‘Deep breath in…hold at the top…release': words you wouldn’t necessarily expect at a high energy festival such as Lollapalooza, but with UMI things are different. She wanted her crowd to feel grounded and in the moment, letting go of any unnecessary doubts and worries during her set.
UMI, a Japanese-American artist who had gained popularity from songs like “Remember Me” and “Butterfly” in 2018 and who made her major-label debut with her EP Introspection, graced Lollapalooza for the very first time that week. Her set at the Bacardi Stage was surrounded by trees in the middle of Chicago, feeling like an homage to latest album Forest In The City which dropped in 2022.
Prior to this larger set, she held a much more intimate performance with guided meditation at the Toyota Music Den and played an acoustic set which brought her closer to fans, and gave a small preview of what was to come during her performance on the bigger stage later. As fans found shelter from the on-and-off rain in the afternoon, UMI showed off her vocal prowess by singing soulful renditions of ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Love Affair’ not to mention covers of ‘Best Part’ by Daniel Caesar featuring H.E.R and Frank Ocean’s ‘Self Control’ from Blond. The intimacy of the set felt very reminiscent of the living room covers she posted before on YouTube – where the viewer would be invited into her space for a moment and vibe – which allowed for UMI to interact with fans on a deeper level and where fans could sing along to all of the songs that they knew of hers.
For her larger performance, she maintained the positive atmosphere she cultivated in her previous performance. As she had the crowd repeat self-affirmations of positivity and light to leave her set feeling carefree, she started her set with the track ‘sorry’ that reiterated affirmations of where she sees herself and all of what she desires. Even within that first song, the crowd was hyped over the lyrics: “I’m gonna get a Grammy with my motherfuckin’ friends.” She then transitioned to her track ‘too late’, also from her latest album.
Despite the overcast skies during the set, UMI brought a light and energy that was as warm as sunshine. Her presence was very ethereal with her all white fit: a white baby tee and a white maxi skirt. When performing ‘Love Affair’ she had the crowd sing it back to her and it was easy to tell that despite the rainy weather, a large crowd showed up just for her. She then rolled into a mashup of ‘Sukidakara’ and ‘Ordinary’, and the upbeat tempo had the crowd swaying from side to side dancing along with her, which kept the happy and bright vibes up.
Even though she has a comprehensive discography, in the middle of her set she chose to sing a cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s classic song, ‘Put Your Records On’ mesmerising the crowd to sing along with her. In the spirit of letting go and being free spirited, UMI asked the crowd to put a fist in the air, let all of their worries and noise to build up in their fists and to let it all go with a loud yell to shake off any negativity. With that, she transitioned to ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Remember Me’.
The meditative nature of UMI’s set was enriching and an uplifting experience focusing on just being in the moment and truly giving the crowd a chance to be in tune with themselves and the other people around them. UMI is known for leaning into the spirituality of things, being attuned to surrounding energy and having a clear intention for her performances. When she announced that it was nearing the end of her time on stage, the crowd groaned in disappointment. She mentioned that she had a new song out called ‘happy im’: a single that she worked with her partner about their relationship.
UMI then left the crowd with more words of positivity and quoted Kendrick Lamar, saying "everything will be alright". She closed her set with just that, with her song ‘everything will be alright’.
This brightness she emitted was something that was truly special to witness, especially at a festival setting. As her set ended, the clouds began to break and sunlight began to peek through a little; as if it were waiting for just the right moment to do so. We’re excited to see her do big things, given that she opened for Sam Smith prior to Lollapalooza. Now that she is on tour in Asia, we can’t wait to see how she closes out the rest of 2023.