Bands Dazzle 'Splitchers Scene
A typical Wednesday night ‘Splitchers was supplanted this week by Oberlin’s new hip musical scene, embodied by the genre-defying Pianos and the Boogie Force. The two groups opened for the Washington, D.C.-based indie band the Antelopes. These bands boast original material that dabbles in everything from pop to funk to ska, revamped by an eclectic instrumentality. The same laid-back crowd inclined to tip a pitcher for any meager acquaintance found a little sway in those wrists and a new fixture for their beer-flushed faces.
The Pianos took the stage first. Kids flocked to the dance floor, punctuated by female cries of enthusiasm and male mutterings: “Dude, this band’s sweet.” The songs offered high-energy, inviting A-sections, and then settled you down with smoother, more reflective Bs. In a song like “Wall Static,” Conservatory junior Julian Chin’s throaty accordion bounced from one octave to the next while jovial front man and College sophomore Jordan Goldstein mellowed with whole-tones.
Conservatory first-year Alex Morris’s persistent drums and double degree first-year Matt Orenstein’s solid bass lines kept you twitching in suspense, and Conservatory junior Matt Davis’s trombone pushed you along. Chin and Goldstein then switched, as happy saxophone lines beckoned your friendship and the extended wailing accordion hinted to the wistfulness you might feel if you refused it.
Leading into the ballad “The Harder You Try,” Goldstein suggested: “It’s nice to find a dance partner for this song.” Morris set a steady groove, and the crowd couldn’t help but sway back and forth. Listening to the Pianos is like being relaxed in the present, while tempted by feelings of nostalgia — but not silly indulgence — about high school. At the same time one is urged on by a pressing hopefulness for the next good conversation, maybe one beer away.
The next group, The Boogie Force, again featured Davis and Morris of the Pianos. Led by Davis, who here matched his usual trombone with vocals, the Boogie Force changes time signatures as whimsically yet wholeheartedly as Davis affects moods.
“I’m in a hipster band, and I love it!” said guitarist and Conservatory senior Henry Heinitsh.
Davis thrashed about the stage, at times even wandering into the crowd. Bassist and double-degree senior Russ Manning’s tight lines and Conservatory sophomore Lisa Chung’s psychedelic keyboard runs seemed to choreograph his moods and moves. Manning and Chung are the band’s two composers. Davis crooned something about a girl with long brown hair who you see sitting there, and then realize she just doesn’t care, and finally see that you just don’t care. I asked him if he considered himself a poet and he responded, “It’s all frivolous.”
The Boogie Force is both captivating and jolting, neurotically tormented yet capable of sailing into Radiohead-like reveries. The band is a bit more inaccessible than the Pianos, mainly because if you tried to dance to them you’d risk falling over — Davis drank a pitcher all to himself and placed it precariously on the floor as his microphone cord dangled dangerously around it. But the Boogie Force is still incredibly likeable.
Perhaps there is a rivalry? When I asked junior jazz saxophone major Jon Parker which group he liked better, the Pianos or the Boogie Force, he answered, “The Pianos…probably because I’m an idiot,” he said.
Really, the bands complement each other well, and I’m excited for upcoming shows.
The feature band, Antelope, went on for the last hour. The crowd had died down considerably, and the drum-bass-guitar trio’s sparse, staccato melody lines and piercing, shrill vocals gripped only the audience’s more intense members. According to its website, the group is known as a “Washington, D.C.-based discord band.”
Incidentally, the lead vocalist attended Oberlin College for a year and a half before dropping out. “I realized it wasn’t my thing and I just wanted to concentrate on making music,” he said.