REVIEW: Parsonsfield

On May 2, 2019, I experienced one of the most exciting live shows I’ve ever been to, and it all took place in front of the stage at The Ark.

The night started out with the opener, Jamie Drake. With just a guitar, her beautiful voice pierced through the air for a simple yet stunning sound. “Pill” and “Plumbline” were lovely sing-alongs that evoked powerful emotions, and “Wonder” was a really cute song as well. She closed with “Allison,” a song inspired by a toddler that acknowledges that it takes time to find your voice and that it’s okay. I didn’t know who she was when the night began, and as soon as she opened her mouth, I was instantly captivated, and I left The Ark a passionate fan of hers.

Then, Parsonsfield came out onstage, singing some of their most popular hits, such as as well as new works that had yet to be performed. They played “Everyone Dies,” “Weeds or Wildflowers,” “Kick Out the Windows,” and “Stronger,” among many others, seamlessly transitioning between all the songs with constant music. They also unplugged for a couple raw, sad numbers that showed off their amazing vocal blending and prowess without reverberating instruments. They finished the night off with their encore, “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me,” a fun little tune to wrap up their exciting show.

One of the most amazing things about Parsonsfield is the variety of instruments they use and the different sounds they can make with only four people in the band. Chris Freeman, the lead singer with unbounded energy, played the banjo, guitar, pump organ, and harmonica. Max Shakun also contributed his flawless vocals, playing guitar, pump organ, synthesizer, and bass as well. The mandolin man Antonio Alcorn and drummer Erik Hischmann finish off this multifaceted combination of a band. The musical talent of every single member gives the band its one-of-a-kind style that fuses rock and folk into headbanging yet meaningful music.

I saw Parsonsfield at Folk Fest, but sitting right by the stage made the experience way better than sitting in the top balcony and barely being able to see them. This live and intimate show at The Ark made Parsonsfield seem bigger than life, filling up the entire stage and room with joyful music, and the audience, far from being sold out, filled the room with endless applause and cheers that made it seem like the show was sold out. With Jamie Drake setting the stage with her wonderful set that I never wanted to end, Parsonsfield capped the night off with heart-pounding and wonderful music.

PREVIEW: Parsonsfield

Celebrate the survival of finals, the end of another semester, and the coming of summer by listening to some nice indie folk music at The Ark! Parsonsfield, who performed at Folk Fest back in January, will be performing on May 2 at 8pm with opener Jamie Drake. Tickets are only $20 for the chance to listen to this multi-genre band explore the intersections between bluegrass, rock ‘n roll, and folk!

REVIEW: Haley Heynderickx

As I locked my bike on a rack on Main St, I rushed over to the opposite side of the street to make the long line that was spewing out of the door of the Ark: the venue at which Haley Heynderickx would be performing. People among all types of demographics made up this line: elder couples, younger couples, grungy teenagers, and families. I wasn’t expecting this diverse of a group of people to be in line to watch Haley perform; yet, after her performance, it became so much easier to understand why she could draw everyone in who was listening.

The Ark filled up quickly; as soon as I acquired a decent seat to the left of the stage, I remained in it until the end of the show so that I wouldn’t lose it to the floods of people continually coming in. Comfortable with the seat I was in, I immediately felt the excitement within me that comes when the lights go low and the performance finally begins. The production began with a opening musician, a component of the performance that I don’t think any of us were expecting but welcomed nonetheless. This musician was usually a part of Haley’s band during her larger performances, but was given the opportunity to open and perform her own art. I was very impressed by the opener’s performance as she was able to create unique sounds with the few instruments she had, such as the grand concert harp, synthesizer, and voice. Soon after her performance, we took an intermission and then were brought back together for the main act.

As soon as Haley entered the stage, her persona was evident. Having made this return to the Ark, I could hear people cheering extra loudly as she entered because they knew that she would put on an entertaining show. She immediately showed an elevated surge of quirkiness and subtle awkwardness. However, she was simultaneously pleasant and very easy-going, which altogether made her absolutely comical. Hailing from Colorado, I could sense her background, the essence of how she was raised and how in touch she was with her natural roots. I would come to find out that this essence that she brought as what seemed like a spawn of the Earth itself went hand-in-hand with her down-to-earth personality.

This real, down-to-earth personality shined through her musicianship. Giving a warm glare of the indie genre, I could feel a slight aggression from her lyrics and the tone of her voice that gave a more substantial light-heartedness than the stereotypical airy light-heartedness of indie music. This raw, rich tone allowed her music to soar as an original composition and I felt that I could credit her as a true musician in that way. She shared her musical influences as result of taking questions from the audience in between songs, and you could sense the passion she had with performing the music she created as a result of being inspired by them.

