his summer tour. The first time he performed in Ann Arbor, it was at the Blind Pig as an opener for a small crowd, and yesterday he performed in front of a crowded Hill Auditorium where everyone was singing along. His journey is an emblem of hope for many others that started from nothing that the future will allow them to make something of themselves.

However, the concert did not end there. After Logic left the stage after his last song, Harris Schwartzberg, the man who put this all together, called Logic back to the stage as “You Will Be Found” from the amazing musical Dear Evan Hansen was performed as a thank you for Logic. This breathtakingly important song about mental health was a perfect ending to a night filled with inspirational people and songs.

The night was just amazing. Full of uniting strength and infinite support, it was a beautiful reminder that you truly are not alone. If you or someone you know is fighting with mental illness, there is hope and love. Stay strong <3

REVIEW: blackbear w/ Roy Wood$

I’m not sure where to even begin. March 23, 2018 — it was the warmest night of the week in Ann Arbor, and I had driven to my friend’s place so we could walk to Hill Auditorium together. As two notorious procrastinators, we decided to meet up at 7:30PM, so we weren’t quite ready to be makin’ our way downtown to the concert just yet.

Well, I mean, I was ready, I was so ready to see blackbear — who has risen as a popular R&B and Hip Hop artist, with hits like “do re mi” and “idfc” — which basically represent my mentality about the world: I have trust issues, I hate people, I don’t care, but with more profanities sprinkled in between.

I discovered blackbear once upon a time, when I still used Pandora’s online music player, which had its own R&B/Hip Hop station. blackbear popped up every so often, and I’d jammed hard to his music, which pushed me to look for more. His album “digital druglord” is my favorite, by the way. Long story short, I’m hardcore into his music.

Once my friend and I had finished powdering our noses and saying goodbye to the house cats, we started walking with my impatient and brisk pace, to my friend’s dismay. On the way, we laughed and chatted it up, chewing on candy hearts with very aggressively forward flirtatious phrases on them. It was colder than we’d anticipated, trusting the Weather App’s warmer predictions, but that didn’t stop the excitement from bubbling underneath.

Hill Auditorium was in sight, and we were all chattering teeth and goosebumps through the doors, where security guards were scanning for tickets. I was carrying both of our tickets, so I hastily shuffled through my purse to find only one. My heart immediately sank, and I could feel my friend laughing nervously and looking ominously at me. In a panic, we held each other, and I frantically searched my pockets and dug further into my bag, where I discovered the other ticket was hiding. My heart was pounding, but the two of us laughed at the ridiculousness of the moment. Mind you, if I had left the ticket at her place, that was at least a twenty minute walk away from Hill Auditorium, and we’d barely even made Michigan Time to the 8:00PM start of the concert.

Nevertheless, our tickets put us on the very top floor, the balcony, overlooking the hundreds of others seated ahead of us. On our way up the steps, I could already feel my knees buckling from walking so fast, from almost losing our tickets, and of course, from my overwhelming excitement. My friend had her arm hooked around mine, laughing as she helped me up. The floor was vibrating with the heavy beats blasting through the entire auditorium, and we hadn’t even gotten to the top floor.

The moment we opened the doors to the actual auditorium, we were greeted by extremely dim lighting and extremely loud music. Another security guard saw us blindly walking in the darkness and asked what seat numbers we had, to which we replied 410 and 411, and he pointed us in that direction. Eventually, one way or another, we settled into our seats and drowned in the noise.

Roy Wood$ was already performing by the time we had arrived, and neither of us were quite familiar with him, but I was grateful I had the chance to see him perform — I was definitely going to give his music a try later. Roy Wood$ is more R&B/Soul, which I’m fond of, and besides that, the enthusiasm around me was contagious. I felt I became a fan of Roy Wood$ in that concert, along with the throngs of fans screaming his name and his lyrics.

My friend and I fell into conversation here and there, gossiping about people we knew, swaying and grooving to the music. At this point of my emotional roller coaster, I was not quite at the peak, which was saved for blackbear’s appearance on stage.

Once Roy Wood$ was finishing up, a short intermission followed, and the lights came on and flooded the auditorium. I realized how many young faces I saw in the crowd, some even accompanied by one or two parental-looking figures. My friend assured me that they were the same age, other college kids like us, but for some reason, it freaked me out a little — a grim reminder that I’m 21 years old and not getting any younger.

My tiny mid-life crisis ended when the lights dimmed to black again, and the familiar vibrations of the floor returned, beating and pounding.

