As the son of an opera singer, and a self-proclaimed fan of artists ranging from MF DOOM to The National, rising artist Bartees Strange is no stranger to various genres. It makes sense, then, that his set at the Memorial Union Terrace on Sept. 12 was somewhat of a melting pot of different musical elements from rock to folk to rap, which was perfect — there was something in store for everybody.
Strange’s set followed Ganser, a Chicago band that commandeered the stage with powerful bass lines and confident lyrics. As Ganser’s set culminated in a performance of “Lucky,” the sun began to set over Lake Mendota, setting the perfect backdrop for Strange to take the stage.
After taking the stage with one of his mellower songs, Strange turned things up a notch with “Mustang,” a high-energy track and one of his strongest assets. Drummer Jordyn Blakely carried the band through Strange’s heavier tracks, like this one, serving as the backbone of the band’s incredible coordination. Although the mostly-sitting crowd — that would have better suited a coffee shop — didn’t quite match the energy of Strange’s punk-infused tunes, the band nonetheless had everybody captivated, especially thanks to Strange’s incredible vocals. He didn’t miss a single note.
Throughout the set, Strange bounced between genres, switching from indie rock to R&B. “Kelly Rowland” stuck out in particular, fusing a creative rap beat with a complex guitar line and lyrics sung and rapped with mesmerizing cadence — “You don't leave the crib you'll miss the Strange wave”. While his heavier songs were arguably the most memorable, hearing these slower tracks felt like Strange was finally meeting the audience at its own energy level, which was perfect for such a brisk night on the Terrace.
After Strange closed out his set with “Boomer,” a celebration of individuality yet an anthem of angst, he then wrapped everything up with a quick encore at the audience’s request. It had begun to rain, though people showed no signs of caring and finally stood up to enjoy the band’s music.
While Strange left with a broken guitar string and many of us with mildly soggy clothes, in the end, we also departed with a new favorite live artist as well. It’s rare that musicians actually sound better live than on the recordings, but that was exactly what happened during Strange’s set at the Terrace.