REVIEW: Second City

Political comedy, improv brilliance, snippet skits, raunchy humor. Second City made The Ark erupt with laughter as they brought their impromptu comedy skills from Chicago to Ann Arbor.

Comedy is a great outlet for political commentary, and Second City had some fun with that with their skit involving a board game called Privilege, a mini scene involving Trump, and another skit of a talk game show called We’re Not Talking About That.

From a lesbian on an airplane to the Bass Man to a little boy and a potential step-father, from a game of Two Truths and a Lie to three bros teeing off to drama driver’s ed class, some of the skits were hit or miss, but they all elicited laughter and/or groans. A few easter eggs carried their way through the different skits, which strengthened the humor of the night. The few musical numbers were pleasant, especially the “I Cry” song that was particularly relatable.

Second City’s improv comedy was also on point. They played the classic improv game where two actors borrowed two phones from the audience and could only use texts as their lines. Their different quick, improvised scenes were also quick and witty. For being in Ann Arbor for only three hours, the Second City troupe caught on fast with the lingo and native culture of the city, except for a slip calling Zingerman’s a sub shop.

With the help of three audience members, Kim Kardashian and Matthew McConaughey star in the action rom-com film with a twist of sci-fi, Walking Chairs at Midnight. The cast later put on the trailer to this original movie after intermission, and I appreciated the fact that they brought that back and didn’t just leave it hanging after the audience participation.

Second City ended their show with some final improv. They definitely made being funny seem easy, but as they emphasized at the very end as they plugged their classes, it’s actually very hard and requires a lot of work. However, Second City did a great job of providing a night of carefree entertainment and quality comedy.

PREVIEW: Second City

For all the comedy and improv lovers out there, Second City is coming to The Ark again this year, guaranteeing a night filled with quick wit and hearty laughter. As the first ever on-going improvisational theater troupe based in Chicago in 1959, the Second City enterprise continues to produce high quality, satirical sketches with its cutting edge artists on tour. With notable alumni like Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Stephen Colbert, come out to The Ark on September 14 or 15 at 8pm to watch the next comedic hit. Tickets can be purchased at theark.org.

REVIEW: Mo Lowda and the Humble

I sat down to write this review and realized I didn’t even know how to begin.

I pulled out my notebook, normally filled to the brim with detailed notes about each song. But this time, my notes were sparse, the specifics absent.

That’s the effect this show had on me.

The Quiet Hollers and Mo Lowda and the Humble — two little-known and criminally underrated indie bands — served as dual headliners. Both played for about an hour, and unlike some other groups I’ve seen at The Ark, they didn’t do a lot of talking in between songs in their set. Instead, they let the music speak for itself.

“This is a song you can dance to,” the lead singer of The Quiet Hollers said while introducing his song Medicine. “It’s about panic disorder.”

That sentence was a good summation of their set. The band’s lyrics referenced social issues ­— toxic masculinity, the prison-industrial complex — and mental illness. But their sound was loud and full. Their instruments were typical of those used in a rock band, except for one thing: they had a violinist.

The violin added depth to many of their numbers, and its parts were often the highlight of their numbers for me. The unique acoustics of The Ark only added to the experience.

Watching Mo Lowda and the Humble was like watching a jam session. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band get more physically into their music. So it’s no surprise that their instrumental breaks were the highlight of their set. They also varied the vibe of their songs — playing something louder and harder one minute, and a more mellow, acoustic piece the next. The variation added depth to their show. Not all bands can make both loud and soft stuff work; Mo Lowda and the Humble could.

Normally, this is the place where I’d describe my favorite songs from both sets or where I’d do in-depth analysis on their structure or lyricism. But that’s the thing. I enjoyed the show so much that the idea that I had to write down the details slipped my mind. By the time I realized, it was too late. I can’t tell you why I enjoyed each part of the set, only that I did. That I enjoyed it so much, I neglected my duties as a reviewer.

The thing about music is that it’s easy to get lost in it. Sometimes I sit down fully intending to do homework, but I make the mistake of putting on a good song first. I get wrapped up in the harmonies and carried away by the melodies. And when it’s live, that effect is only magnified. I was sitting there for two and a half hours, my sole job to watch this concert and review it. Take some notes. Remember which songs I liked. But I forgot what music does, and I got lost.