A familiar beat came on, and I instantly jumped up, following suit to countless other silhouettes around us. My only thought was he’s here, he’s here, he’s really here and it’s him, it’s him, it’s really him, barely containing my excitement. The intro blasted through the auditorium, blackbear’s most famous “do re mi” line, pulling and drawing the eager audience in before it smoothly transitioned into a different song — “Dirty Laundry.” (Spoiler alert: blackbear closes with “do re mi.”)

blackbear walked on stage and greeted the outstretched hands reaching for him, waving to the countless screaming fans. He did a little dance as he got into the song’s melody, pulling a couple poses here and there, while everyone wholeheartedly belted out the lyrics with him. Of course, so did I, but it was difficult when I could hardly hear myself think. The realization dawned on me that the teeny tiny figure on stage, obscured by various arms waving in front of me, was really blackbear and at that moment, I was caught in pure, unadulterated excitement and hysteria.

As soon as blackbear got into the swing of his music, everyone was losing their minds, delirious to the sound of heavy beats and the husky tone of blackbear’s voice. An electrifying energy flooded the room, putting the audience in a chilling, exhilarating trance. I was in that feverish crowd of fans, high on blackbear’s music, hypnotized by the thrill of the experience.

Still, I must admit, it was deafeningly loud in there, so noisy and so excruciatingly loud, the words blackbear was singing often came out as muffled noises, like those from a rusty, old radio. Between the songs, sometimes he had things to say to the audience, which I was desperate to hear, but every word was gibberish to me. Maybe this was because I was seated so far from the front, but hey, I’m not made of money. Priority seating was a little out of my price range, okay?

I’m not complaining. I had the opportunity to see blackbear perform live! I’m honestly still processing it, and I’m absolutely honored and beyond ecstatic to be able to blog about it for [art]seen — my experience is memorialized, in a way. Definitely treasuring this.

This photo shows blackbear performing one of his biggest hits, “idfc,” which encouraged everyone to swing their flashlights in the air. Obviously, the photo was taken by blackbear’s photographer, who was taking photos from on-stage. From my perspective, the concert looked a little more like:

Still — not complaining. The entire experience was the takeaway for me. I will be eternally grateful to have had the chance to see blackbear perform here in Ann Arbor, of all places, and dedicate a blog post to [art]seen about it. Words cannot describe how absolutely amazing it was to me, and I’m honestly in awe at how they transformed Hill Auditorium, where my sister had her graduation ceremony, gowns and all, into a blackbear R&B/Hip Hop venue. Lights streamed in every direction, bringing life to the stage, the crowd, and the performer. I was in the same building, the same room, as blackbear — just wow.

Special thanks to Hill Auditorium for hosting this unique and special event at the heart of Ann Arbor — I will cherish it forever. And a special shoutout to my friend, who isn’t even that big of a blackbear fan but loved me enough to come with me! I hope you had as much fun as I did, or at least some fraction of it, I had a looooooot of fun. Maybe even too much fun, really. Shoutout to blackbear’s photographer and instagram for posting these awesome photos of the concert, S.O. to the poor dad sitting uncomfortably in front of us, S.O. to the people who caught the articles of clothing blackbear threw — I am and will be forever jealous of you — and shoutout to the couple dancing hysterically a couple rows in front of us. Not even darkness can hide your dance moves.

The concert is over, but in my heart, it will live on forever! Thank you so much for coming to Ann Arbor, blackbear!!!

PREVIEW: Joshua Bell & Sam Haywood

This weekend, Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood will be performing live at Hill Auditorium. Bell is an incredibly famous and successful violinist, and Haywood is a well-known pianist who has toured extensively in the United States and in Europe, performing in many major concert halls along the way. The two have worked together as a duo several times in the past.

I’m personally very excited to see Joshua Bell, because his name has been familiar to me for years. My parents are both musicians, and I’ve heard a lot about him from them; he also grew up in my hometown and attended my high school! (He’s pretty much the only famous person who has, so his name is thrown around a lot there.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in concert myself, though, so I’m very excited to finally get to see him perform live. I’m also looking forward to seeing Sam Haywood, with whose work I’m less familiar but who also has a glowing reputation.

Bell and Haywood will be performing this Saturday at 8:00 PM at the Hill Auditorium. The program will feature works of Mozart, Schubert, and Richard Strauss.

PREVIEW: Howie Day

I listen to so much music that playlist attrition is a natural consequence. I get tired of songs eventually and clear them out to make room for other, newer, more exciting ones.

But there are a few songs that are exceptions, that are timeless enough to me that they stick on my playlists for years. Howie Day’s Collide is one of those songs. Five years after it originally landed on my iPod, back when I was 13 and my favorite genre of music was whatever was on the radio, the lyrics still speak to me.

