REVIEW: 6th Annual Multicultural Yardshow

It was unbelievable how much fun the Yardshow was. The event had one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at The Diag, and people at the back even huddled onto lampposts to get a better look. Before the show started, it was heartwarming to see the organizations already introducing themselves to each other and cheering each other on; of course, the cheers for each other grew even louder during the actual performances! Sometimes, it even became hard to hear the music over the screams and clapping.

It was clear how much pride each brother and sister had too: the members wore matching outfits representing their organization; their introductions were empowering; and their performance included dance moves significant to their history and representation. Some also included demonstrations of their values before dancing. Members of the organization who weren’t performing would chant from the crowd too, creating an even more immersive experience for the audience.

Because each group was so distinct from one another, the energy and attention didn’t die down despite the long acts (some performances even went up to 10 minutes). One of my favorites was a group that only had four students dancing. They exhibited so much charisma and earned lots of cheering for their simple yet exciting moves, and because of their small numbers, it made each dancer that much more memorable. Other memorable moments were the sorority that made use of golden belts and

I also want to give a massive shoutout to Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc. for hosting the event and giving an amazing last performance to end the night. They collaborated with another sorority and even gave some lucky audience members flowers!

I’m already looking forward to the 7th Annual Multicultural Yardshow to see what else the Multicultural Greek Organizations have in store for us.

PREVIEW: RE:CLAIM : IMMERSION

 

Come visit the Washtenaw County Courthouse tonight (9/15) from 5:30 to 8:00 pm to experience the opening night of RE:CLAIM. RE:CLAIM is a project seeking to honor the complexity and diversity of the community impact of the criminal legal system as it affects youth, adults, and families.

Tonight will be filled with song, dance, poetry, and visual arts. It will surely be an experience to remember with over 30 dancers, poets, and musicians performing. The night will also include poems featuring artworks from the Embracing our Difference Exhibition that took over Gallup Park, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and River Side Park.

REVIEW: Groove Robs the Louvre

I admire Groove’s creativity.

On the night that the Groove declared that they will rob the Louvre(!), the Michigan theater where the viewers would be the witness this exciting heist was filled up with the crowd. The performance was highly enjoyable because, fundamentally, the performances sounded so good! Groove is a student organization known to create amazing beats out of untraditional percussion instruments such as trash cans, plastic buckets, or anything they can beat! It was amazing how the Groove used different percussion that did not sound the same – each has a different pitch, so instead of the sounds crumbling altogether, they came together to create an exciting harmony.

Yeah, everyone knows that Groove sounds amazing, but I was wondering from my prior experience from watching their shows consisting of short performances focused solely on sounds about how they will link diverse percussion performances into a 2-hour show with theme and storyline. As always, Groove’s creativity was way ahead of me. The general storyline was that Groove had decided to rob the Louvre as a bonding activity, and each performance represented what happened during the planning of the heist, the incident they had on France, and how they finally went through all the challenges and stole Monariza. As for the story, short dialogues were inserted between shows while the stage settings were being changed. This was a smart, strategic choice not only because it prevented the audience from being bored during the pause but also because it overcame the percussion performance’s difficulty to convey the story due to the lack of lyrics in the music.

The show was well structured: as the story unfolded, the scope of their performance became wider as well. The performance started with purely percussion sounds – the ones we would expect from a typical groove performance(wait, groove performance is never typical!). Also, the performance offered interesting visual scenes while the percussion was being played – my personal favorite was where they were making music in a kitchen scene where the icebox was used as the main beat while other small kitchen utensils and cooking process, including the popping of the egg as the highlight, were added on top of it. Both visually humorous and sonically exciting, this scene was truly enjoyable. Then the wider range of performances joined on top of the beat, such as dancing or the display of talents of the members including receiving a jelly thrown across the stage by the mouth. Then, the range of instruments widened to include strings and horns, returning to percussion performance in the end. This not only showed how talented each individual of Groove is but also proved that Groove’s ability to coordinate music is not bounded to percussion.

Alas, I almost forgot to mention the incredible stage design! Stage made out of iron bars that had fake Monariza on it definitely highlighted the ‘Louvre’ part while going so well with the exciting, raw vibe of Groove’s music. In all, I really appreciated the pure creativity that Groove had enchanted us with during the two-hour show.