And that’s the best compliment I could give.

PREVIEW: Mo Lowda

Senior year of high school, a friend texted me a Spotify link.

This was par for the course with this particular friend; we had similar music tastes and we would always send each other the songs we obsessed over. This time, he sent me a song I had never heard of: Curse the Weather by Mo Lowda and the Humble.

So I put on my headphones and gave the song a listen. I figured it would be the traditional indie rock we both listened to. I was wrong.

Curse the Weather was, and still is, one of the most unique songs on my playlists and I love it. I love the guitar riff that makes up most of the chorus. I love the lyrics — “I always listen to the optimistic spirit in me” is always running through my head. I love Mo Lowda’s raspy voice.

So, as has happened several times this year, I was browsing through the calendar for The Ark when I saw an artist I recognized.

A band I know and like at my favorite venue in town? Sign me up.

Mo Lowda and the Humble — with opening act The Quiet Hollers, an indie songwriter band who sing about the social landscape — will bring a different sound to The Ark than the venue is traditionally associated with. That’s my favorite thing about The Ark — even if I know the band, I’ve learned that I never really know what to expect. Every show is unique, and every show leaves me in awe.

Mo Lowda and the Humble with The Quiet Hollers come to The Ark tomorrow, March 26, at 8 PM. Tickets are $15 online, at The Ark or at the Michigan Union Ticket Office.

REVIEW: The Timbre of Cedar

The Ark never fails to bring a night of wonderful, fun, and meaningful music — even on a Wednesday night. Last night was no exception.

Right off the bat, shoeless, self-proclaimed goofball Chris DuPont opened the stage with honest music, many of which haven’t been performed before, that touched on subjects from forgiveness to violence, from a loving lullaby for his children to encouraging a liberating internal rebellion. The mix of acoustic guitar with violin — more specifically, the mix of the artistry of DuPont and Katie Van Dusen — created a one-of-a-kind sound, as Van Dusen’s violin voice accompanied DuPont’s own voice in a mesmerizing way. This raw, organic performance proved exactly why he was ranked as the #1 live album on Ann Arbor’s 107one best album countdown of 2017.

And with that opening, The Timbre of Cedar took the stage, continuing the powerful energy that DuPont so beautifully set up. With married couple Marrissa and Sam Parham on keys/lead vocals and bass, twins Andrew and Eric Grzyb on guitar and percussion, and Alex Rahill on guitar, The Timbre of Cedar’s sincere love for music, life, and the future radiated off the stage with every note sung, every string strum, and every beat tapped on the cajón. Focusing on hope and restoring the light (as their newest full-length album is called), their songs, with religious undertones, reflected an optimistic outlook on life that everyone should carry.

Usually an indie rock band, the acoustic spin they took last night was no less electrifying. Marrissa’s vocals rang through the room, and Rahill had a rocking solo on his acoustic guitar on their cleverly-named song “F Sharp”. Singing originals off their EP and Restoring the Light, and even a rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You” (because who doesn’t love classic love songs), the band captured the tension underlying reality while shining a ray of hope onto the unknown possibilities through the fiery acoustic instrumentals that were bursting out of their souls and into the audience’s.

The room in The Ark was filled with good vibes in the middle of the week, from DuPont’s “sad” yet insightful songs followed by The Timbre of Cedar’s inspirational message of perseverance, hope, and belonging. When given the option between listening to these rising musicians or studying, I’m sure glad I spent my Wednesday night the right way.

PREVIEW: The Timbre of Cedar

From the Metro Detroit area, The Timbre of Cedar is coming to Ann Arbor to conquer the stage at The Ark. This 5 member alternative indie band is bringing their unique sound to the music scene. Strong vocalist Marrissa Parham will tantalize the stage with the soulful lyrics and emotions this band passionately evokes. With songwriter Chris DuPont opening, the night is bound to be one to remember.

8:00 PM. January 17. The Ark. Be there.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at http://theark.org/shows-events/2018/jan/17/timbre-cedar or at the Michigan Union Ticket Office. This event is also free with a Passport to the Arts voucher! All the more reason to go!