Imagine a crowd radiating the slight smell of natural deodorant and marijuana, swaying to chill, dreamy R&B tunes. That sums up the scene at the Hub on Jan. 28 when rising artist Umi performed at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB).
As a genre-bending 20-year-old artist, Umi is a trendy favorite amongst the current generation of millennial and Gen Z music listeners, serving as a multicultural role model that embodies a chill vibe. Her sold-out show was organized by Associated Students (A.S.) Program Board and heavily featured songs from her new album Love Language, which has been climbing the charts.
Before Umi came on the stage, DJ Teemak Hayes warmed up the audience with his retro style and spunky combination of music from past decades. Many of his songs didn’t quite reach the Gen Z audience, however; songs such as “Dancing Queen” by Abba and Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” resulted in awkward patches of the audience nodding.
After an hour-and-a-half of disconnected DJing, the audience was anxious to see Umi. It wasn’t until 10 p.m. before Umi finally made an appearance, prompting the crowd to let out a roar of satisfaction.
Announcing this stage as her first show of 2020, Umi presented herself as one of us, literally meditating with the audience. She began her set by introducing her new album and her favorite track from it, titled “Love Affair.” The song was a classic Umi song: a slow tempo with groovy instrumentation that spoke to every teenage soul.
Umi continued her set by reaching out to fellow Japanese speakers with her song “Sukidakara,” which is also part of her new album. It spoke love into the crowd as people absorbed the synth’s light chords and the band’s innovative yet old-fashioned improvability. There were scattered moments of Umi’s own creative bursts as she used a second mic that would distort her voice.
The night continued as the artist surprised the crowd with some covers of her own favorite songs. Fans cheered as she would break from her own music to cover tunes with similar vibes such as “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae or “Just Friends” by Musiq Soulchild.
Her particular cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control” was a fan favorite as Umi played the guitar herself, imitating the guitar solo and chilling vocals of Frank Ocean. During these songs, the audience often would join in with the melody, and raise their hands in the air to send Umi their supportive energy.
Umi also touched on some throwbacks, which many fans probably came to hear as well. Songs such as “Remember Me” and “Butterflies” were filled with shouts of enthusiastic fans proclaiming their love for the singer. She took us all back to the beginning of her lo-fi journey and musical career with the mix of soul and R&B rippling with nostalgic experiences and her love for music. As one of her many dedicated fans, I cried when she sang “Remember Me.”
Finishing her set, Umi left the crowd after her cheerful performance of “Down to Earth” and “High School,” which many hummed along to. After the last note, she shouted praise for UCSB students and their support, and skipped off the stage, leaving fans chanting for an encore.
To their dismay, Umi did not come back to sing; however, to their delight, she greeted many fans personally following the show. Many people who realized she had returned shuffled their way to Umi, who was hugging and thanking her fans for their support.
As a fan of UMI, it’s safe to say that show further solidified the statement that UMI’s fans love her and her music. Please check out Umi’s new album, Love Language, on Spotify!