Arts & Culture

Lauryn Hill, Chance the Rapper energize Spring Weekend

Most acts entertain, though Cloud Nothings fall short, during picturesque weekend

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 14, 2014

Lauryn Hill’s powerful vocals and impressive stage presence delighted the audience at Saturday’s concert. She performed popular songs from her solo career as well as renditions of hits from her time with the Fugees.

The nearly perfect weather was just one factor contributing to this year’s primarily successful Spring Weekend. Friday’s chaotic and rave-like atmosphere contrasted nicely with the laidback and carefree environment fostered by most of Saturday’s artists.

Friday started with a dynamic and engaging performance by local group What Cheer? Brigade in front of Sayles Hall. The brass band, which performed for the third consecutive year, set the mood with its rambunctious energy and robust sound as students flooded the Main Green.

As the concert moved to the main stage, Chance the Rapper opened his set with his signature squawk. Chance delivered a fast-paced and energetic lineup, starting with “Everybody’s Something” and continuing with other familiar tunes from his most recent mixtape, “Acid Rap.”

Chance brought the energy down to sing an intimate rendition of the theme song from the television series “Arthur.” But he quickly revved it back up for “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” complete with a full-bodied back-up that stood in stark contrast to his more spare mixtape. Many of the collaborators present on his mixtape are absent from the tour, so the deviation from his album is to be expected.

The fun was briefly interrupted when event security announced the concert needed to stop until audience members at the front of the crowd “calmed down.” The security then broke up the rowdy crowd and dragged a couple of people out.

The energy resumed when Chance came back on, playing “Brain Cells” from his breakout mixtape “10 Day.” But there was an abrupt mood shift when he performed “Paranoia,” one of his most moving songs, which discusses the social ills in his hometown of Chicago. Chance’s performance included many onstage costume changes: He started with a letterman jacket, changing into a Batman shirt and then into a set of overalls and a white t-shirt. Finally, he gave the audience what it really wanted and just took his shirt off.

There was a lengthy break between artists, allowing students to socialize and grab some water, as the event’s house music kept the energy up. But when the house music stopped short, the crowd was doused in silence and the mood grew more subdued.

Diplo struggled to bring some of the energy back to the audience after Chance’s roller coaster of a performance, asking members to “put your hands in the air” numerous times over a short period.

Diplo’s performance held a more consistent energy level than Chance’s, which had more frequent peaks and valleys.

He called girls up to the stage to be part of his infamous “twerk team,” though the girls didn’t seem to know what they signed up for — there was no twerking, and the audience’s response was less than enthusiastic. Nonetheless, Diplo provided an appropriate ending to the first night of Spring Weekend, setting the stage for a wild night post-concert.

Cloud Nothings opened Saturday’s concert with a set that was inappropriately loud for an outdoor music festival. Given the chill atmosphere of the Saturday show, it was jarring to hear music reminiscent of middle school playing so painfully loudly. Lead singer Dylan Baldi eagerly proclaimed, “I went to college for about a month and hated it.” Way to relate to your audience.

Though Cloud Nothings’ high-angst performance resonated with the band’s fans, there seemed to be a sigh of relief among the remainder of the crowd when their set ended.

On the other hand, Dan Deacon gave an incredibly energizing performance, perfect for his setting. Though it seemed that he would have been a more fitting performer for Friday night’s shenanigans due to the high-voltage nature of his performance and matching light show, Deacon tailored his set to the daytime and engaged with the crowd.

Not only did Deacon employ his usual tactics, making the crowd form a large circle to hold a dance-off and choosing one person to lead the group in an all-audience interpretive dance, he also encouraged members of the audience to engage with each other, asking them to place their hands on the head of the person in front of them, then lift their hands off to release the weight of stress and anxiety from their bodies.

Before playing his final song, Deacon had the audience pack into the center of the field and then “explode” when the drums started, sending them to explore every corner of the Main Green.

Having members of the audience interact not just with him but with each other made Deacon’s performance accessible, where it could have been alienating for those less familiar with his music.

Andrew Bird, a multi-talented artist, gave a more mellow performance featuring all of his skills — singing, guitar, violin and whistling. Though his set was much lower-energy, it gained momentum as it continued.

Bird’s pristine performance perfectly demonstrated the ethereal nature of his music. Though he rarely deviated from the studio-produced versions of his songs, save for a few violin riffs, his performance was touching and genuine, aided by his seasoned band.

Though the wait for Lauryn Hill lasted an hour, suffering through aching feet and a mediocre DJ “preparing you for Lauryn Hill” were worth it. When the Grammy-winning artist finally rolled up in her Escalade, she was met with an audience chanting her name.

Opening the show with a high-energy version of the Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly,” Hill’s command of the audience and presence on stage were unparalleled. As she launched into her enormous repertoire of R&B and hip-hop, including “Everything is Everything” and “Ready or Not,” a song from her days with the Fugees, Hill demonstrated her amazing ability to improvise and groove with her band on stage.

Hill’s performance completely differed from her albums. She and her band clearly knew the music well enough to riff and ad-lib throughout the performance, including one particularly intense guitar solo in the second half of the set.

During the two breaks Hill took off-stage, the talented group, which comprised three backup singers, a drummer, a guitarist, a keyboardist and a bassist, jammed on stage. Ending with “Doo Wop (That Thing),” one of Hill’s most famous tunes, the concert series finished on a high note, leaving students in awe as they walked out the Main Green gates.

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