It’s a wonder that students living in Toyon Hall ever get any work done. Performance groups of all types looking for a small venue with good acoustics gravitate to the all-sophomore dorm’s main lounge to host their events. The most recent group to throw their hat in the fray is the Black Student Union, whose event, “Let’s Stay Together: Black Love 2012,” packed that main lounge to capacity on Tuesday night.
Though a select few couples were seated at front-row tables through a pre-event raffle, the vast majority of students who attended stood at stand-up cocktail tables littered with candy. Sparkling cider poured by the organizers took the place of champagne, and the ambient lighting created an inviting mood. After about fifteen minutes, the event’s organizers, Maya Humes ‘14 and Bana Hatzey ‘14, took the stage to start the show.
They introduced Kevin Avery, a San Francisco-based stand up comedian sponsored by the Stanford Chapparal who served as MC of the show. After a few opening remarks, he kicked off the first half of the show, which consisted of performances by Stanford students. The first of these was a touching solo performance of a piano ballad about appreciating our time with loved ones, written by the student in the wake of her father’s death.
This first act set the tone for the student performances. From a duet between Lady Renaissance (Mia Shaw ‘12) and Tyler Brooks ‘14 reminiscent of a collaboration between Drake and Nicki Minaj—in sound if not theatricality—to a lovely poem called “Adoration” offering an unabashedly sentimental portrait of its theme, the Stanford students offered reflections on the nature of love and its triumph. At one point, the audience even broke into spontaneous snapping and clapping during a particularly rousing chorus. Rounding out this half of the show was a short set by a cappella group Everyday People, who opted to forgo their traditional all-vocal setup to feature a piano in addition to the vocal harmonies.
The atmosphere of the first half of the event was most like a coffeehouse, albeit one more focused on performance than conversation. Another factor that separated the event from a traditional café performance were Avery’s various comedic interludes between acts. Though he began the night with few words, by midway through the Stanford student performances, he was doing extended bits and riffing off of audience members.
His first routine consisted of a back-and-forth with several of the seated couples in which he riffed on various aspects of their relationships. Later, he invited a girl in a long-distance relationship onstage to tell her story in a hilarious, extended bit that ended with a sweet proclamation of long-distance love. Then, after the student acts were finished, he launched into a twenty-minute set with similar themes.
By the time Avery said his thank-yous and went offstage, the crowd had grown restless. They had, after all, come primarily to see Jeremih. After his DJ and hype man warmed up the crowd with some common club songs, the singer came out onstage and delivered exactly what those fans wanted. Perhaps the most interesting revelation of the night, though, was that Jeremih actually can, in fact, sing.
His set ended, predictably, with “Birthday Sex” and “Down on Me,” though his DJ remained, along with a sizable crowd, ready to dance for the rest of their Tuesday night. In the end, though Jeremih’s set offered an undoubtedly different perspective on love than the Stanford students’ did, the night as a whole stood as a testament to black culture, love and the intersection between the two.