Spring Concert full of energized performers and empty seats
Sunday’s Spring Concert, hosted by the University Programming Council, did not attract as many attendees as in the past and, with a half-empty arena, there was no hiding the evidence.
For those who did attend, co-headliners Pretty Lights, B.o.B and 3Oh!3 had no shortage of enthusiasm, performing in what was a long night of differing musical talents that began with a pair of the University of Massachusetts’ own musical acts.
Promptly at six o’clock, Kids on a Hill, winners of the Battle of the Bands contest run by the UPC, took the Mullins Center stage to a sparse crowd. On the biggest platform the funky collective has played to date, the group performed perhaps its briefest set.
Front-man Chris Kazarian crooned comfortably, sporting an uncontrollable afro and a dark-colored blazer. At times, his band mates, particularly Ben Silverman, grinned at the band’s sound. Kids on the Hill were unaccustomed to playing with such a massive sound system.
The group received its biggest cheers during the song “Monster Boogie,” a clever twist on the classic Kool and the Gang song “Jungle Boogie,” as vocalist Madeleine Maggio vigorously ripped a verse from Nicki Minaj’s rhyme book.
Four songs and 15 minutes later, the group bowed offstage, begging the question, “What’s the rush?” from the few fans in attendance.
In place of Kids on a Hill came fellow UMass product, DJ Desert Storm, winner of the UPC’s DJ Wars contest, who spent plenty of time spinning beats during the night. While doing his best to get the minimal crowd hyped up, the short-in-stature deejay, Hasan Zaidi, looked especially lonely in the front corner of the stage.
He managed to get a rise out of the crowd with a hyper-rendition of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song that he followed with a bass-heavy remix of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
At seven o’clock, the Colorado duo 3Oh!3 claimed the stage with as much enthusiasm as a high school cheerleading squad. Accompanied by a drummer, keyboardist and guitarist, Nathaniel Motte entered stage right donning a leather coat and a white towel on his head gesturing the band’s signature hand symbol, which looks like a tired imitation of wrestler Diamond Dallas Page’s Diamond Cutter or rapper Jay-Z’s Rocawear symbol.
Motte’s partner, Sean Foreman, led the group in its first song “Starstrukk” in a fit of energy that could only be had after chugging a pint of 5-hour ENERGY drink. The song “Touchin’ on My” followed with the intensity of a heavy metal/thrasher band and the lyrical qualities of a third-grade chorus.
3Oh!3’s part in the song “My First Kiss” (which features Ke$ha) got the collective hands of the crowd in the air. Continuing with “Don’t Dance,” “Rich Man,” and “We are Young,” it appeared that Foreman felt a come-down from his energy supplements.
About 30 minutes into the set, Foreman began a lackadaisical chant about partying, segueing into the song “House Party” off of the 2010 album, “Streets of Gold.”
If there were a frat row on Sesame Street, 3Oh!3 would be a staple at every mixer as it decreed that the crowd say “F**k the Djs… F**k the clubs” and throw a house party, using lyrics that made Rebecca Black look like a wordsmith.
As if the UMass contingency needed any more encouragement to lose their inhibitions, they responded agreeably with the group’s sentiments and cheered along.
The songs “Streets of Gold” and “Double Vision” closed the set, but not before offering some unpleasant melodies. 3Oh!3 exited after about 45 minutes, wherein the Mullins Center floor and surrounding seats were still scarcely attended.
DJ Desert Storm filled in another 45-minute hiatus before B.o.B strode onstage. Wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and jeans, the bling-less hip-hop artist began his first song unassumingly, without theatrics.
Then, as the track “Higher” continued on, so too did B.o.B’s energy, bouncing back and forth on stage while maintaining his fastidious flow through the song “Batman Flow.”
During his part of the T.I. hit, “On Top of the World,” B.o.B, also known as Bobby Ray, leapt offstage and mingled with the fans front and center. Continuing with “Haterz Everywhere,” he found footing in the guard rail partitioning the crowd from the stage and entangled himself in the “a” section of excited fans, taking the hat off of one male spectator and using it as his own.
The 22-year-old B.o.B rapped with as much fervor as a grade school student at recess and as animatedly as a character from the Looney Tunes.
He played a relaxed version of “Past My Shades,” which was followed by his wingman, Playboy Tre, calling out to audience members to put their fists in the air before playing the song “Magic.”
Then Bobby Ray politely asked permission to play guitar; the crowd obliged. He sang with good control on the songs “Don’t Let Me Fall” and “Satellite,” urging everyone to put their lighters and cell phones in the air.
After the song “Nothin’ on You,” Bobby Ray and his back-up band showed their limitations during a generic cover of the MGMT song “Kids.”
Then, B.o.B abruptly left stage without warning. Two minutes later, he came back out as suddenly as he left to the tune of his hit single “Airplanes” and the song “Voltage,” which samples the Led Zeppelin tune “Trampled Under Foot.”
He left stage for good at 9:40 p.m., making way for the solo DJ act, Pretty Lights, 30 minutes later.
With a remix to the Chicago Bulls theme music of the mid-90s, Derek Smith Vincent took to his podium with two laptops and his typical New Era fitted cap bent to one side and began mixing a collection of familiar samples into a psychedelic string of electronic beats.
A colorful display of lights flickered in the front of his stand and on a symmetrical row of towers standing in the backdrop. Without words, the Colorado-based deejay cued his original mixes with intensity.
Not until 15 minutes into the set did Smith Vincent utter a word, simply urging everyone to make some noise before introducing a track that sampled Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle.” Clocks rang and bells chimed in opening to a remix of the Pink Floyd song “Time,” which was so similar to the original that it’s a wonder how he manages to perform it without risking copyright infringement.
Pretty Lights’ music was played at such a piercingly loud decibel it was almost distressing to those unfamiliar with his live shows.
Smith thanked the UMass fans before playing “High School Art Class” off of his newest album “Spilling Over Every Side.” He lurched over his podium, adding effects from his soundboard while gesticulating in different parts to emphasize the climaxing of his lengthy synthetic tracks.
A remix of “All of the Lights” received some positive reaction, but the crowd really yelped when “Finally Moving” was queued. Fans joined in during the chorus of sampled lyrics, indicating that they were still feeling good about his performance.
Smith Vincent began playing his spin on “Empire State of Mind,” mashed up with the rhymes of Notorious B.I.G.’s song “Juicy.” But Smith said, “F**k that” and halted it midway to switch on a mix of Jay-Z’s “DOA.”
Altogether, Pretty Lights played for well over an hour and a half, concluding the show.
For what was surely a disappointing turn out in comparison to UMass’ past Spring Concerts, the artists were undeterred and combined to put on an energetic night of performances, though the lack of spectators may have prevented the show from reaching its true potential.
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.