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A night of hipsters, music and heartbreak

By Candice Bautista

Section: Arts

October 1, 2010

Brave little abacus: Featuring a lead singer with a nasal voice and a penguin-esque appearance (on right), the band Brave Little Abacus did not impress along with the other opening acts of the Toro Y Moi concert.
PHOTO BY Nafiz “Fizz” R. Ahmed/The Hoot

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Ben and I stood awkwardly in Chums, eyeing the ratty but comfortable looking couch. Overzealous, we had shown up to the concert hosted by Punk Rock and Roll Club when doors opened at 9 p.m., half an hour before music was scheduled to play. I expected to see a combination of the various sorts of people I pass by everyday on campus — from geeks to stoners to sorority girls— but was surprised to see only hipsters. Many hipsters.

Hipsters boasting every hip accessory possible: beards, plaid shirts, porno mustaches, ripped skinny jeans, cigarettes, a few beers. I scrutinized each person walking through the door waiting for one of the aforementioned “surprises” to enter, but was only met by more overly apathetic faces. As a native New Yorker, it was almost a relief to see so much unsightly facial hair and indifference. However, with the background music playing a bit too loudly for actual conversation, yet too softly for my mind to completely wander, I was left wondering why I missed this pseudo-Williamsburg scene to begin with.

Upon further examination of those sitting at the counter, I realized that one of the people there was in fact Chaz Bundick, who goes under the stage name of Toro Y Moi, the musician I had diligently listened to all that day in preparation of the concert. I excitedly nudged Ben to point this out as I realized the opening band, Brave Little Abacus, was about start.

At first, it was almost as if they were joking. The lead singer strummed a few chords and wailed a bit before stopping and facing the back a bit as if tuning his guitar. This mess of a beginning offered a glimpse of what exactly was to come. The band consisted of one synthesizer-slash-keyboard player, one guy doing mysterious things on what could possibly by be another synthesizer while facing the back and simultaneously playing the bass, and one penguin-esque guy as the lead singer and guitarist.

The singer in question was very nasal, and his sea-foam blue shirt matched his guitar. The synthesizer played numerous samples, usually sounding like dialogue from a sitcom while the singer played riffs and moaned into the microphone in an unattractive way. In fact, the only words I could make out from any of their songs were “Christmas tree.” My favorite part was the keyboardist becoming incredibly invested in his playing, closing his eyes and looking intense.

Their set consisted mostly of noise and the 30-something people in the audience awkwardly standing. A few enthusiasts bobbed their heads, and a few even jumped up and down excitedly, but there was not much response otherwise. During the third song, sea-foam penguin announced that the song was a cover and that the audience could sing along if they so desired. I expected something along the lines of an ironic cover of ’90s Britney Spears in honor of the upcoming episode of Glee, or even “Billie Jean,” but was met with some more unintelligible nasal whining over more chords.

“It would be better if he didn’t sing,” Ben yelled to me.

Thankfully, there was only one song following the cover, and soon enough we were met once again with loud background music.

After debating whether or not to leave and play pool instead, Ben and I decided to stay for the next band, Golden Girls. I was mildly disappointed to find that the band consisted of two guitarists-slash-vocalists, one bassist, one percussionist, one video jockey and no Betty White. One lead singer was incredibly thin and had his knees sticking out of jeans much tighter than I could ever fit into whereas the other lead singer looked comparatively normal, wearing a Knicks cap. They were on the ground floor with the video jockey working a Mac while the bassist and drummer stayed on stage. Their sound was more of the punk rock and roll sound that is to be expected of one of the club’s concerts.

The microphone’s feedback, however, was an issue. At one point, one singer had to get the microphone from the other because it was impossible to use it without a piercing feedback resulting. (A similar incident occurred with Brave Little Abacus, but it was really the least of their problems.) With the heavy bass and percussion hitting hard, more people began jumping and I even found myself bobbing my rhythm-less head.

The strangest and most memorable part of their set, however, was the screen they had put in place to the right of the drummer projecting the video jockey’s mix of video clips. The clips came from many different things, from hockey games to numerous pornographic depictions (girls in bikinis wrestling), to the infamous World Cup head-butt shot to video game scenes from “Street Fighter” and “Crash Bandicoot Kart.” A combination of these eclectic visual and aural sensations made the set incredibly mesmerizing, as I found myself unable to look away from the screen.

By the time Golden Girls were done playing, Ben and I felt much more content with our decision to go to the show. In fact, we finally sat on the decaying couch and Ben soon began falling asleep after mumbling about playing pool a bit. Yet, Toro Y Moi was the reason I came to the concert at all, and like hell I was going to leave before hearing Chaz sing “Talamak.”

Because Toro Y Moi was the headlining act, Chums got crowded very quickly once Golden Girls got off. The stage soon had Rudnick at the synth and two additional people, one as acting drummer and the other as bassist, setting their equipment up. After a bit of technical difficulty and anxious restlessness from the crowd, I finally started hearing the opening notes to “Talamak.”

This, though, was a fake out, and we had to wait about 15 minutes before Ori Nevo ’11, head of Punk Rock and Roll, officially welcomed us to the concert and introduced Toro Y Moi. Once again, I heard the opening notes of “Talamak” playing, a welcome familiar tune.

Unfortunately, the bass and drums were way too loud for the song, and Rudnick’s voice was barely audible over the combination of drums, bass and noise from the audience. Because Toro Y Moi is, lying-in-bed-and-thinking-about-life music, the song translated peculiarly when put into a loud crowded coffee shop with too much bass and percussion. In fact, it might even described as a disaster.

Although I tried to enjoy one of my favorite songs being played live, it was difficult with several people bouncing up and down, a tall guy with a camera obscuring my view of Chaz, and another guy eating tater tots to the right of me. After an additional overly-loud song and my heart being broken to the sound of Rudnick’s falsetto, I nodded to Ben that pool was finally the right idea. The song that I once thought was beautiful was transformed into a mess of cacophony and synth noises. I applauded their effort as Ben and I made our way through the crowd. Outside the castle, all that could be heard was drums and bass.

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