Alumni bands return to “Blow the House Down”

When I was walking to Goodrich on Friday night, having left my room at 8:55 p.m., I was a bit concerned that there would be a huge crowd at the alumni concert and that I would be forced to the back, unable to see the performance. But luckily enough, I could see by the dim overhead lighting that Goodrich wasn’t even half full yet and that everyone was standing awkwardly in the middle of the floor, no one really up close to the stage. Delighted, though a bit disappointed by the size of the crowd, my friend and I scurried up to stand at the front.

Caitlin Canty ’04 came on shortly, her cowboy boots immediately warming me to her. The first thing that I thought when she began playing was that her guitar skills were incredible – they went well beyond the typical singer-songwriter strumming and really added quality to her songs. Her voice was strong, not breathy, though her songs did have a dreamy quality to them. Most of her songs started slowly and softly, building up to a stronger middle. She had a wonderful stage presence, smiling at the crowd and interacting with us between songs. Every single song had a very distinct sound; her lyrics were personal, interesting, unique and different from anything I’d ever heard before. For a few songs, Darlingside joined Canty on stage. I was a little worried that all of those instruments would drown out her sweet voice, but the band actually complemented her perfectly. She definitely held her own. Of all the songs, her oldest one got the crowd the most excited, most likely because many of them recognized it. My personal favorite was “Thin Moon.”

As soon as Great Caesar began to set up, my friends and I found our stage-side spot in jeopardy as a large group of students rushed to the front and started screaming out how much they loved the band and Tom Sikes ’11. I must admit that as I shuffled out of the way, their enthusiasm got me pumped for the band – I had never heard of them and had no idea what to expect. My first observation was that the band seemed to have a lot of instruments, which obviously piqued people’s curiosity. Great Caesar began with a burst of energy, which they didn’t let die throughout the entire set. Every single member was incredibly engaged in the music; their loud, exciting sound and obvious delight at playing had the crowd swaying right away. Their music was great for dancing: fresh, youthful and unlike anything I’d ever heard before. Repeated microphone feedback took away from their performance, but it was quickly forgiven and forgotten as their infectious tunes overtook the attention of the crowd. The lead singer’s bow tie and suspenders were a particular favorite, and it might have been nice if all of the members had a similarly cohesive look. While “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone” seemed to be the crowd favorite, mine was by far “Sweet Banana.” The band certainly had a likeable sound.

Having seen Darlingside in North Adams last year, I had an idea of what to expect and was incredibly excited. The band continues to be a favorite of mine and, having had a taste of them during Canty’s set, I was pumped for them to go on. The crowd immediately began chanting ‘Darlingside!’ as they set up. One of my initial thoughts as they began was that their sound was a little more upbeat and energetic than the last time I had seen them, and that they were a little less dreamy and more strong. Of course, they still had an amazing mastery of their many instruments, which all worked beautifully together. The crowd really seemed to enjoy them, swaying along and occasionally singing along with the lyrics. Canty came back on stage to sing “Blow the House Down” with them, which might have been my favorite of their set. Their Muse cover got the crowd most excited, but only because almost everyone recognized it and could sing along with confidence. When their set was over, everyone in the audience agreed that they should play one last song and began chanting for them to do so. It seemed unlikely; the band marched determinedly offstage, but at the last minute came back and sang a cover of “Africa” by Toto.

Overall, it was an incredible show and I am so glad that I was able to go. All three performances were impressive and wonderful. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to meet the musicians and tell them what a great time I had at the show!

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