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

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

REVIEW: Dance Mix 2017 The Galaxy Edition

What a night. I started walking over to the Power Center with my friend five minutes before the concert started to find a building packed with students. Before the first group took the stage, the organizers announced that this was the second sold-out concert in a row.


Some sold-out concerts don’t feel sold out. You can spot empty seats and the audience is tame. Not so for this young, rambunctious crowd that hooted and hollered names of friends in the dance groups all throughout the event. Between the energy of the audience and the students moving around on stage, the 2.5 hour event felt like taking a shot of espresso.

When things get hot and heavy on stage

First off, I have to apologize at not being able to keep track of the names of the groups. Every group that took the stage was incredibly talented in their own unique way. Alas, I did not have a program with me during the concert so I could not tell exactly which group was on stage at a particular time.






I can’t imagine it’s easy to fit a wide variety of student acts into one concert, but Dance Mix 17 pulled it off through smooth transitions between more traditional ballet (top left picture) and decidedly modern hip-hop (top right picture), as well as dancers that both to the melodies of ballads and rock songs alike.

One of the highlights of the group was Revolution and their stringless yo-yo performance. Countless students walked across the stage slinging their plastic yo-yo’s like divine beings levitating rocks. Those plastic yo-yo’s flew across the stage and around the slingers and every trick drew fresh cheers from the crowd. Even the tricks that failed still felt like successes, and I was definitely not the only one entranced by the performance.


Later, Photonix performed in the dark with glow sticks, producing images like the one you see in the header photo of this blog. Towards the end of the performance, they unleashed hundreds of mini glow sticks into the audience.
The audience being composed almost entirely of students, everyone went wild.

Another highlight of the night was a Bollywood rendition of Top Gun (by Michigan Manzil I think). The story was a cliche telling of a young fighter pilot who loses his friend in a fight, but this isn’t a Hollywood film and the performance was one of the standouts of the second half of the night.

The Bollywood-esque peformance went through half a dozen wardrobe changes without a hitch, in addition to props and set pieces, and above all it was entertaining as heck.

Rounding out the rest of the night were performances by EnCore (picture below), Outrage, and FunKtion again.

I’m incredibly glad I was able to attend this event, and if you’re reading this blog and didn’t go this year, you NEED to attend next year.

Review: Our Victory and Pride

On Saturday I attended the Men’s Glee Club concert titled Our Victory and Pride: Singing in the Key of Michigan Since 1859.  I have been to multiple concerts of the Men’s Glee Club, however, this one was by far my favorite!  The concert celebrated Michigan’s composers as a part of the bicentennial celebration.   And if you missed this concert, there will be another celebrating the bicentennial in the fall!

I absolutely loved all of the songs that were sung, and could definitely see the tie to Michigan in them.  Some of the composers such as Kristin Kuster (composer of “given a body” and “Michigan: Unite”), Shawn Crouch (composer of “The Peace of Wild Things”), and William Brehm (“I will remember, my Michigan”) were in the audience on Saturday night.  The Men’s Glee Club also sang an awesome “Motown Medley” arranged by director Eugene Rogers and JDM.  My personal favorite had to have been “The Map”.  “The Map” took us on a drive through the state of Michigan and highlighted some of the more popular cities.  The hilarious and lovable group of The Friars also made an appearance, singing some of their songs.

The Men’s Glee Club closed their concert with the popular “Varsity and the Victors” as well as “The Yellow and Blue”, in which they invited the alumni of the Men’s Glee Club onstage.  This was such a fun concert to attend and I’m looking forward to part two on November 10 and 11 at the International Male Chorus Symposium!