Overall, Haley Heynderickx put on a compelling show with a warm personality and simple yet original musicianship that allowed me to understand why most people never wanted her to end her show, never wanted her to leave, or come back to Ann Arbor at the every least if she had to leave. After attending this performance, I was able to solidify my interest in small performances and be reminded of how enriching and fulfilling they can be.

REVIEW: Haley Heynderickx

On March 29, 2019, two magnificent women from Portland took over The Ark, capturing the night with their unique sounds and instrumentation for a night of pure and magical music.

Lily Breshears, who usually tours with Haley Heynderickx in her band as the bassist and keyboardist, took the stage first with her synth, a harp (a rental, in replacement of her harp back home named Spreadsheet), and a mic. She opened with a song about the dysfunctional long distance relationship, but later countered it with her hymn about relationships that are so good, it makes you forget all the pain, or be thankful for it because it led to the present. Her song, “Pick Up Game,” combined basketball references and pick-up lines, and she ended with “Wet Plastic,” which should honestly be the anthem for the #MeToo movement. Breshears’s voice and her harp weaved together harmoniously, setting the stage with her stunning musical aura for her good friend to follow.

After a short break, the most charismatic and comedic musician came out to mesmerize her fans with her Portland accent. After some tuning, Haley Heynderickx first performed a song with Breshears to ease into her own solo show, though she summoned Breshears back to the harp for two more songs later in the set. Heynderickx captivated us with her songs from her “I Need To Start a Garden” album. From priest-like praying mantises and successful exes to the wonderful mantra “Oom Sha La La,” Heynderickx’s music combines the emotionally poignant with the humorously absurd, creating music that is both thought-provoking and meaningful. Her guitar techniques were truly mindblowing, and the strumming, plucking, and melodies complemented her voice perfectly. Heynderickx also performed some covers and even threw some impersonations in there. For her encore, she treated us to some new songs in the works, giving us a little teaser to be excited about for the future.

Heynderickx’s music features some of the most underrated, beautiful, and meditative singing and lyrics, and seeing her perform live, with her nerves and all, made for one of the best concerts I’ve been to. The two musicians’ personalities and styles fitted together perfectly, their gentle and soft-spoken manner drawing us in to listen carefully to the stories they are telling, making their musical styles even more compelling.

PREVIEW: Haley Heynderickx

A gentle yet powerful force took the stage of Hill Auditorium for a quick set on the first night of Folk Festival, and now she returns to The Ark for an entire show at the end of March. Haley Heynderickx’s unique voice and lyrics fill the air, her folksy and soulful songs fitting her whimsical personality perfectly. After her strong Folk Fest debut in January, she will take Ann Arbor by storm on March 29 for her show at 8 PM. Students can get a free ticket using a Passport to the Arts voucher.

REVIEW: The Ark’s 32nd Annual Storytelling Festival

In The Ark’s 32nd year of its storytelling festival, we were graced with a mix of personal and traditional tales from three wonderful performers. Each storyteller had their own style of storytelling, all of which were appealing and intriguing and full of lessons to be learned.

Ivory Williams of Detroit started the night off with his stories that very much involved the audience. He started with a story about God’s creation and dispersal of people, putting the best people in Ann Arbor obviously. His story about a monster blocking the bridge highlighted the meaning behind obstacles, which you don’t always have to fight with force, since they are meant to be embraced. The young girl of the story, who embraced the monster and become successful in life, did the two most important things a successful person must do: she returned to her village to share what she learned, and she told stories. The morals of kindness and love guided Williams’s stories, and his use of repetition tied the story nicely together, making it twice as nice and twice as powerful.

Next was Edgar Oliver, who had a very timid yet enthralling voice, as he performed for us snippets of his shows and some pieces of poetry as well. His vivid imagery and meticulous details of his stories set the stage for some absurd twist in the story that he delivered with such deadpan emotion, the audience loved it. From the albino watermelons trapped under a swimming pool to the trash can goddess and his love for red wine to the trampling pig, Oliver regaled us with his very distinct storytelling. He took us all over the world, telling us stories about his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, his time spent in France, and his life in New York City. His stories were sprinkled with entertaining comedy, though there was a hint of sadness and regret in the last snippet from a show he’s still writing; however, through his words and stories, Victor lives on in his memories and in ours.

Finally, Laura Simms finished the night with her love stories, which took on a variety of forms. She told us about the fairy she met on the New York City subway, and the time she saw Nina Simone perform, which was the first time she fell in love with the world. Then, she told a long and humorous story about a prince’s long and desperate journey looking for true love, emphasizing the importance of true companionship. She ended with the story of her mother’s seal skin coat and the powers it had in transferring good to the world.

Williams, Oliver, and Simms all captivated the audience with their engaging words and stories. Their stories taught us to think about the good in ourselves and in others, and to look for true love in every moment of our lives. This wonderful tradition at The Ark gives the people of Ann Arbor a night of entertainment filled with kindness and love through the simple power of words. As Williams repeated throughout the night, stories must be told.