REVIEW: Graham Colton at the Ark

If you have never been to the Ark before, the best word to describe it is intimate. Upon entering you are guided upstairs by the sound of indie music, to a room that you would almost expect to be used for art house movie screenings than concerts.

As Cumulus singer Alex Niedzialkowski (even Graham Colton didn’t dare attempt to pronounce that last name) put it, the Ark was like a “classroom.” Cushioned chairs filled the back while coffee tables adorned the front—in other words, not the proper conditions for standing and jumping to the beat.

It is a rare treat to attend a concert where the opening band is as good as the headliner. Cumulus, a band from Seattle, was one of those cases. Indie-pop at its best, Cumulus combined meaningful and heartfelt lyrics with the kind of bittersweet melodies you would find in films like 500 Days of Summer.

Alex’s voice is slightly reminiscent of Regina Spektor: her words have the same enchanting feeling that would make me love the music even if she was only singing the alphabet. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

Most important of all, Cumulus had a memorable character. As an emcee, Alex was exactly the kind of endearingly awkward you might expect from an indie artist who writes deep lyrics. Unlike many bands that simply play through their set and leave, Cumulus spoke to the audience, added emotion to their playing, and overall proved to be a fantastic opening band.

After a brief intermission, in which I purchased Cumulus’ album despite mistakenly listing the wrong zip code for my credit card and had to start the process all over again, Graham Colton took the stage.

Graham is the kind of artist comfortable to be on stage. He makes comments freely, such as telling the audience they helped themselves to a bottle of celebratory alcohol before the show, or the fact that he repeated his name in case anyone “stumbled in from outside.”

Every song rocked with energy. Between songs Graham encouraged the audience to stand, and by the end of the concert most of the room was indeed standing. It was hard not to: Graham spent his time dancing or jumping on the stage, snarky comments by the bassist made everyone chuckle, and a fellow singer-songwriter in the band that was probably equally as talented as Graham.

Songs from Lonely Ones certainly had a more aggressive, electric sound. Taking 18 months off to reinvent himself seemed to work. Yet, even his earlier stuff was as good as it has always been.

Check out Graham Colton. Check out Cumulus. And if you have never been to the Ark before, do it!
Graham Colton

Graham Colton

PREVIEW: Graham Colton at the Ark

Who: Graham Colton, singer-songwriter

Where: The Ark

When: THIS SUNDAY at 7:30 PM

How: Get tickets at the Michigan Union Ticket Office (MUTO) for only $15 a piece!

Here’s a preview of Colton 1.0
Graham Colton Performs “Telescope”

Over the past 18 months, Colton has been working on a new album–Lonely Ones–with an entirely different sound. The artist known for his hit single “Best Days,” is apparently moving away from his singer-songwriting tone into something more edgy.

Where Colton’s new direction take him? How will it sound? Come to The Ark and find out!

REVIEW: Collage Concert

Passport to the Arts is often an excuse for me to see a show that I would otherwise eschew: when I saw a chance for a free ticket on the first floor of Hill Auditorium for the collage concert, there was no excuse not to go.

Despite the bitter winds that hovered just above 0 and the basketball game on at the same time, I stumbled through the snow and into my first collage concert by the School of Music, Theater, and Dance.

Collage is the perfect word for what I witnessed over the course of two and a half hours. The concert took on a kind of pattern, where a piece performed by the symphony was followed by dance, then a soloist, then the choir. Initially, the transition from the symphony’s “cheating, lying, stealing” to a theater number (“Fiddlestix”) was jarring—a lush, harmony of strings and horns and percussion contrasted sharply by a small band flanking a group of tap dancers. Absolutely fantastic.

While I entered Hill Auditorium expecting a slower-paced concert—where the band would play several songs, then the dancers would take over for a few numbers—the changes were quick and unexpected. In this modern age with short attention spans, it was the perfect remedy to longer, more ponderous events. If your mind wanders, or even if you want to check the program to know who is performing, you will surely miss something important.

Conductors cycled through like commuters through a revolving door. A vast array of soloists broke up the group performances with extraordinary prowess. In fact, the best part of the night was Christopher Sies’ “Rebounds B.” A percussion piece, Sies began slowly, shifting between drums and xylophones with a simple rhythm. The rhythm moved faster and faster until he was moving at hundreds of beats per minute and the audience was on the edge of its seat, praying he wouldn’t make a mistake. Like everyone else, Sies never made a mistake, and when he came to the stage at the end of the show, his applause was the loudest.

At the intermission, one of the conductors announced Mary Sue Coleman’s attendance. As she stood and waved to the crowd of hundreds, he remarked that it would be her last collage concert as president. In tribute, the orchestra played “Rhapsody in Maize and Blue,” a combination of “Hail to the Victors” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” While I’m not usually a fan of subverting art for the purposes of gratuitous school spirit, it was a touching tribute to our president.

