Andy Shauf // September 23, 2015
Brighton Music Hall – Allston, MA
Under a purple light, Andy Shauf sat center stage on a stool, legs crossed with only his guitar to accompany him. Allston’s Brighton Music Hall would be the sixth stop on a sporadic tour for the Canadian, which included supporting “dream pop” legends Low through a myriad of US cities. His tour also featured stops in Europe, including an appearance at the Icelandic Airwaves Festival. The singer/songwriter delivered an intimately stripped-down set, playing a collection of tracks off of his sophomore full-length, The Bearer of Bad News, which was re-released in 2015 to critical acclaim. This album has been praised not only for its lyrical intricacies, but also for the atmosphere created by the dynamic instrumentation and infectiously warm arrangements. Despite being limited to only guitar, Shauf had no trouble delivering one of the most captivating sets I witnessed all semester. Most songs were presented as stories, and each story was tragically honest. Apart from the light shuffle of latecomers and the odd crack of a beer, Shauf’s uniquely haunting voice left the room virtually silent.
Some standouts included “Hometown Hero,” a story of a washed up high school hockey coach who stops a robbery while purchasing a pack of cigarettes. Another notable takeaway was “My Dear Helen,” a letter from an older man to his late wife asking forgiveness after a fateful mistake. Before descending to the bar, Andy gave us a small glimpse into his latest project, which is set for release via LA’s Anti-Records sometime in the coming year. Though I didn’t catch the name of this particular tune, Shauf played a song depicting the classic tale of a guy drunkenly looking for his girlfriend at a party. There was a noticeable disconnect between Andy and some of the Low supporters, who appeared unstimulated by the lack of instrumentals. Nonetheless, Shauf’s performance stuck with me through the New Year thus solidifying its place as my personal “Set of the Semester”.
Adam Kenny // Music Director
Noah Gundersen // October 1st, 2015
The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
Donning a black cloak that revealed little more than the whites of his eyes on the dimly lit Sinclair stage, Gundersen’s wavering vocals were ushered in with the sedate piano intro of “Slow Dancer”, the introductory track off the Seattle songwriter’s newest offering, Carry The Ghost. Joined by younger sister, Abby who accompanies Noah with vocal harmonies and violin, and brother Jonathan, who plays drums, the gathering had the intimacy of a family affair with the crowd filling in as backing support.
The contrast of delicate acoustic pieces such as “Silver Bracelet” and “Empty from the Start” against the captured chaos of the slow burning “Halo (Disappear/Reappear)” allowed for moments of reflection immediately followed by blind immersion. One of the highlights of the set was the groups reconstructed, synth-infused take on the visceral “Ledges” that featured Jonathan triggering an electronic drum pad and Abby adding ethereal layering to flesh out the slightly stripped reinterpretation.
Throughout the set the crowd proved to be visibly captivated with the dynamic flux of older ballads and new gritty material. As my first live introduction to the Gundersen trio alongside long-time collaborator, Armon Jay on guitar, the show fully captured every ebb and flow eminent within the young artist’s catalogue and even added some fresh renditions of older staples. As he embarks on his upcoming solo tour in the spring, it’ll be interesting to hear his tracks in an entirely stripped nature but regardless, it’s a definite set to add to your 2016 must see list, thus placing it rightfully within our top shows of 2015.
Quinn Slattery // Co-Music Director
Tobias Jesso Jr. // October 11, 2015
The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
Traversing the mezzanine, six men armed with accordions and trumpets awaken the crowd from their small-talk slumber (the six men are later introduced as the accompanying band, Duk– known for their gypsy, jazz sound). Instead of dwelling on how the band will sound alongside Tobias’s signature keyboard solo-act, the crowd intently watches the band descend the stairs and make their way onto the stage. As they near the end of their song, Tobias Jesso Jr. charismatically (or more accurately, drunkenly) strides across the stage in his leather bomber jacket to his Yamaha keyboard, glass half-filled with red wine at hand and a contagious wide smile across his face. With such an extravagant introduction, the energetic crowd cheers, not knowing what to expect next.
