The prospect of a Zoom concert certainly turned some heads. The live music experience, which has been essentially dead for the last year, is something that seems particularly ill-suited to digitization. If you want to listen to artists online, why not pull up Spotify? The Music Entertainment Committee’s Quarantine Cup concert with neo-soul R&B artist UMI anticipated these objections, and UMI proved that an excellent live music experience over Zoom is possible.
UMI did not open with a hit single to get the crowd excited, nor did she include anything you may expect from a typical concert. Instead, she began with a short guided meditation session. After a week of strict quarantine and bitterly cold weather, UMI’s mission to create connection and relieve anxiety was deeply welcome. Her Zoom setup placed her in an amazingly sunny room — UMI lives in Los Angeles. — directly in front of an array of plants. When her set did begin, it was all relaxed, acoustic versions of her songs, along with some great covers. UMI made sure to engage with the Zoom chat during the set in order to take song suggestions.
The event had the energy of jamming with a friend late at night in your dorm more than it did a concert — the audience just happened to be lucky enough to have an immensely talented and lauded musician as a friend. The Q&A portion of the event maintained this light and friendly atmosphere, as UMI gave advice for making music and talked about her next project — a live reimagining of her EP Introspection featuring sound bowls — interspersed with reflections on how her identity influences her musicianship.
This whole enterprise would have been a disaster without UMI’s charisma. The awkwardness of the digital stage faded away with UMI’s confidence and calm assurances. Only someone who was both deeply authentic and self-aware could have pulled off this concert and created such an engaging and relaxing atmosphere over Zoom. Perhaps it was because UMI herself, at 21, could tune in with the emotional state of us quarantined college students, and knew that we needed her healing energy.