Not only were the performances diverse and performed brilliantly, but they were complemented by the lighting and tremendous amount of background work that this event must have required. Both halves began in the dark; when light filled the stage, the band began the half. Lights directed the audience to each side of the stage for dancing or solo or theater pieces. Background music played over the speakers complemented several of the soloists beautifully.

The biggest disappointment about the Collage Concert is that it was a one-time opportunity. Hundreds of students performing and coordinating in one night is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be at U of M.
Collage Concert

PREVIEW: Collage Concert at Hill

Who: The School of Music, Theater and Dance

What: A collection of pieces by students for you, the audience.

Where: Hill Auditorium

When: 8 PM

Cost: $10 with a student ID

This Saturday
This Saturday

The collage concert is just that–a collection of student pieces interweaving aspects of dance, music, and theater all into one. This year the concert celebrates the 100th anniversary of Hill Auditorium, so it should be especially awesome.

As the Michigan Daily puts it: “The ensemble conductors and selected groups collaborated to form a diverse and kaleidoscopic program. The wide variety of performance material and participating groups should make the concert appealing to an audience with diverse tastes and expose the participants to new kinds of performance.”


REVIEW: Bullet Catch

Rob Drummond’s show turned out to be less of a straightforward magic show, and more of a synthesis of magic show, deadpan comedy routine, and one-man stage play. The performance contained a nice mix of stunts that were outright theatrical, and stunts that played with the mind. All the while, listening to Drummond’s Scottish accent was much more soothing to the ears compared to a previous week of listening to various professors lecture.

Right at the beginning, Drummond picks a volunteer from the audience, and so for the next hour and fifteen minutes, the stage is shared by two people. As he explains, his volunteers are never picked on and paraded in front of the audience to be laughed at—these volunteers are there to build a relationship. Our volunteer, Alexis, aided Drummond with each of his tricks, read snippets of writing, and warmed the room with her laughter. Each trick told us new information about her, so that by the time she had to shoot at Drummond, we had a relationship with her that was almost as close as our relationship with Drummond.

Seeing the tricks themselves was like being a child again. Drummond took a hammer to a beer bottle and smashed it in half; then he took the top half and made it disappear inside one of four paper bags. After moving them to his chest of tricks and mixing them up, he smashed them, one by one, with his hand at Alexis’ (the volunteer) request. Somehow she narrowed it down so that the final bag was the one with the bottle. Mind blown.

In another trick, Drummond gave Alexis a choice of seven cards: each with a different desire such as travel, career, money, or sex. Through a series of questions and answers, he asked her to think of a memory and a person involved, and made his guesses by writing on sheets of paper. Drummond guessed the day she was thinking of (almost exactly), the name of the boy she danced with, and the card she picked (sex). Again, mind blown.

At one point during the show, Drummond performed a trick with his assistant, and at its conclusion he asked the audience if we wanted to see how it was performed. Those that wanted it to remain a mystery were asked to close their eyes, while the curious ones kept their eyes open. I won’t spoil anything, but I do wish I had kept my eyes shut to preserve the magic. Unfortunately (or not), Drummond never reveals how he does the bullet catch, and that alone preserves the magical aura of the performance.

Throughout the performance, Drummond presented a story of another magician who was shot and killed accidentally by a performer. I checked online and I don’t believe the magician actually existed, so as far as I can tell the entire thing is Drummond’s (inspired) work. The shocked volunteer questions himself and what could have gone wrong, and only at the end does he realize that the magician WANTED to die. Before the finale, Drummond ties this all together by stating that in a world of nihilism and existential questioning, we have to have something in our lives to make it all worth it. He answers this question by asserting that the answer is the people around us.

Not necessarily a magic show, Rob Drummond’s Bullet Catch was a fantastic show and one of the best I have attended in and around Ann Arbor. Few people have the opportunity to see a bullet shatter a plate, and then watch as the same bullet is caught by a human being.

Rob Drummond's Bullet Catch
Rob Drummond’s Bullet Catch

PREVIEW: Bullet Catch

Watch this video First
Bullet Catch Trailer

That stunt is HERE in Ann Arbor.

Who: Rob Drummond catching a freaking bullet!
Where: The Arthur Miller Theatre (Up on North Campus)
When: January 7th – January 12

As the video says, this stunt is so dangerous even Houdini refused to do it. I don’t know about you, but it sounds worthwhile to see Rob Drummond perform something Houdini never did.

The best part of all, however, is that the show isn’t just a bullet catch! There is an entire magic show featuring levitation, games of chance, and of course the bullet catch.

Rob Drummond