After a few initial songs and a semi-formal band introduction played over a cover of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” Tobias opens up to the crowd and shares his struggles as a musician. He admits to the audience how he originally wanted to be a songwriter rather than a singer, and that songwriting still seems to be his ultimate goal. Personally, this candid moment was greatly appreciated and made my love for Tobias grow even stronger, while others in the crowd simply took it as a pathetic, drunk confession getting in the way of the performance. Tobias continued to go on many tangents throughout the night– having a band member who looked uncannily similar to “The Weeknd” sing “I Can’t Feel My Face” (with band accompaniment, of course), and asking the crowd for any famous song suggestions to play–, illustrating a clearer portrait of who Tobias is as a person, rather than just as a musician.
Clearly, this concert was less focused around Tobias Jesso Jr.’s music, and much more so around his character. Yes, it was a shit-show, but it was a glorious shit-show I thoroughly enjoyed; it was clear that every single person on that stage was having a good time, making for some great live performances and genuine laughter.
Miranda Viska // Media Team Writer
Vince Staples // December, 06, 2015
The Middle East Downstairs – Cambridge, MA
From Philadelphia to D.C. to Toronto to Montreal, word had traveled that Vince Staples’ “Circa ’06” tour was shattering expectations. By December 6th, that hype reached Cambridge, and the pressure was on the Long Beach rapper to spit his freshman studio album Summertime ‘06 just as hard.
He was full of energy and quick to silence rowdy crowd at the Middle East, which featured a few disruptive hecklers during the opening performance. However, when Vince took the stage, he made a comment about respecting growing artists, and then responded directly to the hecklers with a one-liner that had the crowd bumping before the first track even began.
He began the show with the opening track off of Summertime ‘06, and everyone was immediately engaged. Vince peppered in a couple older records off of his EP, Hell Can Wait, serving each track with his signature heavy-hitting bass combined with intricate and attacking flow. The ability to match the energy of this new album on stage was a concern for many of his fans and critics prior to the tour, but he’ and his team responded by putting together a tightly executed production.An hour or so in, tension within in the crowd began to swell. But why? Toward the end of set my question was answered. Vince finally threw down his most emotional track, “Nate,” and the crowd lost it. Every. Single. Person. Bouncing. The next twenty minutes he played through every banger he had. When he dropped “Señorita” and “Blue Suede” back to back, the crowd went completely stupid.
From that moment, no one could leave the Cambridge venue disappointed. When Vince walked off the stage, he left everyone in the audience with an unshakable impression of his energy and ferocity. Hands down, this performance was the set of my semester.
Travis Ketchum // Media Team Writer
Code Orange // December, 19
The Che Cafe – San Diego, CA
Have you ever seen Code Orange live? Have you ever been punched in the face? Well, they’re pretty much exactly the same.
The setting: a secluded spot on UCSD’s campus called Che Cafe. Despite serving San Diego’s proud DIY scene as a cherished safe space for all-ages shows for over 10 years, it was recently announced that this vegan joint would be closed down and demolished. In the wake of that news, a group of volunteers has taken responsibility for maintaining the building and booking shows. Well folks, it just doesn’t get much more hardcore than that.
As Code Orange tuned their instruments under a dim green light, all 200 kids, packed like sardines, cleared the way for the pit. The feedback of amplifiers echoed through the room and the room was eerily still. Then the drums came in and Reba, the vocalist, pulverized the air with her splitting shrieks and growls.
Their set flowed smoothly, with most of the songs hailing from their latest sophomore album, I Am King, and surprisingly a few from their first LP, Love is Love // Return to Dust. While they continued through their all-too-short set, the energy in cafe bounced from the band through the crowd and back, like a reflection of light in a room full of mirrors. They tore through recent songs like “Alone in a Room” and “My World” with speedy drums, slow breakdowns, guitar riffs pulled from a place so dark it could swallow you whole, and bass so heavy it could crush your house with one note. The pit was aggressive and active, especially during the final song, “I Am King,” a haunting, methodical series of stops and starts that work their way into the remotest alcoves of the human brain. Yeah, this was definitely the perfect release for a semester’s worth of repressed anger!
Jenne Ratto-Murray // Media Team Writer