After much anticipation, the wait for the UPC Spring Concert is finally over.
This Sunday, thousands will flock to the Mullins Center as J. Cole, Third Eye Blind, Big K.R.I.T. and Uncle Joel’s Comb grace the stage for the annual show, which is hosted by the University Programming Council (UPC).
Jermaine Cole, better known as J. Cole, hits Amherst as part of his Campus Consciousness Tour, coming off a breakout year in which he was nominated for Best New Artist at the 54th Grammy Awards. His long-awaited debut album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story,” was released in September 2011 to rave reviews. The album – which features collaborations from Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Drake and Trey Songz – debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and was certified gold by December.
Cole is no stranger to the Mullins Center. In 2009, the NC emcee opened for Jay-Z in Amherst as part of the rap icon’s fall tour. His inclusion on the tour topped off a phenomenal year for the rising rap star in which he became the first artist to sign under Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label and even earned a guest spot on Jay-Z’s album, “The Blueprint 3.”
He released his first mixtape, “The Come Up,” in 2007 and followed that up with critically acclaimed projects “The Warm Up” and “Friday Night Lights” in 2009 and 2010, respectively. His most well-known songs include “Work Out,” his single off of “Sideline,” which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 13 and earned platinum certification, as well as “Who Dat,” “Can’t Get Enough (feat. Trey Songz),” “Mr. Nice Watch (feat. Jay-Z)” and “Nobody’s Perfect (feat. Missy Elliott),” all of which have earned high positions on Billboard charts.
During his short yet impressive career, Cole has performed alongside a long list of musical talents, which includes Kanye West, Mos Def, Wale, Big Sean and Rihanna.
Alternative rock band Third Eye Blind will also make an appearance during this year’s Spring Concert. Formed 19 years ago, the band is still going strong today and recently announced that it has started making progress on its fifth studio album.
In 1997, the band released its self-titled debut album, which went six times platinum in the U.S. The album includes hit singles “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper” and “How’s It Going to Be,” all three of which remain instantly recognizable and enduringly popular.
In 1999, the band made its second studio album, titled “Blue,” which peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard 200 and included “Never Let You Go.” They followed that up with “Out of the Vein” in 2003, which peaked at No. 12 on the same chart.
After a six-year hiatus, Third Eye Blind released its fourth studio album, “Ursa Major,” in 2009. The anticipation that mounted for so long proved to be short-lived after the album’s release, however. It debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 but fell to No. 45 the next week.
A lot of musicians have come and gone as members of Third Eye Blind, but founding member lead vocalist Stephan Jenkins has stayed with the band since its formation in 1993. Other members include drummer Brad Hargreaves, who has been with the band since 1995 and lead guitarist Kryz Reid, who has been part of it since 2010.
Taking the stage before Third Eye Blind will be up and coming rap sensation Big K.R.I.T. The Meridian, Miss. native has been active in the rap game since 2005 but didn’t receive much attention until 2010 upon the release of his sixth mixtape titled “K.R.I.T. Wuz Here,” which received critical acclaim not only for K.R.I.T.’s impressive lyricism, but also for his production ability. K.R.I.T. produces the beats for the majority of his songs, including every track on “K.R.I.T. Wuz Here.”
K.R.I.T. followed that project up with two mixtapes in 2011, titled “Return of 4eva” and “Last King 2: God’s Machine,” respectively, both of which garnered high praise. This year, the emcee dropped his ninth mixtape, “4evaNaDay,” in March, which includes all self-produced songs as well.
Born Justin Scott, the 25-year-old K.R.I.T. plans to release his first studio album on June 5 of this year, titled “Live from the Underground.” K.R.I.T. – who was named as one of XXL Magazine’s Top 11 Freshmen of 2011 – has performed alongside the likes of Method Man, Curren$y and Mac Miller. In the fall of 2010, he performed at the Mullins Center as part of the Feastival concert, which was headlined by Wiz Khalifa.
Opening the concert will be Uncle Joel’s Comb, who earned a spot at Spring Concert by winning UPC’s Battle of the Bands on March 28. Formed in February 2009 in Niskayuna, N.Y., the band describes itself as “Ska-Pop-Punk” on its Facebook page.
Uncle Joel’s Comb has released one album, titled “That Creepy Uncle,” and is currently working on a brand new EP, according to the group’s Facebook. The band has played alongside groups such as We Are The Union, The Movement and The Waffle Stompers.
The band is comprised of Alex Koste on vocals, Cody Okonski on guitar and vocals, Luke Olson on bass, Clay Kaledin on drums, Paul Travers on trumpet and Jonathan Bintz on trombone. Their list of cited influences includes ska heavy-hitters like Reel Big Fish and Big D and the Kids Table.
Tickets for the Spring Concert are available to University of Massachusetts students ($10 per ticket, one per student), Five College and UMass graduate students ($25 per ticket, one per student) and to the general public for the full price ($40 per ticket). All students must show their I.D. at the door, which will open at 6:00 p.m.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.