February 13, 2007

An Amped-Up Event

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Thursday night, a long line of spectators queued up in Appel Commons, eagerly awaiting the most recent show put on by Cornell’s Fanclub Collective, an indie/punk organization whose past shows have included bands such as the Arcade Fire, We Are Scientists and Broken Social Scene. The anticipation of those waiting in line was obvious and with good reason — it is clear that there must be artistic virtue to any show where green yarn (as opposed to the standard sprawling black ‘X’ drawn callously on your hand) is tied around your wrist at the gate.
There to start off the night was indie, pop-folk group The Winks, a mandolin/cello duo (plus keys and drums) with a charmingly unique sound and equally enticing aesthetic. The band opened, amid a stage piled with sequins, feathers and stuffed birds, with a song appropriately entitled, “The Birds.” The group played eight songs including three — “Slumber Party Let’s Go,” “Correct” and “Guitar Swing” — from their new album “Birthday Party,” reportedly their best and darkest album yet, available for purchase at the show. The songs were quick and often lively, with unique cello melodies, pretty vocal harmonies and a pulsing drumbeat. “Guitar Swing” was particularly well received, and deservedly so.
It was clear that the band — including cellist/vocalist Tyr, keys player Soren, drummer Emily and mandolin player/vocalist Todd — enjoyed putting on a show for the audience as much as the crowd enjoyed watching it. Apart from the energy of the music itself, there were bouts of confetti throwing, guest percussion invitations made to the audience and one particularly memorable vocal solo, tap dance excursion into the crowd. On the audience’s side, song requests were shouted frequently however ineffectually, (the drummer didn’t know the most-requested tune), head bobbing and foot tapping was rampant and a few brave souls even went so far that their foot tapping might have been called dancing. By the end of the very well done and well received set, many more brave souls had joined in with the almost-dancers.
The second (and final) band of the night was a group known as Akron/Family — a four part, all male, experimental rock group with a folk influence and a drummer (Dana Janssen) who wore boxers over his thermal camo leggings. Like The Winks, Akron/Family had merchandise for sale: albums and t-shirts which the bassist encouraged people to buy by saying that even if they had already downloaded the music, “they couldn’t download a t-shirt … yet.”
The group — which also includes guitarist Seth Olinsky, bassist Miles Seaton and guitarist/vocalist Ryan Vanderhoof — began with a twenty-minute-long jam, which included every interesting musical technique under the sun … almost. There were rapid fire, chant-like lyrics as well as impressive four part harmonies proclaiming that, “all those that know / are all those that say / all that’s been said.” There was a prolonged but gentle scream that was a trip to listen to and a catchy ‘la-la-la’ chorus that had the audience clapping along. There were percussion solos, Radiohead-esque guitar distortion and guest beat-boxing. In the crowd, The Winks cellist and mandolin player were caught dancing.
The second song was slower (and shorter) with a pretty melody and simple lyrics: “don’t be afraid, it’s only love / love is simple / don’t be afraid, you’re already there / love is simple.” After that, the energy really got going. In a much more intensely-rocking song, the guys mixed amped-up drumbeats with still impressive four part harmonies. Predictably, and understandably, the audience started to get more into it, clapping and jumping around. By the end of the show, a good fifty percent of the standing-room-only audience was up on stage, brandishing an egg shaker and jumping enthusiastically. The energy was infectious and even the most timid of corner-huggers (of which there were few) was forced to get up and dance (or at least bounce a bit). When the show had ended and the lights came back on, the band was still playing and the audience was still jumping.
So, for all of you who have never been to a Fanclub show or heard of The Winks or Akron/Family, jump to it. They are definitely worth your time.