August 26, 2012

I am The Cataracs

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The thumping bass of the evening’s opener, The Melker Project (Scott Melker), began just as the sun dipped below the slope, marking the start of the Cornell Concert Commission’s annual Free Show. The event unsurprisingly attracted a wide variety of students, as the crowd appeared to be a fairly accurate cross-section of Cornell — all lured by the very danceable albeit, mildly generic, poppy-electronic fusion. The mash-up artist started out with several garden-variety combinations of Top 40 hits, manipulating beats and tempos and transitioning smoothly from song to song. Like the headliners from the previous year, White Panda, Melker found fans of his remixes as the notably thin crowd reacted enthusiastically to his re-imagination of Willow Smith’s popular “Whip My Hair.”

However, as darkness fell on the ever-growing mass of Cornellians less conventional songs and match-ups came into the mix. In particular, a hauntingly reverberating rendition of the Beatles’ classic “Let It Be” echoed through the audience as they waved neon glow-in-the-dark bracelets to the beat.  Melker then finished his set with a synth-heavy, tempo-boosted take on the alma mater. This new interpretation was a welcome respite from the over-played but equally deafening version heard almost daily from McGraw Clock Tower a few yards away.

As Niles “Cyrano” Hollowell-Dha took the stage this Saturday night the Arts Quad echoed with the screams of inebriated undergrads eager to dance along to the catchy beats and mash-ups of The Cataracs. In fact, the welcome was so enthusiastic that it was almost as if the shocking announcement of only two days before didn’t happen.

On August 23 it was revealed via Facebook that David “Campa” Benjamin Singer-Vine, one half of the LA-based indie pop duo known as The Cataracs, would be leaving the group for good. The statement went on to reassure fans that more new music was on the way and to expect some collaboration with big-name artists. It then closed with the remaining member, best known by his nickname Cyrano, daringly proclaiming, “I am The Cataracs.”

The headphones around his neck bounced up and down as Cyrano pumped his arms up to the beat of his opening song. This performance gave him the chance to prove himself as first as a legitimate solo act. A few less devoted fans near the back of the crowd joked that he the band’s moniker should lose its plurality in response to the recent break-up. A few songs into the set he used the guitar lines of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside” to underline Rihanna’s belting vocals. Strangely enough, the combination worked extremely well, with each strum blended almost seamless with an electronic beat. The alarming number of scantily clad girls perched atop shoulders stood sentiment to the fact that The Cataracs, despite its recent singularity, was definitely impressing.

The interest level (or arguably the blood alcohol level) of fans was easily determined by their willingness to venture into the sweaty mess close to the front of the stage. More casual concertgoers were seen lounging against trees near the steps of Goldwin Smith Hall or sitting near Olin Library. However, a significant amount of dedicated individuals braved the violent dancing and unfortunate odor, a  combination of marijuana and sweat, in order to be closer to the action.

About half way through the show, Cyrano dialed down the volume slightly in order to heartily ask the crowd “Are you guys ready to turn this shit up?”He seemed to get the answer that he was looking for as the audience thrust their hands in the air and yelled their approval. The speed and intensity of dancing seemed to exactly mirror the tempo of music, as every change in pace from the speakers was met by an equal adjustment by the throng of swaying students.

In an effort to keep up interest in the now tired crowd, Cyrano began to completely drop the music, expecting   viewers to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately this stunt seemed to backfire; instead of fervent crowd participation, these silences were mostly met with awkward mumblings and laughs. He even began a call-and-response of “Cornell fuck yeah” that worked for a while, but it was soon clear that the excitement of seizure-inspiring lights and synthy beats was wearing off.

Ultimately, it seemed that The Cataracs was best received when it played very minimally remixed versions of popular songs such as Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling.” Some of the well-known songs that he had a hand in producing such as “Like a G6” and “Dancing In The Dark” were extremely high-energy and got the crowd going out of sheer radio-recognition, but when he debuted his new single “Roll That Dice,” poppy rap that sounded almost identical to every LMFAO song, the crowd began to thin. In the end, several mash-ups seemed to blur together with remixing that was unimaginative, but ultimately got the job done and gave Cornell the party it deserved.

Original Author: Lucas Colbert-Carreiro

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