UMI at Fonda: Sage for the Soul

Twenty-three-year-old Tierra Umi Wilson took the music world by storm with her 2018 lofi R&B hit, “Remember Me,” which remains her most popular song with over 120 million streams on Spotify.  Better known by her stage name, UMI, boasts nearly 3.5 million monthly Spotify listeners and is only getting started. After releasing her first original tracks in 2017, her passion and success would lead her to step away from her academics at the University of Southern California in pursuit of a full-time career in music.

Fast forward to 2022, UMI now headlines 26 stops across the U.S and promotes songs from her first studio album, Forest in the City. Originally set to only perform at 18 stops, Umi decided to expand her stops due to popular demand. Two of the Forest in the City Tour performances took place at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles on June 6th and 7th. Both sold out nights drew heavy crowds into the venue on a typically quiet Monday and Tuesday night.

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Opening for both nights was Aneesa, an Oakland-based singer, and Syd B, Los Angeles-based R&B singer. The two put the crowd in a light, spiritual mood in preparation for UMI. Prior to starting her setlist of seventeen hits, she danced around the stage with burning sage to cleanse the air and set the mood for an open meditation. Between opening for Conan Gray’s 2019 tour, UMI has found her own voice and command of an audience. Displaying an effortless control of crowd energy, UMI danced around barefoot on stage while instructing listeners to close their eyes and absorb the fleeting energy of being in the moment.

As a songwriter, UMI has developed from her young perspective of naïve love, as seen by her earlier track, “Love Affair,” to one of confidence in “Say I’m Your Love.” From her earlier experiences, she managed to still be “Down to Earth” with just a sprinkle of cocky. Knowing her audience and the venue atmosphere, UMI interspersed original poems based on classical elements—fire, earth, water, and air—between every three songs, which added a thematic flavor rarely seen in live performances.

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UMI’s artistic direction gave attendees a sweeping night akin to a tree’s growth cycle. Like a seed, her start in humble Soundcloud and YouTube covers sprouted into a diverse discography, heavily grounded in her R&B influenced roots. Now, as she transitions into a new phase of her artistry, UMI continues to take on creative challenges at her pace and on her terms. She makes this clear in her song and early “100 Days”: “A hundred bad days made a hundred good stories.”

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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