Midway through finals week, I emerged bleary-eyed from beneath my pile of textbooks and unfinished essays and study guides to attend “A Rare Acoustic Evening with Jason Mraz and Very Special Guest Raining Jane.” The famously mellow Grammy winner is currently touring the West Coast promoting his upcoming fifth album, known as #album5, and made a stop in our very own Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, March 19. Now, while attending concerts on a whim the night before a huge test usually isn’t my forte, I’m very glad I made this exception.
The concert was opened by the all-girl indie rock quartet Raining Jane, who have been collaborating with Jason since 2007 after meeting him while performing at the same music festival. The band started things off on a delightfully upbeat note with their “Oh Song” off of their most recent record. All four girls have been playing together for over a decade, and their chemistry and comfort together really shines through in their performance. They played their own instruments and sang a variety of songs that they explained were written in the back of their bus while they were touring the country. The clarity of their vocals and the simplicity of the accompanying guitar and percussion were a pleasant breath of fresh air after being cooped up inside studying for finals all week. They talked and joked easily with the audience, and their carefree vibe was infectious. I could feel the tension and stress from the last few days draining from my body, and the crowd began to loosen up and clap along to their songs.
Raining Jane performing “Oh Song” in Los Angeles, Calif.
Jason came out to join them after their set. He immediately plopped down on the edge of the stage and began absent-mindedly strumming his guitar as he chatted with the audience. It was definitely the most low-key concert I’ve ever been to. Even for the people (me included) sitting in the very back row of the PAC, he made it feel like were all just hanging out, singing together in someone’s backyard. He played a few songs off of his new album, as well as the radio hits like “Lucky,” “I Won’t Give Up,” and “I’m Yours.” Between songs, he talked about his love of organic food and composting, as well as his secret to staying so positive. He explained that he wants his music to be like a bit of medicine, to help cope with our worrisome, stress-filled lives.
About halfway through the show, we were treated to a surprise. Jason welcomed to the stage Take it SLO, Cal Poly’s a cappella group! They were approached by Jason’s team after recording a version of his song “Live High” on the radio show Up & Adam in the Morning on 104.5 and asked to sing with him at his show on campus.
Freshman Kelli Rose Normand of the group got the chance to duet “I’m Yours” with Jason for the encore.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Jason, so it was all kind of surreal,” she explained. “He has this attitude that is so relaxed and comfortable that you almost forget who he is or how accomplished he’s been. I actually sang this song on American Idol. The story is kind of funny. I was singing ‘Chain of Fools’ by Aretha Franklin and made it a couple rounds, then switched it to ‘I’m Yours’ and got eliminated! So getting to sing that song with him was amazing redemption.”
Overall, Jason Mraz’ up close and personal concert was the perfect bit of medicine to cure my finals-induced stressed. Through some seriously great music and his infectiously chill attitude, he reminded us to find time to relax, appreciate the little things, and just take it easy, even in the midst of the heavy workload of college.