The Darlingside concert at Goodrich Hall last Friday evening provided anyone in attendance with a truly magical night. The College’s Get Baked club and Williamstown’s A-Frame Bakery catered the coffeehouse-style event. The two collaborated beautifully, laying out a variety of heavenly desserts including hazelnut chocolate lava cake and raspberry thumbprint cookies.
The popular student band Gentleman Art Thieves kicked off the night, serving as an interesting parallel to Darlingside by placing different generations of the College’s bands side by side. They opened up with a Beatles cover, and followed with two of their own best original pieces, “Runaway” and “Take Me Home.” The band certainly has an exciting future and is rumored to be recording an album soon.
As Winter Carnival’s fireworks concluded, students rushed across campus into Goodrich, filling the space just in time for the main act. As soon as Darlingside took the stage it became clear just how beloved the alumni band is within the College community, and for good reason.
An interesting juncture of folk and rock with a hint of barbershop, Darlingside gives a fascinating new flavor to the all-too-familiar indie folk genre. Their eclectic, original style is reflected even in the story behind their name. On the band’s website, band member David Senft ’07 explained the story behind the name, saying “The name comes from the expression ‘murder your darlings,’ originally spoken by British literary critic Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but more recently quoted all the freaking time by our college songwriting teacher, Bernice Lewis. The idea is that your favorite parts of your own writing are often the parts that stand out to the reader as the most self-indulgent, or that can simply hold you back because of your attachment to them, and that you should therefore edit them out. So ‘darlingcide’ is to darlings as pesticide is to furry woodland creatures, except we changed the ‘c’ to an ‘s’ because we’re not super into death.” The concept of experimenting with writing in an unselfconscious manner is reflected in their musical style which seemed to change from song to song, sometimes even within the songs. This is in part thanks to the vast array of instruments the band has mastered and draws from. While the cello and mandolin gave a folk vibe, the band easily switched to a more traditional bass and guitar set up, shifting the mood to rock. Perhaps band member Auyon Mukharji ’07 best embodies this musical flexibility – Mukharji can rock the violin, mandolin and tambourine with rolls that seem almost impossible. This elasticity protects the group from the dreary lack of variety that seems to plague most indie folk bands.
Darlingside’s winning quality, however, seems not just to be in its members’ originality or musical proficiency, but their fantastic chemistry with each other and the audience. The four-man group has no frontman and does not exhibit the structure of a traditional rock band. Instead, all four play cohesively and collaboratively in a structure that resembles an a capella group more than anything else, which makes sense given that the alumni group began as members of an a capella group while they attended the College. The four members’ respective parts blended together seamlessly, creating haunting harmonies that seemed to come out of thin air and a presence far larger than the tiny radius the musicians took up.
Equally impressive was Darlingside’s chemistry with the audience. The band’s charm and wit immediately won over all who were not already cast under their spell, an admittedly small portion. By sharing stories about the Octet, the a capella group in which the bandmates first met, and jokes about Driscoll Dining Hall (“Do they still call it ‘The Dirty D?’”) the group created a sense of nostalgia for the College that even a first-year could enjoy. Their humor and warmth only heightened the already jubilant mood of Winter Carnival.
For those tired and satisfied after a long day’s play in the snow, the concert served as the perfect end to a great Winter Carnival day. It is safe to say the band will always be loved and well-received at the College. Katie Constantini ’16 spoke for many when she said “I love Darlingside; I don’t know why they’re not more famous.” From the looks of it, the band will only become more prominent in the next few years, and the College community appeared proud to be a part of its history.