November 18, 2008

Fan Club Hosts Four-Act Show at JAM Dorm

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Saturday night, the Fanclub Collective put on a rather unprecedented four-act show in North Campus’ own Just About Music dorm. Now, through my three years at Cornell, and despite the fact that I have several JAM-resident friends, I have never actually been to one of their coffee-house shows (I am infinitely excited to cross it off of my list of things to do at Cornell).
The space was neat, inviting and just the right size to make a Fanclub show seem full to the brim, though I felt bad for the people who actually live there. Anyone trying to sleep at 11pm was undoubtedly having a terrible time doing so — the last band was particularly gut-bustingingly loud.
So, the first act we saw was Elsa and the Awesome-Awesomes, put on by Samuel Sveen ’10, accompanied by his iPod, drum set, trumpet and kazoo (and one bad monitor, unfortunately). As far as I can tell, Elsa and the Awesome-Awesomes is just the one guy, but his pronoun of choice is “we”nevertheless. I apologize if this is not correct, and hidden Elsa members pop out of the snow (like daisies) in the weeks to come.
In any case, the dude was pretty sweet. Quite the drummer, really. He had his iPod set up with preprogrammed beats, and just rocked along. He made some attempt at singing, though it was mostly talking over the music. He did some whistling, as well, alongside super quick drumming — definitely no easy feat. I was sufficiently impressed.
Sveen sampled a number of existing beats for his iPod tracks, my favorite being Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” during which he actually made an attempt at simultaneous drumming and trumpeting. Not the most successful move, but his quirky grin and high energy left me mostly uncaring.
Second up was the six-piece Caution Children, who hail from Ithaca College, and who (almost) all live in the same house on the South Hill. (I assume it’s very loud in that house.) Now, I’m a little biased here, because lead singer Stephen Burton is a good friend of mine from high school, but Caution Children, as usual, rocked out; they’re undeniably one of the most high-energy bands in the 14850, and the music itself is reminiscent of an old-school rock style.
Furthermore, despite a somewhat limited vocal range, the group showcases some of the most uber-catchy, alternative rock choruses imaginable, including one which involves yelling “holy shit” and making the soon-ubiquitous “pistols to the sky” gesture, which the group helped invent. (If this hasn’t made it to your hometown yet … don’t worry, it will.)
The band includes a singer, guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and a vintage Rhodes piano, played oh-so-lovingly by Aaron Terkel. Energy (pretty literally) radiates from these guys’ souls — or toes — and I highly recommend that you see them live.
The third bit was done by a guy who calls himself “Adventure.” It was just him, his computer and a mini-synth, and some techno beats that sounded more like videogames than anything else.
The crowd was basically going insane the entire time and, sure, that’s what the genre is about, but I must say, after a very short time, it really all sounded the same. The sound system that had earlier flummoxed Elsa and the Awesome-Awesomes was not doing this guy any favors either.
In any case, I am of the opinion that pre-recorded music works best when accompanied by super high-energy, and this guy was, unfortunately, missing it; he was mostly just standing. But hey, the crowd was dancing like it was 1999.
Unfortunately, the same dormancy plagued the final band, Videohippos, who were supposed to be the main attraction. The band put up a giant video screen (hence the name, I suppose) that filtered images in neon colors; they played partly on instruments and partly from pre-programmed sound.
OK, neat, but they played with their backs to the audience. I find this odd. And they were super loud (here’s where somnambulistic JAM residents got pissed).
That said, the music was quite awesome — though the drumbeat was repetitive — and the idea of the project is pretty interesting. The band is essentially two guys, Kevin and Jim, and their website offers a plea for collaboration:
“Anyone with something valuable to add can be in this ‘band.’ Don’t work in isolation.” The site gives a list of people who have contributed to the music and/or the video feed, and it’s quite a long list. Nice!
All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable evening. Thanks to the bands for doing what they do so well (too bad, though, about the crappy sound system, which unfortunately seems to be a pretty regular Fan Club feature); thanks to the JAM residents for putting up with the noise; thanks to the Fanclub for hosting; and thanks to all y’all who got the above Mulan reference. Check out these bands, kiddos.