Rooney and Darlingside face tepid response at Spring Fling

After listening to Rooney and Darlingside’s music for the first time in anticipation for their concert on Saturday, it was difficult not to be excited for this year’s Spring Fling.

Darlingside and Rooney
Darlingside opened for Rooney on Saturday. Despite solid sets, the double bill failed to garner much enthusiasm from students.

I was instantly pumped by Rooney’s upbeat, power-pop sound and smitten by the folksy-alternative feel of Darlingside’s first EP – fittingly titled EP 1.

Darlingside opened with “Blow The House Down,” a new song from its soon-to-be-released debut album Pilot Machines. The album is described as having “pop sensibilities unconstrained by the pop aesthetic” (The Ampeater Review), the release is truly eclectic. With drums, guitars, a mandolin, violin and cello, this self-titled “string rock quintet” was far from conventional and packed a punch with its diverse yet perfectly harmonized sound. On stage, Darlingside stayed true to their roots while energizing their sound to attain a pumped yet melodic feel to their songs. Darlingside ended the performance with “G Man,” from its EP, but not before giving the audience a preview of several other songs from Pilot Machines, including “The Woods” and “Still,” which draw from folk, classical and alternative rock to forge a unique and refreshing performance.

Rooney came onto the stage greeted by loud cheers and applause from the audience – several students were clearly long-time fans of the band, which has been around since 1999 and given us such hits as the 2007 single “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” In the past, the band has been compared to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it has toured with the likes of Weezer, The Strokes and All-American Rejects. The group managed to get the crowd – an exceptionally tough one – to start dancing in earnest with its single “I Can’t Get Enough” from the 2010 album Eureka, a memorable and catchy tune that had almost everyone head- and knee-bopping through Lasell. The band also played some older fare, including its equally catchy (although somewhat more morose) “I’m a Terrible Person,” which was released in 2003. With strong vocals and heavy drums, bass and guitar, Rooney didn’t fail to live up to the hype – or its livelier predecessors on the stage, I might add.

Walking into Lasell 10 minutes before show time, I was admittedly struck by the small number of attendees. I gained confidence in my fellow students as Darlingside started to play, drawing significantly more spectators. While neither band failed to deliver, the energy in the crowd seemed pretty low, although a few went the extra mile to enjoy themselves. Rooney’s lead singer, Robert Schwartzman, was visibly trying to excite the crowd; although several of the band’s songs were not, truth be told, the easiest to rock out to, the performers themselves could have done with an extra dose of pep, and the students could definitely have provided a little more energy.

As most students probably know, Darlingside hails from the College. Several of the members, including Sam Kapala ’09 (drums, vocals), Don Mitchell ’06 (guitar, vocals), Auyon Mukharji ’07 (mandolin, violin, vocals), Harris Paseltiner ’09 (cello, guitar, bass, vocals) and David Senft ’07 (vocals, bass guitar, guitar) were also members of the Octet, one of the a cappella groups on campus.

I had the opportunity to speak to Paseltiner and ask him what it felt like to be back on campus. “It was especially enjoyable to spend time and chat with students before and after the show,” he said. “For the whole evening, we felt very much like we were back home.”

On the direction the band sees themselves heading in artistically, Paseltiner said that since forming, the group’s “sound has shifted away from the acoustic-folk” more prevalent in its first EP. “In the process of writing and recording our upcoming album release, Pilot Machines, we struck upon a sound that is truly our own,” he said. You could definitely hear the transition with songs such as “Ancestor” and “Still,” as the members of the band continued to utilize their signature string instruments and harmonizing vocals heavily while avoiding too-quirky territory and maintaining a smooth beat.

While the energy, already pretty low to begin with – died down toward the end of Rooney’s performance – the music was fun and the stage had a great setup that made it a pleasure to watch. Whether you were ending the night or starting it off, it was overall an exciting experience, proving worth the effort to go out and give less familiar names a chance.