The Weird Weeds Make Chalk Music
“So, uh, Ohio?” Nick Hennies said, leaning up to the microphone and squinting out through the Cat’s newly brightened stage lighting. “It’s really flat.”
There was a pause, the sound of clinking dishware and whispers in the audience. Hennies twitched around with his drumsticks and the next song began.
Drummer Hennies, along with Sandy Ewen on guitar and vocals and Aaron Russell, OC ’91, on guitar, make up The Weird Weeds, who, despite their awkward between-song banter, put on a strangely beautiful show at the Cat in the Cream last Thursday.
The night began with “Bad Dreams,” the first track off their most recent album, Weird Feelings. The pretty, spaced-out oddity of the song set the tone for the rest of the evening — dynamic, creative, and deliberate.
One second the Weird Weeds were rolling guitars and drumbeats of country or folk, the next they crooned the darkest, most flawless harmony while Ewen rubbed sidewalk chalk across her guitar strings in an echoing wail. The songs are crafted for contrast, and it is this fluidity that makes them so fun to listen to — and watch.
They have a distinct stage presence — chill, quiet, a little self-conscious. The overall effect is endearing and makes the audience members feel like they’ve received the privilege of watching something that is normally a secret.
“I loved being able to see [The Weird Weeds] all interact with each other on stage,” said Ali Gabrenya, a first-year who attended the show. “You knew they were like, ‘Okay, on the count of four I have to make a crazy sound with this dog brush,’ and then you could see it happen.”
Likely the only one really thinking about dog brushes was guitarist Sandy Ewen. With her instrument laid flat across her lap, Ewen used chalk, pet brushes, kitchen utensils, nails, and occasionally a bow to create haunted house sound effects that gave the music an epic, expansive quality.
Ewen was not the only one making music in strange ways. Hennies also dabbled in unusual instrumentals, using twigs along with his normal drumsticks and, at one point, drawing a bow across the drum’s metal frame to create some truly abrasive noise.
Meanwhile, on the far side of the stage, Russell played dutifully away, conspicuously calmer and more deliberate than his companions.
Opening for The Weird Weeds were two Oberlin student bands. Playing first was an unnamed jazz group which included junior Derek Tuttle on guitar, first-year Will Mason on drums, sophomore Nina Moffitt on vocals, and junior Greg Zilboorg on trumpet.
Dustin and the Furniture (composed of first-year Dustin Goldklang and his acoustic guitar) followed. His songs were more like miniature poems, ranging in topic from wind to animals and trees. At one point, Goldklang even required an audience member to come up and beat-box.
As the Weird Weeds prepared to play their last song, they finally hit on a piece of pre-music banter that they seemed comfortable with — their merchandise. “The shirts are $15, but they’re really soft. Cotton-poly blend. Everyone should go feel them after the show.”
That time they got a laugh.