Arts & Culture

Empty seats and dubstep beats at free Fall Concert

By
Arts & Culture Editor
Monday, September 26, 2011

Amidst confused and opportunistic WaterFire attendees, Brown students filtered into the intimate Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium Saturday night to hear psychedelic crooning and dubstep beats at Brown Concert Agency’s annual Fall Concert.

Despite the draw of a free and — due to an unfortunate rain call — indoor seat, BCA Booking Chair Gillian Brassil ’12 said only between 350 to 400 students opted to attend the concert leaving over 100 seats empty.

It’s a shame they weren’t filled.

Real Estate and Starkey, this year’s headliners, turned out a good, balanced show. Real Estate, a five-person indie electronic band currently based out of Brooklyn, had a mellow, gritty vibe that called to mind the MGMT of yesteryear. They were a great start to the night, revving students up for the energetic, heart-thumping beats of Starkey.

“Not sure how this seated auditorium works, but feel free to stand up and dance or come down,” said one of the band members, seemingly confused by the formal air of the venue. Brown students do not have to be told something twice. At first scattered throughout the auditorium, they crammed in front of the stage, getting up close and personal with the musicians as band members strummed guitars to the music’s psychedelic undertones. Real Estate’s harmonies were lush and playful, mixing together elements from various genres to create an addictive sound that had people swaying in the aisles or lounging in the dark, upper tiers of the auditorium, nodding their heads to the commanding beat of the drummer’s snare.

The musicians called to mind a really, really good garage band — slightly unkempt in their appearance, laid-back and simple in their delivery but also intoxicatingly creative.

For their first performance in Providence, they knew how to get the crowd going, shouting out to Brown and including the audience in the performance. By the end of the night, I felt like I knew a little something about each member of the band and had been listening to their music forever, though it was only my second time hearing them. I appreciated the stripped-down approach to the presentation, which relied not on gimmicks or flash, but the mellow rhythms of their guitars.

Sometimes things got a little too mellow, lulling the crowd into a slight stupor, but the band was quick to pick up the pace and turn the beat around.

The beats got picked up, twisted over and ground up a little later in the evening when dubstepper Starkey took to the stage.

He threw his whole body into working the beats that percolated through the auditorium with a force unto themselves. The small crowd around the stage swelled as glow sticks and flashing lights bounced around the otherwise dark venue, throwing dancing bodies into relief only for a moment.

Starkey’s thudding electronic bass lines were accompanied by the film, “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” — a German animated fairy tale from 1926 in the spirit of Aladdin and the oldest animated feature film in existence. BCA discovered early on Saturday that they had a fully functional projector in the RISD Auditorium, and decided to add a visual element to Starkey’s performance, Brassil said. They reached out to Adrian Randall ’12 to provide a “weird, interesting video,” she said.

“It’s a video that works with most live musical performances,” Randall said of his selection.

The film was visually amazing and engrossing to watch. Interestingly, there were sections that matched up perfectly with the music, making me believe at first that Starkey had planned to show the film with the performance in advance. Finding out that it was completely by chance was a shock.

Brassil said BCA was pleased with the evening and, though they wished more people had come to the concert, they were happy that “everyone who did come had a great time.”

Though the crowd was small, it was a dedicated, energetic group that gelled with the artists, jamming with Real Estate and bobbing to the beats of Starkey.