October 17, 2006

Tap Dancing to the Beat

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Having never been to a Fan Club show, I didn’t know what to expect from the Saturday’s Tilly and the Wall concert at the Alice Cook House. Holding a concert in a dining hall seemed a bit weird to me, but somehow, everything just fit together perfectly.
Despite starting late, which I probably should have expected since the show was slated to start at 9:00 even though Cook’s dining hall closes at 8:30, the members of Fan Club managed to put on a very professional show. They transformed Cook into something that actually could have been a real venue, with a professional lighting rig, huge speakers and an impressively large (and excited) crowd.
The most important part, however, was the music. Fan Club brought three very different performers: two virtually unknown openers, Golden Shoulders and Devin Davis and the headliners, Tilly and the Wall.
Golden Shoulders, a guitar and banjo/tambourine-playing duo from California, started the show, and while nearly the entire crowd sat through their set (which I found somewhat surprising), the audience seemed to enjoy their folk sound. When I think of Fan Club’s musical taste, I don’t picture something that I would hear in a coffee shop, but Golden Shoulders was exactly that.
Their songs were surprisingly catchy, and they had an entertaining (and quirky) stage presence, joking with the crowd while fixing their guitar troubles and ending their set with a humorous cover song. Their set progressively improved as they seemed to become more comfortable with the crowd, and their penultimate song (an upbeat anthem about joining the protest) was by far the highlight of the performance.
Devin Davis, a singer-songwriter, followed, and he proved to be equally as enjoyable. The crowd seemed to be getting more anxious for Tilly’s performance and actually stood and danced around during Davis’ set. The highlight of his set was his looping, a technique in which he played assorted instruments such as guitar and drums as well as records, and replayed them on stage in order to create a layered sound in his one-man performance.
Both of the openers gave fantastic performances and, in fact, my only complaint about this portion of the concert regarded the crowd. I know it can be hard to really enjoy someone’s set when you know none of their songs, but in a venue as small as Cook’s dining hall, it is kind of obnoxious (and frustrating to the performers and the rest of the audience) for people in the crowd to hold loud conversations during the entire performance. That has always been one of my concert-going pet peeves, and since it was particularly evident Saturday night, it kind of detracted from the show.
Luckily, the excessive talking finally stopped when Tilly and the Wall’s set began. Tilly’s poppy, upbeat performance was simply exciting. I have never seen so many people in the audience dance in such an animated way during a concert, and honestly, if I had any rhythm at all, I would have found it hard not to join them because Tilly’s music had such a fun sound.
Tilly and the Wall is a five-member band, with a guitar player, a keyboard player, two tap-dancing vocalists and an additional tap dancer. Their dancing serves as their percussion, which makes for a very high-energy show. However, to really appreciate the performance, you need to be able to see the stage, which was a slight problem. Cook’s stage is very low to the ground, making it hard to see the tap dancing, but the show was so full of energy that no one really seemed to mind (and a lot of the people even stood on chairs to gain a better perspective).
In regard to the music, I was impressed with how the band blended its upbeat, high-energy songs like “Rainbows in the Dark” and “You and I Misbehaving” with more mellow ones, such as “Slow Song.” They knew exactly when to calm things down to prevent the show from becoming dull.
Also, I found it surprising how talented Tilly and the Wall actually were. Sure, plenty of bands have catchy songs, but how many of their lead singers can actually sing? And how many of those do you think could tap dance at the same time? Actually, how many could tap dance in general?
Overall, with its tap dancing, talented musicians and catchy songs, the concert was amazing, and in all honesty, the band’s performance needs to be experienced because words just don’t do it justice.