Arts concert review

Three powerful artists collectively RISE above expectations

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum showcases local artists

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Artist Oompa rapping at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum RISE concert.
Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

With Oompa, Dutch Rebelle, and Res
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Oct. 25

If you’ve never seen the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall, picture the Colosseum, compact, with red plush seats, hardwood floors, and glass banisters. In the middle, instead of warring gladiators, sits a concert grand piano and a band (The AB’s) awaiting the performers of the night. This is the arena for the RISE Music Concert Series, now in its 4th season. My last time at RISE, I sat at performance level, but this time I sat what felt like directly atop the musical artists. At this vantage point, I was able to map the artists’ presence, how they moved and claimed the space, from above. I looked at the audience, and I was captured by their collective head bop in response to the music unfolding before them.

The RISE series is meant to support local artists. Last Thursday’s performance was “designed to celebrate the elevation and talent of women in music.” We were treated to a night of compelling performance by three women of color, each with independent musical styles, together yielding a depth that paralleled the works of art found in the museum around us.

First out was Oompa, Roxbury native and nominee in five categories of the 2018 Boston Music Awards. The 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion came out flowing seamlessly from spoken rap to singing and back again. She used her flow to express a message for black and brown women, for queer and trans people, for marginalized persons, sometimes barely rising to take a breath, about what they deserve. She drew upon “Black Church Energy” and used gospel because of the way it captures gratitude. She made the audience hear what she was saying and react.

Next up was Mattapan’s Dutch Rebelle, who built an intense rapport with everyone watching her. She made a point to look up at all 3 floors above her. The beat bounced and the colorful audience all caught on by the end of the song, with several standing to dance along. She owned the stage, even in how she adjusted her thigh-high boots. In that museum, she closed by reminding us that “we are all living pieces of art right now.”

Last to perform was Res, a Philadelphia artist with indie, soul, rock, and hip-hop influences. She had a big voice, that somehow still held coffeeshop notes. One of the first things I noticed was her voice control: large beautiful notes and how soft they came down, and the quiet-after that remained in their wake. Her voice had nostalgic tones of the early 2000’s, right around when she started her vocal career. My favorite thing was looking to the audience during the opening chords of a song as they formed slow smiles and began to sway or just stared wide-eyed at the music.

The next RISE concert is November 23rd with Bilal, and the museum hosts live music and art events every Third Thursday.