March 13, 2003

Music Is Magic

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As the climate in Ithaca is apt to drastic shifts, the Fanclub Collective-curated show at J.A.M. this past Saturday, featuring Content, ‘Fraid Knots, Vox Humana, Teapot Dome Orchestra, and The Gunshy, presented styles that changed as quickly as the weather of this town. This is not to say that this weekend’s performers, students and touring artists alike, did not share a common passion for music. In fact, dedication to music as an art and for some, as a career, shone throughout the night.

Content was the spark that ignited the evening. The performance space blew up with piercing drum beats, distorted guitar, and resounding bass. A mix of Radiohead-influenced rock and metal-inspired intensity, Content explored a hybrid territory in their first performance at J.A.M.

Taking the stage next, the ‘Fraid Knots slowed down the pace of the concert to the comfortable and inviting tempo of an acoustic set, resembling the kind of intimate setting one would see on MTV Unplugged. With two acoustic guitars and an electric bass, the band stayed true to a lo-fi, folk rock aesthetic. Touching guitar chords and soft vocal harmonies characterized their songs, which evoked the idiosyncratic singing tendencies of Phil Elvrum, The Microphones’ frontman. Their short yet memorable set ran through a series of covers and originals. The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” took on a new light as the song was stripped down to its most basic elements by the band. Dan Meyler, the singer and guitarist, spoke between songs and gave a personal feeling to the show. The ‘Fraid Knots original “You Make Me Tense” lingered in the audience’s head with its catchy chorus and guitar parts, as the band retired from the stage to warm applause.

Keeping with this acoustic theme, Vox Humana, roughly Latin for human voice, conversed with the audience through seductive whispers that grew into bold statements. In “Crawl Over Me,” a sexually enticing piece, guitarist Vick Lazar sprinkled the audience with a Beck-like mellow twang. Strumming in a Pixies-like guitar style, Lazar lightened the mood on “Punch in the Throat” accompanied by bassist Dan Smith, who grounded the duo’s flight.

Soon thereafter, The Teapot Dome Orchestra made their way onstage amidst a cornucopia of equipment ranging from cello and guitars to laptops. With their first song, “Stand Still,” as guitarist and lead singer Ben Kupstas rhythmically spoke into a megaphone, the Teapot Dome Orchestra invited the audience into their world. The warm timbre of the cello, played by Alex Vaughan, and the caressing violin of Nina Kocylowski combined with the insistent guitars of Ben and Jon Aizen, all backed by a laptop beat, characterized the TPDome sound. Willing to take risks with electronic experimentation throughout their set, the band continually approached their music in unconventional ways, even using a bowed guitar Sigur R