First WSMA concert showcases energetic musical talent

WSMA, approved by College Council last Wednesday had its first concert featuring a variety of student bands last Friday. Photo courtesy of Nancy Chang.
WSMA, approved by College Council last Wednesday had its first concert featuring a variety of student bands last Friday. Photo courtesy of Nancy Chang.

On Saturday night in Currier Ballroom, the Williams Student Musicians Association (WSMA) organized its first event, a concert with performances by three student bands. The Jeff Daniel Project, Knockout Mouse and Gentlemen Art Thieves offered a variety of musical genres, great talent and a mellow atmosphere enjoyable for all in attendance.
First to take the stage was The Jeff Daniel Project, a self-described “pop/jazz/funk/rock” band formed earlier this year and composed of Scott Daniel ’17 (violin), Jeff Jeon ’17 (drums), Kevin Lawkins ’14 (bass), Ananya Mayukha ’17 (vocals) and Nathaniel Vilas ’17 (keyboard). Though newly formed this year, The Jeff Daniels Project impressed with covers of both classic and top-40 pop songs. The band opened to the popular “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” by Coldplay, followed by an excellent cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Mayukha’s rich alto-range voice dazzled in “Toxic,” working perfectly with the slowed-down, soulful arrangement.
Mayukha then introduced Josh Gilkenson ’17 to the stage, who performed his original raps, “Intro” and “My Ride.” Gilkenson offered catchy lyrics and beats enriched by the band’s accompaniment, though he was difficult to hear at times. Mayukha then took to the stage again with the band’s upbeat cover of Clean Bandit’s breakthrough hit “Rather Be.” Daniel’s virtuosic playing was perfectly suited to the song, given the strong violin instrumentals in the original, with a solo and head-banging stage presence that brought cheers. The faster version of the song brought greater energy to the crowd; however, at times, it felt rushed and Jeon’s exuberant drumming occasionally overpowered Mayukha’s vocals, rendering it difficult to hear the specific lyrics in parts of the song.
The Jeff Daniels Project closed with a cover of “Pompeii” by Bastille that featured Gilkenson. The slower, almost ballad-like opening of the song played to Mayukha’s strengths once again and later sped up to a tempo more similar to that of the original, ending the show with great energy.
Next, Knockout Mouse took the stage, creating a more coffeehouse-like atmosphere, as students moved up close to the band and sat down for the entirety of the performance. Songwriter Ruby Froom ’16 (vocals, keyboard) formed the band with Dave Burns ’14 (cello), Greg Ferland ’16 (bass), Sam Jeong ’14 (vocals) and Brian Levine ’16 (drums) earlier this year. “The band kind of started out of the blue. I … wanted to play music with some cool people, and I happened to find some excellent people who shared my musical taste,” Froom said.
Knockout Mouse started its show with a cover of “It’s Only Wednesday” by Crash Kings, giving a more subdued, indie vibe to the concert, with a touch of funk á la Maroon 5 from their far better Song About Jane past. The band then introduced trumpeter Jon Dely ’15 and together they played “Clear A Space” by Lake Street Dive, followed by “Right Here” an original by Froom.
Knockout Mouse then proceeded to cover Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music,” slowing the song down considerably, rejecting the song’s dance rhythms for a more creative, sensual and almost haunting rendition. Both Froom and Dely shined in this cover. Although Froom sang in a higher range for most of the songs, she proved her versatility by singing in a lower register for a well-executed, darker vibe. The song was one of the slower ones performed, yet managed to be entrancing, with added energy by Dely’s electrifying solo and strong support and a solo by Ferland on bass.
The band then reverted to its more alternative, airy roots with “Fighter,” Froom’s other original song. A lighter song compared to the “Don’t Stop the Music” cover, it showcased an almost ethereal performance, and was followed by “Fired” by Ben Folds. The band again revisited 2004 in their cover of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Though not a particularly unique cover, it captured the moving sentimentality of the original. Knockout Mouse closed its performance with “Seventeen” by Lake Street Dive, which elicited excited gasps from the crowd. Burns’ cello solo added dimension to an already instrumentally rich original, and the show ended with an energized crowd.
Last to play was Gentlemen Art Thieves, a band formed about a year and a half ago. This was the band’s final performance, as nearly half of its members are graduating next month. Brice Green ’15 (keyboard, vocals), Paul de Konkoly Thege ’14 (guitar, vocals), Kevin Lawkins ’14 (bass, vocals) and Gabriel Morosky ’17 (drums) took the stage, the band’s normal lineup minus guitarist Logan Jester ’16. As the band was setting up, de Konkoly Thege asked the audience to stand for the performance.
Gentlemen Art Thieves performed mostly originals, beginning with Green’s “Stone in My Chest,” but the band followed it with a cover of “40 Day Dream” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The band members began the number by vigorously clapping, a fun interpretation of the opening of the original, surprising the audience and beginning the song with remarkably high-energy. As the entire concert’s most dynamic performance, the song brought the crowd cheering and rocking to the beat, as band members laughed along and enjoyed themselves throughout.
The band then played “It’s Still Ringing,” written and sung by de Konkoly Thege, a folksy alternative rock song with smart lyrics, giving a refreshingly different feel than the rest of the concert that was more pop-oriented. “Runaway,” another Green original and “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem followed. In Green’s second original song, his vocal abilities truly impressed, as he masterfully tackled the song’s wide range of notes.
Gentlemen Art Thieves ended with a soulful, almost sultry rendition of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” moving some concertgoers in the back to start dancing. Moving and full of emotion, the song closed the band’s high energy and impressive set, covering a wide variety of musical genres.
For the last number of the whole concert, all the performers went up to the stage for a group performance of “All You Need Is Love,” by the Beatles, ending the night on a fun note, highlighting the supportive music community at the College.
WSMA, approved by College Council last Wednesday, provides support for student musicians, filling a void left by the music department and other organizations. Green, the founder of WSMA, said, “The thing that prompted me to start this organization was the lack of support for music on campus. The only place where consistent, non-departmental music on campus exists is in a cappella.”
The organization aims to create a larger musician community at the College. It offers students with similar music tastes opportunities to meet, practice together and get feedback; it helps students plan events; it offers logistical support; it provides access to people on campus who can help book a show; and provides other support.
WSMA displayed a promising start last weekend, offering a night of great music, talent and fun, and will hopefully continue to offer similarly impressive events in the upcoming school year.