I have never, in my time on this campus, seen so many people from the Rochester community congregated in one place for an artist that seemed so incredibly loved.
This year’s Yellowjacket Weekend performance in Douglass Ballroom featured Ella Mai and her opening act, Ishmael Raps. Though perhaps it was not as crowded as last year’s Oh Wonder concert, the demographic and environment of the event was far more diverse, especially location-wise.
Last year, the audience was 75 percent students, and the atmosphere was very casual.— you could just walk in with your ticket. But last night, featured increased security, with not only armed guards at the entrance, but people to scan you with a mini metal-detector wand as you entered for additional security measures. I was so surprised at the stark contrast from the year before I looked like a lost sheep. I had no clue what I was doing or where I was going.
Unable to walk across the bridge from Wilco, I had to go around to enter at a designated separated entrance for those who had tickets. I was near the Pit around 30 minutes before the show began, and the ticket line to the Common Market was up the spiral staircase and near the door.
Ishmael Raps, who pleased the crowd with pink hair and diverse music, brought the energy Ella Mai needed when she eventually came on stage. Some songs were solely rapping and others were more in-depth and musical, showing off a fantastic voice.
He performed some of his more popular songs like “Droptop” and “Focused”. But the highlight of his set was when he tried to introduce his song “Mañana”.
“How are you guys doing! Who here knows Spanish? How do y’all say mañana in Spanish? Wait… I messed that up,” which lightened the mood even more as people continued to arrive. His DJ was quite obsessed with the air horn effect, however, and by the end of his set I never wanted to hear it effect again. After his set finished, he joined the crowd to meet audience members and enjoy Ella from the floor.
Though Mai had a sore throat, for which she drank tea rather than water between sets, her vocal performance made it almost impossible to tell she was unwell. She performed music from all three of her EPs from 2016 and 2017, and her single “Trip”, released in 2018.
Within the first 10 minutes, you could tell how incredibly sweet and humble she was. She recounted how she lived and went to high school in New York City,. She explained that she was never able to make it to college, but wanted the experience. She had also, in fact, never been to upstate New York.
She also gave her band some sets of eight within a song to shine, giving them the attention she felt they deserved. Her band was definitely worthy.
Memorably, in her introduction to the song “Naked”, she not only asked, “Do I have any ladies in the room”, but also the same question to the men. I have never had the latter happen at a concert I attended, but the men responded as they should. To my shock and amusement, the room filled with low male shouts., However, Mai deemed the women as winners of the song.
The audience knew the words to every song, including “Who Knew” and “She Don’t”. Although I didn’t share their wholehearted love for her and her music, I was immensely impressed. Her music portrays her inner feelings, and allows men and women to relate and feel included in the journey she is taking them on. I found a self-positivity, female empowerment, or a general “this is life” message within almost every song she has written.
Local Rochesterians and students alike were able to get “Boo’d Up” together and enjoy her phenomenal performance.