An altar for the hurt, the dreamers and the romantics were built by Mitski’s voice on the last day of NextNOW Fest. Performing at the intimate Kogod Theatre, Mitski poured her spirit into every corner of the space, tying the hearts of the audience to her acoustic guitar.
I have never seen so many University of Maryland students in an event at The Clarice Performing Arts Center, which makes sense because Mitski was chosen through a poll the university’s radio station, WMUC 88.1 FM, sent out in late spring this year.
During the night, I could feel everyone’s connection to her. Each one pulsed differently, hooked onto her lyrics and her songs that unearthed feelings that were fresh or were long forgotten until now.
Kevin Kim, a third year doctoral student at the American Studies department and teacher of a course on the Material Aspects of American Life, said, “I have a pretty complicated relationship with my own personal identity, and I am a bit of a nomad so I’ve traveled around a lot.” He paused and added that, during an interview with NPR, Mitski “talks about the genesis of her single Your Best American Girl’ and about sort of wanting to be something that she knew she wasn’t but she still kind of forces herself to be.”
Her music blends themes of heartache with celestial bodies, bringing forth the pressures created by family. Mitski opened the gate wide open to her struggles, the line, “I’m not going to be what my daddy wants me to be,” brought me to tears, along with others in the crowd.
“‘Bury Me at Makeout Creek’ is one of my top 10 favorite albums,”said Jane Lyons, a junior economics major. “Makes me want to tear my soul apart. When you think of the world in a big way and think about your own existence and vulnerability, and the sense of your place in the universe and how you relate to people, I think she’s the queen of baring it all.”
If you missed this ethereal performance or want to see Mitski again, she will be at the Black Cat Nov. 18.
Around the World in 60 Minutes
The Maryland Community Band took over Dekelboum Concert Hall for The Clarice’s annual NextNOW Fest this past weekend. The 80-person wind ensemble played under the direction of Bill Sturgis, a former first trumpet in the band, who made his NextNOW debut as the new conductor.
Sturgis boasted a seven-medley program, including hits from popularly recognized movies Fiddler on the Roof and The Lion King. The largely alumni-based ensemble kicked off the concert with Jan Van der Roost’s “Flashing Winds,” a 1989 concert band piece, before tackling Hans Zimmer and John Williams later in the show.
Each medley was accompanied by a set of slides. They ranged from fun facts about the piece’s composer to pictures of Rafiki lifting up Simba during the band’s performance of “Circle of Life.” The slides were timed according to each piece, and were created by Craig Carignan, a third trumpet and Maryland robotics-engineering professor.
“We try to do something different, and we like to incorporate a little more of a multimedia approach,” Carignan said.
Last year was the band’s first attempt at incorporating a multimedia aspect into their performance, according to Carignan. While they tend to attract a larger non-student audience, the overall feedback of the show was very positive.
“We never take for granted the fact that we get to play in a place like The Clarice; it’s just an amazing opportunity,” said Carignan. “Most community bands will be lucky if they can practice in a high school gym … so the fact that we get that opportunity to play is just something.”
Heavy Metal Parking Lot
The very essence of the genre can be recounted and passed along generation after generation, preserved in vintage band t-shirts, dusty vinyls, word of mouth—and bootleg documentaries.
One such film is “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” the 1986 creation from University of Maryland graduate Jeff Krulik and co-producer John Heyn, in which the duo filmed crazed fans tailgating in the parking lot of the late Capital Centre before a Judas Priest concert.
The 17-minute film was screened in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 before an intimate crowd of students and adults, all united in heavy metal fandom and big-hair appreciation.
Thirty years later, the nostalgic film is considered a cult classic by many, having accumulated a global following of both fans and musicians alike, one of which being the ‘90s grunge icon Nirvana.
After the screening, the audience had the opportunity for a Q&A session with Krulik, where he provided insight as to how the film came to be, what he expected from its initial creation and commentary about the overall production process.
