Bouncy indie synth-pop trio keeps tempo with crowd

Harsh weather and a forgotten drum machine could have spelled disaster for synth-pop trio Au Revoir Simone and opening act Melanie Moser last Friday night in Baxter Hall. But instead it led to more fun than expected as audience members clapped along to the bouncy hour-long set, the first show arranged by the newly formed group the Williams Concert Committee.

The members of the Brooklyn-based band, Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo, all play multiple synthesizers, as well as the occasional tambourine or glockenspiel. The synthesizers each have different tonal qualities, enabling the band to build layers of sound over which they sang rather delicately. Although the band members had left their drum machine at home, their Casio worked well as a back up once they had decided on an appropriate tempo and rhythm for each song. The trio made good use of harmonies, although two members sang in unison for the majority of the time.

The set opened with “The Lucky One” off the band’s most recent album, The Bird of Music, setting a light, bouncy tone with its glockenspiel line. Their rendition of “Sad Song” was so well-received that it was specially requested as an encore, but it still seemed fresh due to a different tempo and the participation of the audience singing along. Overall, the trio’s set was very upbeat and poppy – my toe never stopped tapping the entire time.

Since Au Revoir Simone’s style consists mainly of repetitive synth riffs and unison melodies, the group’s songs blended together as the set progressed, each one sounding similar to the last. The audience’s attention span seemed to shorten as well; the middle part of the 11-song set was harder to hear as concert-goers began to hold conversations with their neighbors over the music.

While the band’s music was generally subdued and would make good ambient sound, Baxter Hall’s awkward acoustics made hearing difficult enough without additional audience contribution. An unusual and unexpected silence during the band’s encore cover of David Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things” marked the lowest audience volume of the evening.
But for the most part, the band seemed to enjoy performing as much as the audience enjoyed the show. Often all three members would bop along as they were singing, reminiscent of the “a capella bounce” often observed in singing groups on campus. The girls kept their banter between songs rather limited, but mentioned several times how much they were enjoying playing at a college campus. In an interesting interactive twist, the lack of a drum machine led the band to invite the audience to help keep time by clapping along to the songs. The audience acquiesced and was even able to keep up with a major tempo adjustment the band had to make on one of their last songs.

Opening act Melanie Moser also stuck to a simple pop sound, albeit with a rockabilly flair. She performed solo with just an electric guitar and a loop pedal, allowing her to record riffs and layer them on the spot. Her 30-minute performance consisted of three songs book-ended by jams which she performed with her back to the audience. Unfortunately, this maneuver made it somewhat difficult to perceive when she began and ended her set. Her voice, while solid and pretty, was hard to hear over her guitar and so it was difficult to fully appreciate her songs.

The success of the concert was a great first effort from the Williams Concert Committee, which plans to stage more small concerts featuring underground or independent artists. According to Rob Kalb ’11, a head of the committee, they will hopefully be bringing Matt Pond PA to campus later this spring. These lesser-known artists are less expensive, which will enable the group to host concerts more frequently throughout the semester, although Friday’s concert was funded through the Office of Campus Life’s Paresky Center activities fund.