Arts, On Campus

JR Aquino Awes ‘From Mind to Mic’ Crowd, Discusses Asian-Americans’ Presence in U.S. Entertainment

There are a lot of spots across Boston College’s campus that are great for the litany of events that the school hosts on a weekly basis. Robsham Theater is Lower Campus’ perfect, tucked-away nest for all theatre productions and the bigger arts events and lectures throughout the academic year. Gasson 100 has the perfect atmosphere for the many classical concerts that run through BC’s oldest building. Stokes Lawn and O’Neill Plaza are great spaces for outdoor concerts and dances—at least before winter hits. And The Rat has one of the most intimate settings available to those looking to host any sort of arts event.

BC’s Asian Caucus must have come to this conclusion too, as the group hosted, alongside BC’s a cappella group Against the Current, its annual From Mind to Mic in The Rat last Thursday night. The basement/dining hall featured a candlelit ambiance that was perfect for the night’s performances. The setting enhanced the tranquility that both Against the Current and the Asian Caucus exuded throughout the event.

This year, the Asian Caucus welcomed YouTube sensation and singer JR Aquino to perform a few covers and original songs of his, as well as to have a discussion with this year’s moderator Christine Minji Chang, the executive director of Kollaboration, a nonprofit organization promoting Asian Pacific Islander American artists. After Aquino’s performance, the two sat down for about 30 minutes to discuss the Asian-American’s role and position in the entertainment industry today. The discussion was particularly enlightening, as both Aquino and Minji Chang have spent quite a bit of their adult lives working in and around show business.

After the emcees gave a brief introduction to the event, detailing the group’s history, Against the Current took to the stage to open Aquino’s performance with a few a cappella numbers. The group took on the Katy Perry classic “Unconditionally” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”—both stunning renditions. The duality between the quick rap coming from the front of the group and the more melodious chorus in the background was especially well delivered. Though Against the Current’s performance was enjoyable, some sort of collaboration with Aquino would have been more captivating than just having the group open for him. This sort of collaboration, however, is probably more easily discussed than put into action.

Having performed its small set, Against the Current left the stage as the emcees came on to introduce the evening’s moderator. This seemed a bit strange, as the emcees introduced Minji Chang just so she could immediately introduce Aquino. Though a minor point, it seemed unnecessary. Regardless, Aquino soon graced the stage with his presence, dawning his beautiful acoustic guitar and charming smile.

Many performers can be funny and personable, but few are really both to the extent that Aquino is. Throughout his performance, Aquino would inject humor straight into the song he was singing, changing lyrics as he saw fit. In one instance, Aquino changed out a name in a song with that of Tim, an audience member that Aquino had a particular fascination with. At another point, Aquino screwed up a lyric in his rendition of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Immediately after doing so, he, keeping with the melody, sang, “I know that I screwed that up.” The audience erupted in a fit of laughter. These kinds of gags and interactions with the audience worked well for Aquino, as the audience was visibly extremely captivated with his performance.

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Aquino performed a few covers of popular hits and then moved on to a few of his original songs. What was really impressive was that the audience was well aware of Aquino’s personal works. Throughout his performances of his “Rather Be (With You)” and “By Chance,” Aquino would eggon the audience on to sing the lyrics for him. This, at first, seemed like a bold decision, as it might be expected that not everyone was familiar with Aquino’s work. The large majority of the audience, however, sang along to the melody, not just mumbling the few words that they knew. These types of moments spoke to Aquino’s talent and notability. Though not everyone at From Mind to Mic had probably heard of Aquino, he proved that he is a popular singer that has touched the hearts, minds, and ears of many people across the country.

Though Aquino’s original songs were very enjoyable, his covers really pumped up the crowd that gathered in The Rat. Aquino’s version of “Hotline Bling” was especially impressive, with his effective deconstruction and reconstruction of the song. Aquino had nothing but his acoustic guitar on stage. All in attendance necessarily noticed the conviction that was at the heart of Aquino’s performance.

After the thunderous applause that accompanied Aquino’s song died down, Minji Chang, alongside the evening’s emcees, hopped onto the stage to begin the discussion segment of the evening. Minji Chang and Aquino held a very intriguing conversation, as the two actually know each other quite well. The chemistry between the two was palpable and contributed greatly to the discussion at hand.

Minji Chang and Aquino’s talk revolved around the broader condition of Asian-Americans in American entertainment industries and their personal experiences in these industries. While the performance half of From Mind to Mic was very entertaining and captivating, this discussion between Minji Chang and Aquino was equally, if not more, compelling.

From Mind to Mic offered students from all backgrounds a glimpse of Asian-Americans’ role and situation in the media and an intimate, awesome performance from a YouTube great. Aquino’s likeability was almost overwhelming and is definitely the key to his live performances.

Though he may be famous for his video work, Aquino made clear his appreciation for performing for live people.

“Live performances are something you can’t replace with a YouTube video,” Aquino said.

Featured Image By Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor

November 6, 2016