After two years without concerts in Barton Hall, the Flo Milli Concert on April 23, presented by Cornell Concert Commission and the Multicultural Concert Funding Advisory Board, brought the energy and enthusiasm of live performances back to campus.
The event was the first large concert held in Barton since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It began with Armani White’s opener and continued with Réne Ortiz, featuring Armstrong School of Dance dancers, before concluding with the main event: a performance by rapper Flo Milli.
Every year, the Cornell Concert Commission and the Multicultural Funding Advisory Board bring POC artists to Cornell stages. Planning for this concert started in November 2021, and the decision to invite Flo Milli was based on hundreds of student suggestions.
Carla Escanillas ’24, a member of the Multicultural Funding Advisory Board and one of the show’s organizers, said the board was excited to bring their concert series back with Flo Milli.
“We are excited to bring in Flo Milli to this event, to our community and people of color at Cornell,” Escanillas said. “Our goal is to bring artists of color to campus because it is really fulfilling to get people to connect to artists of color and enjoy music.”
Jordan Crayton ’24, a member of the Multicultural Funding Advisory Board, said that at the beginning of the show she heard positive things about the show from excited guests.
“I heard people around me say they had a good time,” Crayton said. “They were excited and couldn’t wait to see Flo Milli.”
But, attendees like Sam Bischoff ’22 said that while the show was enjoyable, the first two performances were disappointing.
“The opener was supposed to be Tkay Mzaida, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, two people I had no idea who they really were were opening instead,” Bischoff said. “They kept performing 30 seconds of songs I had never heard, at one point they did a cover of someone else’s song which was very odd.”
Bischoff also described how the audio for Réne Ortiz’s songs repeatedly stopped playing midway through the songs.
“He kept moving his mouth when the audio stopped, and I had to assume he didn’t realize the audio had stopped,” Bischoff said. “That made me wonder: was he actually rapping at loud at any point or was the whole thing a lip sync?”
Other than audio issues, Ruth Charles-Pedro ’25 said the show was sometimes pushy and suffocating.
“The stage was really small. People had no choice but to crowd toward the middle,” Charles-Pedro said. “There were some people who were squished, and two people fainted. It was pretty hot towards the center because that’s where the mass of people was.”
According to Bischoff, the first two performances featured uncomfortable moments that attendees did not enjoy.
“Sometimes [Réne Ortiz] would get into rhythm in fifteen seconds and right back to being weird,” Bischoff said. “He did say he was going to dance sexy on the chair. But he danced so poorly on it that nobody even acknowledged that it happened.”
Nonetheless, Flo Milli managed to revive the energy of the crowd despite the audio and performance issues that occured before she went on stage.
“Flo Milli is a super cool rapper. She is funny and lyrically witty,” Bischoff said. “She brought the energy way up, even if she could not resuscitate how tired these people were… She opened into poor audience energy conditions, but she was very good.”
Getting attendees dancing and engaging with the crowd, people left the show happy.
“It was just her alone, but that was enough,” Charles-Pedro said. “My friends and I were dancing. She noticed us, and we got a picture at the end.”
Crayton said she felt Flo Milli’s star power even across the venue at the water table, where she was working a shift during the concert.
“She was a great stage presence for one moment. She doesn’t have a marvelous set. It was just her and a live screen behind her, but she managed to take over Barton Hall as a whole,” Crayton said.
The highlights of the show were not limited to Flo Milli’s performance. Dancers from the Armstrong School of Dance infused the Latino style into Réne’s performance. All four dancers attend the Armstrong School of Dance, and the Flo Milli concert was their first time publicly performing with musicians at Cornell.
Karen Gorsky, the choreographer of the dance group and the owner of Armstrong School of Dance, said the students enjoyed the collaborative experience of the concert.
“We have never done [Latino style dancing] before and they did great with it,” Gorsky said. “When they got up on stage, they just loved it. They are high-school-aged girls, so this was a great thing for them.”
Charles-Pedro said that she appreciated that the concert brought artists of color to Cornell.
“I think it’s great. [They’re] recognizing that there are other groups on campus. And I think that’s important. You can’t be in this little bubble of creators and artists,” Charles-Pedro said. “It’s good to… have that expansion [of artists].”
Estee Yi ’24 contributed reporting.
Correction, May 4, 1:29 p.m.: The initial version of this article misstated the title of Karen Gorsky. She is not the head teacher, she is the choreographer of the dance group.