May 20, 2003

MAB concert highlights weekend of activities

A brisk wind drove through the crowd on a cool evening in Hutch Courtyard as a large throng of University students waited for the first band to perform in this year's Summer Breeze concert.

The culminating event in a weekend of activities, which included an outdoor screening of Wet Hot American Summer and an all-night dance party on the quads, the Summer Breeze concert featured music from Chicago's own OK Go, rapper Talib Kweli, and jam band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

As the crowd slowly dribbled in, OK Go, the first band, rocked the stage to the sounds of screaming fans and thunderous applause. The Chicago band has recently made it onto the national music scene with its hit single "Get Over It."

The pop-punk band's energetic lyrics and strong stage presence helped keep the crowd's spirit alive for what was a long night of music. The group performed several songs from its new self-titled album.

"I've seen them several times live before, and this was definitely one of their strongest performances," said first-year in the College Stephanie Lewis. "They were so amazing."

The group played for about an hour, as the crowed began to thicken in anticipation of the two groups left to perform.

Despite the strong winds and chilly temperatures, the crowd's enthusiasm increased as Talib Kweli, a renowned rapper in today's indie hip-hop scene, took the stage. Kweli, hailing from Brooklyn, was accompanied by a DJ and a local Chicago rap artist.

The University crowd was transfixed on the beats and lyrics of the rapper, raising their hands in unison to the rhymes flowing forth from the stage.

Kweli spilled lyric after lyric of fast paced social commentary, challenging the crowd to think about the struggles of everyday life. Songs such as "Waiting for the DJ" and "Get By" from his most recent album Quality highlighted his performance.

The enthusiasm increased when Kweli's DJ took a solo, scratching the turntables with intense focus.

The crowd at times became slightly rowdy but not to a degree that the MAB volunteers couldn't handle. "Overall, it went off without a hitch," said Derek Otto, a MAB volunteer.

Just as Hutch Courtyard seemed like it could not hold any more people, the crowd erupted for the main act of the evening, bluegrass band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

The bassist, Victor Wooten, considered by some to be one of the best electric bassists today, amazed the crowds with blazing solos and technical skill. During one solo, he flipped his bass over his back.

The beat producer for the band, Roy "Future Man" Wooten, played a Synthaxe Drumitar, a one-of-a-kind guitar-like instrument with a built in synthesizer that allows him to access thousands of electronic beats and sounds all at the touch of a button. The futuristic-looking instrument was an anomaly that produced some of the greatest sounds of the night. Future Man also backed up on vocals later in the show.

"They were incredible; I've never seen such talented musicians. It was simply an unforgettable musical experience that you had to see to believe," said first-year in the College Mary McGrath.

The band's saxophonist Jeff Coffin also stood out, playing a variety of reed instruments, and at one point playing two at the same time. But the support of his band could not detract from front man Fleck. Playing an electric banjo, Fleck hammered roaring riffs and smooth melodic lines that kept the crowd on the edge all night.

Playing for over an hour-and-a-half, the Flecktones finished around 10:30 p.m. to the disappointment of the crowd.

While the show seemed effortless and flawless from an outsider's perspective, the intricate workings of putting it together took several days of work by MAB volunteers. Two days of set construction, equipment preparation, and sound checks paid off according to event organizers who deemed the show a success, saying it marked one of MAB's greatest accomplishments.

"The concert seems to have drawn a good portion of the University population," said Samir Warty, a fourth-year in the College and MAB's volunteer coordinator for the event.

Warty added that the large number of University students who helped with the concert also played a role in the event's success. "This MAB experience was one of the best I've had in my four years at the University," he said. "I am happy that I was able to play a part in putting it together."