UMass DIY showcases local talents
This past Friday, Oct. 15, DIY UMass hosted their first show of the semester in room 119 of the Agricultural Engineering Building. Since the group hosted its first event in the fall of 2008, DIY UMass has helped provide the Five College community with a space for student-run shows. In order of appearance, Friday’s lineup featured Tweak, The Legendary Headaches, El Spectre, Lion Cub, and The Deceivers.
First was a solo acoustic performance by Tweak, the alter ego of University of Massachusetts student Adam Goldstein. Tweak’s mixture of wide-eyed earnestness and self-deprecating humor made him a memorable performer. Seeing him play, you really wanted to like him in the same way that you want to like a kindergarten production of “The First Thanksgiving.”
Goldstein is truly well-intentioned, heartfelt and can even carry a tune. However, his guitar playing consisted solely of loudly strumming the most predictable chord changes imaginable. His lyrical themes were loveable at times, with songs about having imaginary friends and a Wikipedia article about the cancerous effects of burnt toast. Lines such as “Momma don’t serve me burnt toast/or I might turn into a ghost,” and, “Who’s your daddy/I’m your daddy?” are enough to make you cringe. At his best, Tweak is UMass’s Daniel Johnston. At his worst, he is Raffi for the mentally ill.
The Legendary Headaches, from Palmer, Mass., are a punk rock band with a uniquely progressive playing style. The band’s arrangements transition like a car doing 100 miles per hour around a hairpin turn on a Western Massachusetts road. At times these transitions were not entirely smooth, but they managed to keep all wheels on the road. Their jaggedly heavy grooves experiment in time signatures uncommon in the genre, such as 9/8 and 7/4.
Guitarist Leon Pierce and the drummer exchanged vocal duties, and Pierce’s melodic singing contrasted nicely with the drummer’s expressive screams. Pierce’s guitar style was also particularly impressive, with an atonal yet skillful quality slightly reminiscent of Black Flag’s Greg Ginn.
The punk rockers also addressed a variety of socio-political issues which Pierce described as, “Observations of being working class.” Though they clearly had something to say, their stage rants were borderline preachy at times, and often longer than the songs themselves. However, overall, The Legendary Headaches are a powerhouse band with an uncommon level of sophistication.
Pittsfield’s El Spectre played next. This band describes themselves as punk and screamo with some experimental leanings. Some of the audience seemed really into them, and the band members themselves got really into the music. At times they had some very pretty instrumental arrangements, but most of their set was a wall of chorded noise. At one point, the vocalist asked the rest of the band what song they were playing next, as if it mattered. Most all their songs sounded the same, and the singer was almost completely inaudible the entire time.
Next was Lion Cub, an electro indie-pop duo that was added to the roster at the last minute. Chad Jewett provided guitar and vocals, and Chelsey Hahn played synth, xylophone, maraca and bells. This past year they released their debut album, “Seneca,” on Northampton-based Top Shelf Records. Their songs consisted of tired chord progressions strummed indiscriminately, with some simple ornamentation provided by Hahn. Jewett failed to project his voice, and as a result his singing was largely indecipherable. They had the intensity of the linens section of your local Bed Bath & Beyond.
Last to play was The Deceivers. Hailing from Northampton, The Deceivers combine the urgency of American hardcore with the spacey solitude of shoegaze. Fuzzed-out guitars and reverb-laden vocals characterized their introspective jams. There are obvious comparisons to be made with My Bloody Valentine and Husker Du, but these guys have their own unique sound that has generated a buzz in the Western Mass. underground. Jason Vachula does vocals and guitar, Girshwin Chapdelaine plays bass, and Eric Outhuse plays drums.
In the end, it was great that DIY UMass provided a place for local artists to play. This show was the latest in a series of roughly two-dozen shows that DIY UMass has put on over the years. The group has two other events confirmed for this semester; a Halloween show on Oct. 30 and a show with a (loose) Twister theme on Dec. 4.
The group is always looking for more people to get involved. Interested students can visit their website with a calendar of events at www.diyumass.org, and can contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dean Curran can be reached at email@example.com