“We could never have had a clue that it would have the shelf life or have any interest or that people were enjoying it as much as they did nationwide,” Krulik said during the discussion. “I had no clue, and I’m still very grateful.”
“And it was all by accident,” he added. “Everything about this film was a happy accident. We were lucky to capture what we did.”
Junior vocal performance and English major Karah Parks attended the screening with her father—a friend of Krulik—whom she knew would take interest in the film. After seeing it for the first time herself, she knew it was something one-of-a-kind.
“It was a really cool film. It’s unique,” she said. “I don’t think you could replicate it. You wouldn’t be able to do it now.”
The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library will be hosting an exhibit commemorating “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” through May 2017, featuring a collection of items donated by Krulik.
“It tells the story of how ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ came into existence; how it became a cult sensation; how it went viral before going viral was a thing,” said Laura Schnitker, Acting Curator of Mass Media and Culture in Special Collections at Hornbake Library.
“It’s a historical gem. It’s part of Maryland history and University of Maryland history.”
The lobby of The Clarice grew louder as students, adults and children walked in with headphones in hand and energy buzzing as the DJ booth at the front announced the “Silent Disc-Glo” for NextNOW Fest.
“It’s almost like a silent rager; it’s completely quiet when you enter the room until you put your headphones on,” said Deena Rosenblatt, the special events director for SEE.
Indeed, this past Saturday with the dancing bodies, flapping hands and general atmosphere of a large dance party did not fit the classical tunes playing from the speakers. But for participants of the Silent Disc-Glo, the environment is entirely different.
“I’ve watched videos about it,” said freshman letters and sciences major Diya Bhandarkar. “I’m just wondering if it’ll be really awkward to dance with other people or do you dance with yourself?”
Her questions were answered minutes later as the two DJs from Headphone Disco started to play their separate sets for people to start dancing. Each person not only received their own headphones for a personalized experience, but they also could change channels.
Throughout the night, the DJs-one on the red channel and one on the green-played mashups, classics and new popular songs while they made sure to maintain the energy of the room.
Energy that might be a great experience for students like Sarthak Chandra, a second year grad student.
“It should be something very different from a normal disco. It’s all about new experiences,” Chandra said.
Experiences might include dancing with a giant robot made up of balloons, as the classic decoration for NextNOW made an appearance on the dance floor and created another dance circle crowd with students reaching closer to snap photos.
Regardless of which channel you tuned in to, the same amount of excitement was clear in the crowds as they immersed themselves in the music, flashing lights and dancing.
Among the music and dance-filled hallways of The Clarice Performing Arts Center, university student Ben Graney Green, a junior engineering major, found a space for art and augmented reality to collide.
Green created Soundware, a project with the intention of combining meditation and music technology. The iteration that was at The Clarice on Saturday was an extension of his honors capstone project which he completed his sophomore year. There were two devices available for use.
The first device was a large dome helmet that was placed over the user. Green played ambient noise through speakers within the helmet from his computer. He would then record sounds happening outside of the helmet, add effects to the recordings and remix them. Throughout this whole time, the user would be unable to see anything outside of the helmet-surrounded by darkness-creating an augmented reality experience.
John Kos, a junior marketing major, described the experience as an “accidental schizophrenia simulator.”
The second device was much smaller and looked like headphones attached to a metal box. This is called the Soundware AT-1. AT stands for “audio tour,” according to Green. The device is a microphone that amplifies sound around the user to capture as many details as possible. The device is paired with guided meditation pamphlets to help the users think about what they’re hearing. Users were encouraged to sign out the device and walk around the festival.
Green has his sights set on further advancing his year-old project to larger settings.
“I want to do more installations in a controlled space to bring out the sonic capabilities of a space instead of focusing on me,” he said. “I think the best way to add to this is to have many installations in one area so multiple people can experience it or just have one large installation that a lot of people can enjoy at once.”
Featured Photo Credit: Bandaloop perfromers Damara Vita Ganley and Rachael Lincoln tumble and dance through the air inside the grand pavillion at The Clarice. (Josh Loock, Bloc Photographer)