Viewer discretion was advised for Friday’s BC Underground event. “You were supposed to discress before you arrived,” Lou Wilson, A&S ’14, warned the crowd. Wilson emceed the event alongside Ceara O’Sullivan, A&S ’14-the two added a touch of humor to the otherwise “discretionary” evening, warning the crowd about the “cold blooded killers” about to overtake the O’Neill Art Tent.
When these murderous “underground” artists finally made a showing, the audience hadn’t much to fear. Events like BC Underground signify a shift in the arts offerings at Boston College. Friday’s event offered a venue for performance types historically underrepresented at the University: spoken word artists, B-Boy dancers, rappers, and electronic music producers. Introduced as an annual showcase last year, BC Underground has been one of the most influential recent additions to the Arts Fest tradition.
“In the four years that I’ve been at BC, the spoken word community has really grown and developed,” said Alex Li, the first poet to speak at Friday’s event and A&S ’14. “My freshman year, there were two events in the entire year. This week alone, I’ve performed in two events.”
Li was one of eight spoken word artists to perform at BC Underground this year. The artists opened discussion on a host of topics: social media, masculinity, race, fatherhood, sexuality, and body image. The range of content featured proved the open-ended nature of spoken art as a medium. Several artists opted to address more serious matters with a grain of humor. Billy McEntee, A&S ’14, for example, delivered an op-ed-style monologue on online dating in the nation’s farming community. Li also showed his comedic sensibilities with “10 Responses To The Statement ‘Alex, You Are A Hipster.'”
The next portion of the evening was a dance performance by Conspiracy Theory, BC’s only B-Boy dance crew. The extensive dance performance was largely improvised, the troupe standing on stage in a semicircle as individual members risked life and limb, working nearly acrobatic stunts into the spontaneous routine.
The BlackHearted (Daniel Imahiyerobo, A&S ’16, and Daniel Suarez, from Wheelock College) was the first of three hip-hop crews showcased at Underground. Imahiyerobo and Suarez rapped in a throwback hip-hop style, over tight beats and heavy bass. The two paired together nicely, performing in classic style, rapping atop each other.
Sha-lee Flavius, CSOM ’14, was an integral part of Underground last year, performing under the pseudonym Mr. WakeUpp. With his signature shades and white gloves, Flavius returned to the Arts Fest main stage with a full crew this year. Verging on performance art, WakeUpp’s set mystified crowds. Breaking the fourth wall, Flavius and friends ventured into the crowd, at times speaking in conversational tones over a musical backdrop. The performance culminated in Flavius personally giving a shout-out to each of BC’s schools. A CSOM student himself, Flavius spread the love, thanking his fans from A&S, LSOE, CSON, and CSOM-no word from Flavius on his supporters from BC Law, WCAS, STM, and GSSW just yet.
The penultimate act of the night was a performance by Daniel Almonte, CSOM ’14, featuring Aaron Carrillo, A&S ’14, and Daniel Lyle, A&S ’16. Almonte did the mixing for his set on stage, before leaving the mixing board and rapping alongside Carrillo and Lyle. Beginning in a more traditional mode of performance, Almonte included a quick change into suits midway through the performance. Holding nooses around their necks, the performers declared that classism is the new racism, commenting on the exclusivity of BC culture (“Watch out for the WASP culture / Don’t let it sting you”).
Underground was rounded out by an individual performance from Lyle, rapping and singing under the moniker The Island. Lyle performed with a long-nosed masquerade mask, resembling those worn by doctors during the Black Plague epidemic. Performing in a style switching between Kanye West-esque and Frank Ocean-esque vocal rifts, The Island’s versatility and taste in theatrics tied up Underground quite nicely.
The evening was characterized by smart commentary and artistic breakthrough. The artists were, admittedly, far from the “coldblooded killers” O’Sullivan and Wilson joking introduced them to be. While there was little reason for worry at Friday’s event, it did introduce several artists to look out for in the months to come.