Posted by Charlee Redman on 01/26 at 12:47 AM
Sparkling clear guitar riffs and driving drumbeats resounded through Penn State’s Alumni Hall on Friday night as students and local residents sought a refuge from the cold and listless January night. Inside, the atmosphere was decidedly warm - the perfect tonic of camaraderie and music.
Local student band The Exclusive Document opened the show, treating the audience to a selection of dynamic, melodic songs reminiscent of a poppy Radiohead or Pavement. Their best moments came when pianist Ethan Palmer (who also plays synth and vocals) brought his parts to the fore, creating a rich layer of sound. Singer/guitarist Devin Daniels’ distinctive voice lent a unique feel to the songs, although at times it was difficult to hear the singing. The band closed with an energetic song replete with a quick, danceable beat and spacey effects, leaving the audience in a state of suspense and excitement for the next act.
The phrase “swamp troll rock” sounds strange, but it’s a fairly apt description chosen by local group British Phil to classify their sound. The band was quite possibly the highlight of the night, featuring a tight set of warm, intricate melodies and southern bluesy folk-rock. Students square-danced with gusto to Michael Rudolph’s fiddle solos and guitarist Timothy Vitullo’s precise, rocking solos. British Phil continued the theme of characteristic, distinguished vocals; singer Michael Doyle’s clear harmonious tenor sounds somewhat like R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe.
The main act of the night, Brooklyn-based indie rock group We Are Scientists, brought a high-energy quirky vibe to the stage, joking with the audience between songs and starting a variation of the “We Are” cheer (you can guess what replaced ‘Penn State’).
The band played a medley of old and new material, including several selections from their 2005 album With Love and Squalor. The fast-paced, guitar-driven songs “The Great Escape” and “This Scene is Dead” from that album were audience favorites, inciting some students to jump (and even crowd-surf).
The Scientists’ older material sounds much like Franz Ferdinand - slick and danceable, defined by guitar licks and singer/guitarist Keith Murray’s clipped vocal delivery. There’s a slightly poppy, calmer feel to some of the songs from the band’s 2008 album, Brain Thrust Mastery. In “After Hours”, Murray’s distinct guitar riffs and vocals took on a more melodic tone, assisted by vocal layers from bassist Chris Cain and a more varied song structure.
Murray and Cain experimented with the crowd’s reactions, bantering back and forth throughout the show. Their stage dynamic was a cohesive, intriguing element that heightened the general atmosphere of excitement. Between asking for numbers and party locations after the show, the band received a small collection of dollar bills, gum wrappers, and business cards with messages thrown on the stage.
Although the Scientists had an entertaining stage presence and a contagiously energetic set, the musical stars of the night were the local bands: their talent and truly unique sounds were promising. With local musicians like British Phil and The Exclusive Document and organizations like SOMA (who hosted the show), State College’s music scene is definitely not dead.
You can check out more photos from the show here.
Author: Charlee Redman
Bio: Charlee Redman is currently a sophomore studying English and French at Penn State. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, making ambient noise with the local band The Roaring Kittens, walking, and drinking lots of coffee. Although she likes many styles of music, some of her favorites are folk, indie, classical, and electronic. Her favorite bands at the moment are The National, Iron & Wine, Of Montreal, and Radiohead.
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