August 29, 2007

The National Rock Arts Quad, For Little Bit

Print More

The New York City indie scene was alive and well in Ithaca on Saturday night. The Cornell Concert Commission launched its annual free concert with The National featuring special guests, White Rabbits, both Brooklyn-based bands.
The show took place in the Arts Quad in front of McGraw Hall, with Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White jammin’ out from the sidelines.
Concert Commission pexecutive director, Mike Chua ’08, commented that the show had a crew of about forty students in the club. Chua went on to further comment that “members manage the show and do everything from running the box office, hospitality for the bands, providing security, setting up the stage and lights, taking tickets and promoting the show.” The show was open to all members of the Cornell and the greater Ithaca community.
The crowd of hundreds was scattered across the Arts Quad lawn with a large group in front of the stage bobbing to the drumbeat and, intermittently, some students dancing. Joggers and pet walkers alike stopped and enjoyed the show as well. The Arts Quad itself was a stellar venue and the outdoor shows at Cornell always have a little piece of the Woodstock-esque Upstate New York summer vibe. At times it felt almost like the “Indie Slope Day” sans the debauchery and the fact that it was a couple hundred yards away from site of the traditional premier Cornell performance.
The White Rabbits’ debut album Fort Nightly is both loud and dark. Much of it carries a suspenseful sound and the percussion could be prominently felt anchoring the strings. As the opening act, they were well received by the crowd and really complimented the performance and style of The National. The White Rabbits very much carried a wavering sensation of Roaring 20s tango. I would highly recommend checking out their song “The Plot” — it makes use of a catchy beat with an island ska fusion style.
The main act, The National, had an incredible live sound and musical presence. The range of instruments throughout the night was one thing that was more astounding rain that was to ensue. The group’s live performance felt almost like a studio recording experience. I have read people comparing them to the likes of Tom Waits and U2, but to me they feel more like Elefant meets Interpol meets Modest Mouse. One Cornell student remarked of the vocals reminding him of “Johnny Cash singing for Death Cab for Cutie.” Lead singer, Matt Berninger, has a richly mellow voice, which lends itself to reflection and shallow pensive thought. The live performance also including the band fraternizing on stage over drum solos and an eccentric performance on electric violin.
The band’s latest release, Boxer, has come to much critical acclaim. The sophomore release with Beggar’s Banquet (and fourth overall) comes with a bit mellower base than their debut Alligator and has a guest track with celebrated Indie guru, Sufjan Stevens.
Most of the crowd dispersed after rain clouds settled above Cornell and showers hit, leaving the show effectively over after only a few songs from played by The National. The rain did not seem to faze the spirits of many in the audience though, including Gabriel Wapner ‘08, who had come down with some friends. In his pilgrimage to dry cover, Gabriel commented that he was “impressed by the uniqueness of a violinist playing with The National.”
The show was an awesome way to kick off the first full week of classes and leaves anticipation for the ensuing Concert Commission productions. The Cornell outdoor concert experience is always a pleasure. Nevertheless, we can only hope the future will bring us drier conditions.