The fall cold and rain was more than obvious, both from the natural lighting set up of the Forum at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) and also from the chill that rushed in every time doors flew open as people poured in for MUSIC Matters’s “A Night at the Museum” concert. But perhaps the point was coziness; the audience was laid-back but grooving as they danced and sipped on their fizzy drinks under dim, yellow lighting to the sound of the performances.
“A Night at the Museum” followed the more extravagant SpringFest, an annual MUSIC festival hosted every April at the University by MUSIC Matters. The proceeds from the event were used to fund MUSIC Matters’s first social venture with Books for a Benefit, a nonprofit organization founded on campus. “A Night at the Museum” delivered the same level of ambition as SpringFest to unify the campus with music, sparking social change on a microcosmic level. It operated on a smaller scale, at a more compact venue with special attention to some of the local performances from SpringFest: The Kelseys, Andrea Doria and OSSI MUSIC. The effect was an event unlike anything else I’ve encountered at past concerts as three completely unrelated, yet equally as impacting, acts took to the stage.
Each act had a sound and style that was distinctly their own. The Kelseys, a band consisting of a lead singer, guitar player, bassist and drummer, had an alternative rock sound that was undeniably peppy even when lyrics veered into a more somber realm. It gave me the same effect as listening to Young the Giant or Vampire Weekend. I was especially drawn to the stage presence and personality of the members as they each grooved to the music in their own distinct way: The bassist was intensely focused on his playing, the drummer’s smile was contagious as he broke into silent fits of laughter, the guitarist’s dance moves were wide and smooth and the lead singer was deliberate in his close-eyed singing.
Andrea Doria can also be described as an alternative rock band that consists three members: a drummer and two guitar players who alternate as lead singers. Each of their songs came as a pleasant surprise, one psychedelic and sticky, the next truer to the alt-rock sound we all know and love. The bandmates frequently implemented different instruments throughout the performance, swapping them in and out and between one another, allowing each member to play to their strengths.
My favorite performance of the night was that of OSSI MUSIC. Composed of eight members, I found myself losing track of who played what as some of the members managed to play more than one instrument; I was especially amazed by the member who’d switch from keyboard to trumpet, sometimes in the same song. Despite a wide variety of elements to their music, it never felt crowded; their sound was meditative and subtle, luminous in its sway over the audience as each instrument and sound was strummed on in an as-needed basis. Each lead singer also brought forth a style and story that was all their own when they grabbed the mic, their voices bright and emotions palpable. I was mesmerized.
Despite having to shift from one act to another, the transition was seamless. MUSIC Matters skillfully facilitated a social environment for its audience members. From an informal introduction to the purpose and goals of MUSIC Matters to DJing psychedelic music between performances, a laid-back element was prominent and well-orchestrated. The obvious ease and mingling between the members of MUSIC Matters and band members in the audience only added to the casual atmosphere of the event.
Overall, “A Night at the Museum” was a memorable display of the talent of local music acts. Though not as grand as SpringFest, the event achieves MUSIC Matters’s goal of unification through music by making its expression on campus the focal point of the event.