REVIEW: Cece June, Big Chemical, and Jacob Sigman

Last Friday at the Blind Pig, I had the pleasure of attending Cece June’s set, situated between performances by Big Chemical and Jacob Sigman. It was a cold trek out to the west side of downtown, but as I find with many shows I’ve attended at the Blind Pig, it was definitely worth it. Cece June’s presence in the University of Michigan music scene has grown immensely over this past year, and this set shows exactly why.

 

A mix of covers and originals, Cece Durán commanded the room as a solo act with her powerful voice and clear proficiency on both acoustic and electric guitar. She offered a fair amount of music from her excellent EP, and we were able to hear soon-to-be released material from her forthcoming LP. She also had a distinct grip on the mood of the room, offering both thoughtful, soulful moments and energetic, uplifting points throughout her set. Her ability to oscillate between the two and carry the room with her was a joy to witness.

 

Now a part of a group as well, Cece and the Crawlers, her ability to adapt between solo and collaborative performance shined through that evening. Speaking to this point, during her set she invited fellow act Jacob Sigman onstage and performed a touching duet of an unreleased song of his. Their voices complemented each other perfectly as the power and passion in their musical expression matched so well.

 

Another highlight included her cover of a song by Nothing But Thieves. This performance showed the way Durán was capable of filling the room with her voice, the ballad providing a certain emotional dimensionality to her set. In addition to her voice, Durán’s capabilities on the guitar were stellar, punctuating and accentuating her act in a highly effective way. The song she performed in her native language, Spanish, was also captivating and showed off yet another facet of her musical oeuvre.

 

Durán had natural stage presence, interacting with the crowd and encouraging participation in a way that didn’t feel forced or one-sided. It was easy to find oneself singing along, feeling the music just as much as others in the crowd.

PREVIEW: Cece June, Big Chemical, and Jacob Sigman

This Friday at the Blind Pig you can catch a variety of great performances from Cece June, Big Chemical, and Jacob Sigman. I’ll be reviewing Cece June, or Cecelilia Durán’s act in particular, as she’s quickly become a staple in the Ann Arbor music scene. An LSA student herself, Durán has a new album in the works now–it’s a great time to catch some fresh music from her in preparation for her eventual full-length release. With a stacked lineup, there’s sure to be a variety of musical offerings as well.

 

Tickets are only $10, so make sure you find yourself at the Blind Pig this weekend!

REVIEW: Purple Rain

Great as a preserved performance, so-so as a movie.

My overall review is that even though the movie was interesting enough as a record to experience Prince’s performance, it wasn’t watcher-friendly.

The movie follows Prince and his problems when he was a young, aspiring star, presumably telling the story around the time when he first played his hit ‘Purple Rain’ in front of the public.

As mentioned, as a recording of the music performance, it was great. I felt as though I was actually in a concert and the camera used angles that were very efficient in portraying the performance style of Prince. Even though I had never seen videos of Prince performing before, I could get the sense of his style and ‘coolness’. The camera also did not fall into the mistake made at some band performances – focusing on the vocal yet using too many angles and effects. This may captivate the watcher’s attention but would draw the attention away from the personal aura of the performers. However, Purple rain focused on the lights, fog, and motion of Prince; the real elements on stage that draw the watcher’s attention to the actual movement of Prince.

As for the storyline, it wasn’t articulated enough for the watchers to be immersed in the story. I couldn’t help comparing the with Bohemian Rhapsody, a film that took a similar format of songs from an iconic artist and told a story about the artist. The impression I got was that Bohemian Rhapsody laid out the story more carefully. Bohemian Rhapsody made the characters likable. It gave enough information on the context of the character’s emotion so that the watcher could understand and build an emotional attachment with the character. Enough description was given on characters so that felt lively as well. However, In Purple rain, the story seemed to be an assembly of pieces. Strong emotional events were given – relationship with Apollonia, the conflict between Prince’s parents, and discontent from the band members. However, instead of building the foundation of each story and how it developed, the storyline only threw strong events at the audience without providing room for the audience to emotionally understand or resonate with the character. Also, the characters were flat. Think of Apollonia-why did she join Morris and how does her feelings toward Prince develop? What’s Morris’ opinion of Prince and what’s the story behind the conflict between Prince and the Band? What is needed for it to be resolved? All these questions, which are well developed, could have been an interesting human drama, were glazed over and not discussed.

In all, I recommend this movie to people who miss the heat of the concert scene and miss the music from the era before digital beats took over. It was also fun to imagine how Prince’s performance would have affected artists of later generations because a lot of his movements reminded me of scenes I’ve seen on contemporary artists’ performances. However, if you’re looking for an emotionally well-told movie with a sound track-you might want to look for something else.