Williams College has, due to its isolated location, been a good spot for music fans to catch up-and-coming live acts before they make it big. Some years back, a little known bandleader by the name of Dave Matthews braved a fierce New England snowstorm to play here. Today, the Dave Matthews Band is one of the biggest names in the popular music scene. On April 30, Williams College will continue its trend of being at the forefront of popular music, when dynamic rock act Ben Folds Five comes to campus.
Since its recording debut in 1995, Ben Folds Five has recorded four albums, each one more innovative and creative than the one preceding it. The keys to the North Carolina trio’s unique sound are the lead piano and songwriting skills of leader Ben Folds. Possessing a unique writing style, Folds leads his trio of piano, bass and drums through songs ranging from tender ballads to all-out rockers. Those who are unfamiliar with the band may find it odd that an alternative rock group can exist without the ubiquitous rock guitar. However, it is Folds’ piano that makes the group’s sound distinct and fresh.
On its new release, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five deepens its sonic palette with the addition of keyboards, tympani, strings and the horns of neo-swing group the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Although its albums have brought the band fame and success, it is in the live setting where Ben Folds Five turns listeners into fans. The songs come to life with the intensity of the bands’ skillful playing. Ben Folds plays with an energetic and unorthodox style, and has been known to toss his stool across the stage in an impassioned frenzy. The band’s performances encourage a high degree of interaction with the audience, an interaction that is much of the reason for their rising success.
Ben Folds Five comes to Williams College three days after its new CD is released. In another sure sign of coming stardom, the band will play Saturday Night Live on the next day. It is obvious that Ben Folds Five are on the cusp of a much larger commercial breakthrough, and it is doubtful that the opportunity to see the band in a small setting will come again.
Ben Folds Five’s performance will be the culmination of a year’s worth of live acts brought to Williams by the Student Activities Council. Due to the widespread student interest, the band was chosen over several others for the 1999 Spring Concert. Tickets are $1 for Williams students and $15 for non-Williams students at the door. The doors will open at 9:30. Ben Folds Five will play following opening act Fleming and John.