The whole audience sat cross-legged, turned towards the stage. A sea of faces bathed in the glow of a massive American Flag (of mythic frat origin) and cheap Christmas string-bulbs (Wesleyan’s favorite mood lighting), both hung with varying degrees of irony. Slowly working blood back into cheeks and fingertips after the long walk from Butts/Westco/Clark/Fauver/Everywhere Else on Campus, the crowd waited in anticipation of Rachel Connor’s Photo Show.
As the room slowly filled with The Ride’s recent cargo, Photo Show breezed through a smooth repertoire of folk covers and originals, ending their set with a fantastic rendition of “Sofia” by Laura Marling. They managed four part harmonies and intricate finger picking with the kind of effortless grace that makes you shake your head in wonder. The whole performance had a professionalism that is rare in the scrappy Wes music scene. I could see this band becoming a staple crop for the Thursday night Espwesso crowd.
10 minutes after Photo Show’s final song, the Murdertones kicked shit from 1st to 8th gear. Luke (’17) and Angus Macdonald (’16), known to some as Rat Problems Angie ('93) and She-Ra II (’95), tore through classic Beatles hits like “Back in the USSR”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”. The original bill for the night included all-caps LADD, but the flu or pneumonia or something knocked namesake Jack Ladd out of the running, and though we cherish all-caps’, the Murdertones were no slackers.
They had the room on its feet, grooving so hard that the carpeted floor began a gradual descent into concavity. The brothers Macdonald always go bonkers when they play and never ceased to exude insane energy on the Art House stage, screaming themselves raw in perversely satisfying Paul McCartney/Ringo Starr impressions.
At this point in the evening, every time the front door opened the audience craned their collective necks towards the foyer for a chance at the cool breeze that wafted by.
As Murdertones dismantled after their brief set, everyone did the obligatory interlude mingle and Phatrabbit took the stage. Known colloquially as Will, Josh, Rock, and Eli, this sophomore 4-piece play the most satisfying kind of indie-rock: energetic, heartfelt, honest and just really, really fun. This show in particular found Phatrabbit at its best. The front of the crowd was populated entirely by ultra-devoted close fans/friends of the band, and everywhere I looked, somebody was mouthing the words to their songs. All four of these hunks have incredible pipes, and they swap instruments and lead melodies like sweaty high-fives, all with such a delightful un-self-consciousness that you can’t help but get swept along in the heat of it all.
It was during their set that an Art House administrator informed the crowd that the furnace “was wiggling like a loose tooth” and that we had spread-out a bit. The warning was received in good humor, a welcome sign of respect for the space, and was adhered to earnestly for about a third of a song before the audience slid back into its revelry. Phatrabbit's magnetism was impossible to resist.
On Saturday night there was no P-Safe, no jerks throwing elbows, no vomit, just some of the cleanest and meanest fun to be had on campus. Art House is continuing to prove itself as the premier venue for intimate concerts on campus (in the fine of company of Earth house). Its living room is the hottest breeding ground for softies who want to tell you just one more time, “Baby, I think I love you, and I don’t know if you want to love me too!”