Late Night Bands Make the People Hop
Last Friday night the ’Sco hosted another round of the Wilder Late-Nighter, featuring Oberlin bands The People’s Republic of Gefiltestan and The Briars. Both groups, though widely different in style, brought true and original Obie qualities to the table.
Gefiltestan, whose members sing thick harmonies and whose sound is professional yet goofy and eclectic, started the night just after 10 p.m. with a traditional folk-band lineup. Members include senior Evan “Bear” Kittay (acoustic guitar), and sophomores Sam Harmet (mandolin and bouzouki), Kira Silver (fiddle), Alex Kramer (banjo and winds), Kirsten Lamb (upright bass) and Dave Vohden (trash-can drum set).
The audience was a key ingredient to Gefiltestan’s show, dancing like old followers and even singing along to the group’s original tunes. The smiling, hopping crowd danced during every moment of the band’s performance, demonstrating the band’s solid following. Kittay mentioned how happy the band was with its fan base here at school. “It was the most exciting and interactive show yet,” he said.
Surprisingly, the group has been together for less than a year, since they held an all-night jam session last winter. They have been playing steadily since, including an extensive Spring break tour last semester, which landed them in various locations throughout the Northeast.
But the band made serious strides this past summer, creating an authentic- and professional-sounding recording project consisting of six original tunes. The People’s Republic of Gefiltestan will perform on Friday, Sept. 29th, at the Headcount Voter Registration Concert at the ’Sco.
The night continued with second set performance from The Briars, a group that has been honing its sound for over a year. Josh Lava, founder and ’06 graduate, has begun a path of musical entrepreneurship by not only singing lead vocals and playing drums (a switch from playing keyboards), but writing and arranging most of the songs, breaking stereotypes that are generally associated with drummers.
“It’s new, so I have to get used to it,” Lava said of singing while drumming. “It’s not inherently harder than singing and playing piano, but it’s more fun. I have an easier time playing drums because I can get more into the music and I feel more integrated with it.”
Songwriting is definitely a strong area for The Briars, whose blues and rock ’n’ roll roots are well complimented by tight arrangements and inventive harmonic movement. Lava, a composition major from the Conservatory, said that after more than a year of songwriting experience in the genre, he doesn’t have to continue writing music to see what works, but as a personal expression.
“It’s very much an organic process,” he said.
The band’s direction is something they all have in mind, and that consideration reflects the maturity of this original rock group. They agreed that they might be going in an “indie/artsy” direction, but that their new music, relative to their older material, is less easy to classify in terms of stylistic models. This is certainly important for a group striving for an original and fresh sound. Friday night they proved their seriousness after the crowd experienced The Briars’ professional aura and funky attitude.
Giving up vocals this year, junior bassist Nate Levin has decided to focus on his instrument.
“I enjoy listening to everything a lot more,” Levin said. “Rehearsing was almost more fun because I could actually listen to the band.” Senior guitarist Alex Nichols showed some great showmanship onstage, never afraid to strike up between-song banter with Lava. Nichols also contributes songwriting skills to The Briars, authoring a new one that debuted as their opening number.
Taking over his back-up vocals as well as Lava’s keyboard material was new member and first-year Alex Birnie. Also recently added to the lineup was a second guitarist, sophomore Jamey Arent, whose slick guitar chops proved more than helpful.
Be sure to keep your ears open for The Briars’ self-produced record, which is currently being fine-tuned. You can visit their current website, www.myspace.com/thebriars, complete with mp3 downloads of their music. They expect to play around campus and beyond in the upcoming months.