Friday night, just four days before Feb. 14, 650 Mayfield was awash in dense pink light that glinted off the cloying balloon arrangements. Student-artists performed in the festive space at the Valentine’s Day themed concert titled “Lover’s Rock.”
The night slid from Raveena-esque jazzy chords with EASHA to upbeat indie-rock with eisenach, from emo hip-hop with Seoulfly to pop covers with The House Band. The music was at its best when it spoke to non-romantic love — eisenach sang about his friends, and EASHA sang about her love of traveling. It quickly became difficult to move or breathe at 650, with audience members packed as densely and loudly as a fraternity party. I struggled to wiggle my way out at midnight — but the concert was a hit despite the crowds.
“My setlist has something for everyone in the crowd, you know? I’m including songs about all the different stages of love: angry, sad, tender” Easha Nandyala ’24 said over the loud rumble of a burgeoning crowd. The audience flared up, cheering and hooting, when Nandyala got on the small stage covered with wires and instruments. Nandyala performs under the stage name EASHA.
“This first song is about love and all its, uh, delusions,” Nandyala said, emphasizing the last word before singing “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” She has a strong, slick voice that never breaks or strains, even when it climbs into high-pitched vibratos. Her stage presence evokes Hope Sandoval at times. The song “Dying is a Beautiful Thing to Do” melted the crowd into crooning, sentimental swaying; the song’s chorus featured finely layered vocals and melancholy reminiscent of Clairo’s “Bags.” The mood switched up in fast-paced “Far Away,” which captured the romance of wanderlust.
The crowd’s energy remained high for the next acts. Everyone knew the lyrics to eisenach’s “Modern Day Mixtape” and “Memes,” two upbeat love songs that have played on campus for over a year now. Jacob Eisenach ’21 performs under the stage name eisenach. He sung with a vocal cadence and glide that reminded me of The Shins’s James Mercer, especially at higher registers. The band’s percussion and bass tiptoed into pummeling crescendos that evoked Vampire Weekend. Their songs featured a distinct groove and twang, best sampled in the guitar refrain of “Allergy Season.”
Eisenach said that “Don’t You Ever Give Me Up,” an ode to platonic love, was his favorite song to perform: “It’s full of hopefulness and energy and is a reflection on friendships, which ebb and flow throughout the years.”
By the time Seoulfy mounted the stage, the crowd was almost spilling onto the platform, as if barely contained by a fine membrane. “I think I’m falling, falling for you darling, darling,” Seoulfy sang to a thrumming bass line that rattled the building. Their fast-paced, catchy overlap of hip-hop and pop sounds reminded me of iann dior’s recent releases, like “let you” and “pretty girls.” The crowd sang along and jumped to “Waste of Time” with a fervor that seemed sure to collapse the walls. “You make this rapper feel more like a poet,” they sang in “Cross My Mind.”
Friday was Seoulfly’s first live performance together. The duo, composed of Jonathan Lee ’24 and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign sophomore TJ Byun, came together in July 2019, but largely worked remotely. The group was excited to finally perform an in-person concert.
“I’m personally a pretty mellow person, but I come most alive when I’m performing live,” Lee said. Then Byun added, “There’s only so much satisfaction you can get from seeing the stream numbers go up; it’s a completely different animal to perform live. The energy is unlike anything else.”
The other student-artists were also gratified to see the return of in-person concerts. “I haven’t performed live since before the pandemic, so there’s some anxiety surrounding it, because you forget what it’s even like,” Nandyala said. “Once you get into it, though, you remember the parts of it you love: the interactiveness and the spontaneity. You practice a lot, but the best parts of a show are the parts you don’t predict, off-the-cuff things you say or try out.”
This sentiment was echoed by Eisenach. “I love the raw energy between the band and the crowd. It was such an adrenaline rush; it was really hot and loud,” Eisenach said after performing. John Kohler ’22, who was on drums for Eisenach, explained, “it’s been wild to slowly move back into this kind of thing — this is the first time an indoor event has been even possible.”
The night closed out with The House Band, who opened with “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa. They transitioned into “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac with a slamming drum fill. Cat Davis ’24 delivered powerful vocals and hair flips that created a charismatic stage presence. Bioengineering Ph.D. student Jonathon Weiss flexed rapidly swerving guitar solos and Allen Zhu ’22 gave thumping bass. The group’s rendition of “Come Together” by The Beatles concluded with two hard drum licks; Bradley Immel ’21 glanced over from keys to nod admiringly at percussionist Callum Burgess ’22.
The crowds trickled out reluctantly when the concert wrapped up. Groups of friends tugged at each other, talking loudly. “Come on, take a photo of us,” asked a group of inebriated boys, gesturing at the camera hanging from my neck. They posed, laughing, arms wrapped around each other like some perfect vision of collegiate friendship. As I watched them and other packs of students lumber away, I couldn’t help but reflect on what the night had celebrated: friends supporting friends, student artists giving everything they had to the music, friends and strangers singing along, people holding hands and leaning into each other, dancing bodies. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.
This article has been updated to reflect that Weiss played guitar and Zhu played bass. The Daily regrets this error.