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Concert Review: Spring Weekend Caters to ...Alternative... Tastes

Strong Performances Marred by Rude Concertgoers

By Minyoung Jang

Spring Weekend Concert

Cake with Josh Cole and the Household, Matt Pond PA

Johnson Athletic Center

Friday, April 28, 2006

7:45 p.m.

What do you get when you have a few vocalists, guitarists, bassists, drummers, and, oh, a trumpet player and a cellist around?

MIT’s Spring Weekend concert, of course.

With Cake headlining this year’s concert, and Matt Pond PA and Josh Cole and the Household as the openers, concert organizers succeeded in catering to the “alternative” crowd.

I have to confess that I only caught the tail end of Josh Cole’s set, but I was impressed by what little I heard. Cole’s voice reminded me a little bit of Dan Bern, but it was thankfully less sharp and nasal. Altogether, the band put on a tight performance with a rich sound.

Unfortunately — and I say this with especial regret, because I really like these guys — Matt Pond PA did not quite live up to my expectations. They were not bad by any means, but their live performance lacked the iridescence and the almost orchestral feel found in their recordings.

What I enjoy most about Matt Pond PA’s music is that all the parts, be it vocal or cello, blend together beautifully to form a full sound. There’s always a flurry of activity in the treble, however, that gives a sense of intricacy to each song. In their live performance, however, the parts sounded too distinct. Although I didn’t hear any major flaws in each individual part, at times the performance sounded like five different solos playing at the same time.

Singer John McCrea said Cake was “here to serve you tonight” in a deadpan voice and almost militaristic style. Opening with the laid-back but dark sounding “Frank Sinatra,” followed by “Comfort Eagle,” the band added to this tongue-in-cheek vibe of being counterculture revolutionaries. Cake’s performance fell flat at times, but only because I find a lot of their songs to be weak in the first place.

I’d be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention that Cake’s trumpet player is, for lack of a better description, totally awesome. The bright and brassy contrast of the trumpet line was sometimes the only thing that kept Cake from suffocating on its own poker-faced style of facetiousness.

Cake performed songs in a variety of styles. They veered into a more dance-friendly, sunny mood with “Wheels,” “Love You Madly,” and “Ruby Sees All.” The set also included well-known hits, such as “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” and “No Phone” — during which McCrea encouraged a guys vs. girls competition in yelling out “no phone, no phone.” Perhaps somewhat ironically, a good portion of the crowd waved cell phones in lieu of lighters just few songs later during “Mexico,” a ballad in a relaxed 3/4 time signature. According to Cake, this was their rebellion against the abundance of 4/4 songs on the airwaves.

Despite the great performances, I have to say that the concert ended on a bitter note. Out of the many concerts I’ve attended, ranging from Jewel to the Kaiser Chiefs, I have never crossed paths with as many rude audience members. Starting from the beginning of Cake’s set, some people blatantly leaned into my space to attempt to get a better view, and throughout the night, a couple of students repeatedly cut through the crowd to move up front.

By far the worst part of this entire scenario, however, was the fact that concert organizers didn’t do anything about it. I understand that it’s difficult to get into the middle of the crowd to warn people or kick them out, but I’ve seen it happen to crowd surfers at previous MIT concerts, so it’s definitely not a new concept. Concert organizers had no official comment when I e-mailed them after the concert.

So, I give props to Josh Cole, Matt Pond PA, and Cake for putting on a pretty good concert, and would like to extend a plea for better etiquette at the next Spring Weekend.