“Even the best fall down sometimes, even the stars refuse to shine, out of the doubt that fills my mind, I somehow find you and I collide.”

Through middle school and high school and now college, those words have been with me. So when I saw Howie Day was coming to The Ark, I knew I had to go.

Day hasn’t released an album since 2015 because he spends so much time touring. I haven’t seen him in concert before, but he’s known for his innovative live arrangements and instrumentation, something that should play well at an intimate venue like The Ark.

Day isn’t the traditional folk artist usually associated with The Ark. Instead, his music is emotional acoustic guitar-based pop rock, similar to that of bands like The Fray. If folk isn’t really your thing but you want a fairly inexpensive local concert at a great venue, he’s worth checking out.

Howie Day comes to The Ark with opening act Shane Piasecki, another acoustic pop singer-songwriter, this Sunday, December 3, at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $20 at The Ark, at the Michigan Union Ticket Office, or online at theark.org.

REVIEW: The Milk Carton Kids

I thought when I went to The Ark for Tuesday’s Milk Carton Kids show that I was getting a low-key acoustic show. I got that, but also so much more. At times funny, ridiculous, and bittersweet, The Milk Carton Kids and their opener Sammy Miller and the Congregation defied description in a concert I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

The name Sammy Miller and the Congregation sounds like a throwback to the Jazz Age, but theirs wasn’t a traditional jazz show. In fact, they told us, they were banned from the genre of jazz for reasons that were implied to be related to their production of a “jopera:” a jazz opera that eschewed any genre. The band incorporated theatrical elements, humor, and even a little pop music into their set. Their jopera was weird and wonderful, incorporating costumes, singing, and even a nonsensical storyline (an essential part of any opera). They engaged the audience, sometimes leaving stage and returning via the seats, as actors often do. I’m still not sure how to describe what I saw, but I know I was entertained.

The Milk Carton Kids, a duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, couldn’t have been more different in style and substance from their opener. Their sole instruments were two acoustic guitars. They wore suits and stood around one mic while they performed a set of mostly melancholy folk songs. But they, too, injected a surprising amount of humor into their set in their pre-song introductions.

At the beginning of the set, for instance, Kenneth confessed that he was watching the World Series on a device hidden in his bag (I don’t blame him). That joke recurred throughout, and there were times when Joey would start introducing a song and Kenneth would stand at the back of the stage, tuning his guitar and clearly peering into his bag. The whole audience was laughing at their intros, which were at turns funny, awkward, and self-effacing. It was an odd juxtaposition; it was almost as if they were performing a comedy show in between their folk concert.

The music itself was entertaining for very different reasons. I was impressed by the band’s harmonies, particularly on their slower songs. The intimate setup of The Ark and the songs’ sparse arrangements really brought out those harmonies. One song I particularly enjoyed was “I Only See the Moon,” a song from their upcoming album. Their penultimate song “Michigan” was also a highlight. Luckily, they were lying when they sang “Michigan’s in the rearview mirror” and came out for an encore.

I also enjoyed listening to the lyrics of the songs they played. Many were about traditional topics of contemporary folk, such as melancholy memories and places of the past, but others were political or even happy and upbeat. I allowed myself to sit back and get lost in the imagery of the lyrics, something that’s not possible at other types of concerts.

Though the Milk Carton Kids aren’t the kind of band I regularly listen to, and their concert wasn’t the kind of concert I usually attend, I was glad I went. The music was beautiful and the spoken interludes were entertaining. I’d never seen anything like this concert before, and I have a feeling I won’t ever again. But I’ll remember every bit: the humor and the harmonies, the beautiful and the weird.

PREVIEW: The Milk Carton Kids

I used to think I didn’t like folk music, but that was before I went to The Ark. From my first show, I was hooked. Folk is usually centered around simple instrumentation and exquisite harmonies, which combined with the venue’s exceptional acoustics is a match made in heaven. The Ark only seats 400, so even the introduction to a song can feel like an intimate conversation with the band. After the show, you can often meet them.

This Halloween, if costumes and haunted houses aren’t your thing, here’s an alternative: come to The Ark to see The Milk Carton Kids! They’re an indie folk duo that has been nominated for a Grammy, toured with The Lumineers, and been praised by Sara Bareilles, and they even have a song called Michigan. The Ark’s website sums them up using the phrase “haunting vocal harmonies” and that alone is enough to make me want to drop everything and come to The Ark Tuesday night.

The Milk Carton Kids with opening act Sammy Miller and the Congregation come to The Ark Tuesday, October 31 at 8:00 PM. You can buy general admission tickets for $35 at The Ark, at the Michigan Union Ticket Office, or online at theark.org.