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

PREVIEW: Logic: Who Can Relate?

Image result for logic michigan

On Friday, March 30th, the University of Michigan will be hosting Logic, a Grammy Award winning rapper, to perform in historic Hill Auditorium as part of its Mental Health week.  The ability to land a star like Logic to headline a week for a cause as important as Mental Health awareness is a huge boon to the success of the week as a whole.  While Logic will perform a full concert’s worth of music, including his recent hit, 1-800-273-8255, the event will feature more starpower than just him.  Actor Glenn Close and football player Brandon Marshall will both be in attendance and contributing to the event in some way.  Both have significant ties to Mental Health awareness initiatives and charities.  Close founded her own charity, BringChange2Mind, to help get rid of the discrimination that surrounds mental illness, in support of her sister, who has bipolar disorder.  Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and has been a huge advocate for the destigmatization of it ever since he went public about his personal situation.  The event will feature other guest performers and speakers who will address various topics within the scope of mental health.  It sounds like it will be an exceptional night that will combine incredible music making with powerful mental health awareness presentations to truly create an impact on the way we, the students at the University of Michigan, view mental health in Ann Arbor and everywhere else we go.

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.

REVIEW: New York Philharmonic – Young People’s Concert

Word was out: The New York Philharmonic was set to make its debut to the University for their second major residency in honor of Leonard Bernstein. Upon their arrival, the NY Philharmonic had more than twenty various educational and community engagement activities planned for both students on campus and those of the larger community as well. Before attending the Young People’s Concert, I had the opportunity of attending the lecture held by the University Musical Society’s current president, Matthew VanBesien and Deborah Borda, President and CEO of NY Philharmonic. This discussion was driven by the topic of Leadership, Innovation, and the Business of Running an Orchestra. It was a packed room full of faculty, students, and UMS affiliates. With the energy and excitement elicited from those in the room, I could not wait to finally attend one of their mainstage performances!

Come the big day (Saturday), the weather was dreary and raining vigorously…not an ideal day for attending a world-renowned concert, as one may imagine. Though, my enthusiasm was not shot down a single bit! Upon arriving, I was thoroughly pleased with the sight of so many young faces and people of color. This was something that I could truly appreciate, as it is of mutual understanding (and a prominent goal mentioned by Ms. Borda) to shift the majority orchestra concert goers from older individuals to a more diverse audience.

Moving along, the concert’s primary purpose was to celebrate Leonard Bernstein. In a roundabout way, the show itself was a rendition of episodes performed by Bernstein himself. It was set up like an interactive lesson, rather, somewhat like a game show with a host and commentary/history of selected pieces in between each performance. We were even presented with a special guest: one of Leonard Bernstein’s daughters! In conjunction with testaments to her own stories of childhood, there were also members of the orchestra that accounted for early memories of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

We are told that Bernstein was a man of many roles: a father, conductor, composer, and so forth. The program was composed of excerpts from Bernstein’s Candide, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, “The Age of Anxiety,” Symphony No. 2, “Jeremiah,” Symphony No. 1, and West Side Story. The most audience participation came from the very last piece, Mambo. Throughout the performances, the host and conductor, Leonard Slatkin, took various efforts to involve the audience. During Mambo, we were given the exclusive role of synchronously shouting “Mambo!” when given our cue.

I found the excerpts from West Side Story to be a special treat. In addition to hearing more upbeat tunes and jazzy compositions, we were given pieces from the Broadway musical! With two special guests, U-M alumni were welcomed to the stage to aide in performing “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” and the “Balcony Scene.” Surprisingly enough, it felt as though I was watching the musical itself while simultaneously viewing what would be the orchestra pit during the show. All in all, the New York Philharmonic’s residency this year was an unforgettable experience, with much recognition given to the University Musical Society for hosting them.

REVIEW: Daniil Trifonov, piano “An Homage to Chopin”

What’s better than a night of Chopin?

A night of Chopin performed by Daniil Trifonov.

There was everything a piano concert should have: the loud and the soft; the fast and the slow; the touch and the feel. There are things many piano concerts lack: the emotion, the excitement, the energy, the presence. Trifonov was very much emotional and exciting and energetic and present. He managed to accomplish everything a musician hopes to achieve in their lifetime in just two hours of wondrous harmonies and melodies.

The first half of his program was all works inspired by Chopin. My favorite from this section was the excerpt from Carnaval, Op. 9 by Schumann. It was fun and lighthearted, and Grieg’s Moods that followed afterwards created a stark contrast that really captured the range of music and style that Chopin influenced, as well as the musicianship talent of Trifonov.

My view of Trifonov from the balcony

While all the music was masterful and amazing, my favorite pieces would still have to be the Chopin works in the second half. His Variations on “La ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni, Op. 2 were full of energy and attitude. I’m a sucker for variations, and this one was no exception.

Sonata No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 35 started out with a bang and it ended with a bang, and everything in between was just as grand. Trifonov showed off all the technique he has mastered, but the best moment came during Marche funèbre: Lento, when the entire room was silent, and the soft, somber notes from the piano filled the room in a way no fortissimo ever could. There were chills, and I was left speechless.

The music finished sooner than I wanted, and the entire auditorium was on its feet, cheering and clapping and whistling for more—and more is what we got. Trifonov came back out and played a slower piece, which I thought was unusual for an encore, but he pulled it off, treating the audience to this heartfelt piece. Again, it ended, but we wanted more.

And this is the point where I literally gasped and the entire night became more perfect than it already was.

For his second encore, Trifonov performed FantaisieImpromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66, which I myself played four years ago, and it’s been one of my favorite songs ever since I heard my older sister play it. Hearing Trifonov play it, however, was a whole new experience. The notes I knew by heart suddenly came alive in a way that’s never been played before, and I really felt this song in a whole new light.

Again, we hoped for more, but sadly, time had passed and it was officially over. However, his music has found its place into my memory and into my heart. The night came to an end, but his music lives on in me and everyone that attended this concert.

Daniil Trifonov has been called the greatest pianist of our generation, and after hearing him grace the stage with Chopin and many more at Hill Auditorium, I could not agree more.