August 31, 2009

Going Rogue

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This past Saturday night, the Cornell Concert Commission welcomed both new and old students alike with a free concert at Barton Hall. The contenders were Ithaca’s own Hubcap and California based Rogue Wave. While the former tried to intrigue new and old students with their alternative rock music and mentions of the ever so fine tastes of Ithaca, such as the all day music festival in Stewart Park next Sunday, the latter spent the majority of their set trying to rouse the Cornell corpses from their zombie like trance, which could have been attributed to the bleak weather outside or a general dissatisfaction with entering into or coming back to Cornell life. Yet, the sort of personal insight the band’s front man, Zach Rogue, was advocating for through his music seemed to fall on deaf ears. His implicit attempts to provoke the audience into motion, into livelihood, proved to be almost futile, despite Rogue Wave’s positive songs about personal salvation and growth.
A little background about Zach that was mentioned at the show was his familiarity with college life and the aspirations it does and does not inspire. After finishing college, Rogue got a job, hated that job and ended up writing the song “Bird on A Wire,” a song performed at Barton on Saturday night. This song speaks of feeling stuck and wrestling with what you’ve worked so very hard for and what you really want. Sometimes these two reconcile with one another, but for most twenty year olds in college, the idea of knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life is a foreign concept. If anything, Rogue Wave attempted to make the students in the audience question exactly what it is that they’ve resigned themselves to in college and in life.
The band possesses the sort of life that most of us at Cornell aspire for. All members seemed to be in complete bliss on stage, each in their own realm, in tune with their instruments as well as one another. The drummer, Pat Spurgeon, played with candor and vivaciousness, his drumsticks motioning like magical wands, lulling the band into musical harmony. One of the guitarists, Dominic East, had a smile on his face the entire show. Half the time, he and Pat seemed to be in on some inside joke, unbeknownst to the rest of the audience. All in all, the five man band came across as an eclectic collection of bandits, all riding Zach’s rogue wave of melodious rebellion.
Rogue Wave played a variety of songs, some of them new, others old. One of the songs performed was “Eyes,” a song strongly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” that winded up on the soundtrack to the movie “Just Friends.” Other songs included in the set were “Like I Needed,” a song off their most recent album and a personal favorite, as well as “California,” a sort of false tribute to California that appeases both its adorers as well as its (few) skeptics.
The performance of the band was a great start to the year for the Cornell Concert Commission. It was also great to see a local band like Hubcap perform since many Cornell undergraduates go all four years not fully knowing the treasures that lie in the heart of Ithaca’s downtown.
Before a bizarre encore by the band — the audience didn’t really rally to bring them back onstage — the band performed “Harmonium,” a song off their most recent album “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate.” At one point in the song, Zach sang out to the audience “I hear your voice, there’s no emotion / Did something die / You’re not even responsive.” These lyrics were rather ironic considering that the audience had been rather unresponsive for most of the duration of the show.
Although the band sang about personal enlightenment, their calls of inspiration seemed unappealing to the majority of the people at Saturday’s night show. Whether this is because of Cornell students’ personal certainty with what we are and where we are going or because of an inability to question what it is that we want of life, Rogue Wave seems to be sure that they’ve found it and will keep on persuading others to do the same.