It is Tuesday, March 8, 2011 and a video has just been uploaded to Youtube. No one at the time realized this little video, featuring two nice Jewish boys who called themselves Timeflies, would kick off one of the most successful weekly web-series on the Internet. By 2013, episodes of the appropriately titled “Timeflies Tuesdays,” were consistently attracting hundreds of thousands of views, occasionally even passing the million-view mark. Two Saturdays ago, Brandeis students flocked to the Shapiro Gymnasium donning shirts emblazoned with slogans like, “Is it Tuesday yet?” and “Rock out with your clock out” for the annual fall concert, headlined by none other than Timeflies.
Since the electronic hip-hop duo is so used to routine, having released one piece of new material every Tuesday for over three years and counting, it was only logical that the concert would take place, once again, in the spacious but acoustically flawed Shapiro Gymnasium. As is to be expected, the venue was relatively empty during the opening band, Mates of State, only filling up during the beginning of Timeflies’ set. However, instead of spreading out throughout the room, the latecomers pushed forward to the front row, until the entire audience encompassed only maybe three rows, creating an unnecessarily crowded, sweaty and hot environment.
One might have assumed that the audience was under the impression they were in a library throughout Mates of States’ performance, standing around silently, almost completely ignoring the hard-working band that was performing on the elaborately-constructed, black metal stage at the front of the room. Interestingly enough, as soon as Mates departed from view, the lights were ignited and pop radio was blasted from the PA system, inducing more dancing than the night had yet seen.
About 10 minutes later, producer Rob Resnick and singer-rapper Cal Shapiro took the stage, causing a brief but powerful eruption of approval from the small, tightly-packed crowd. Resnick climbed the stairs and settled into his post at the back of the stage, pumping his fist in the air throughout the entire ascent while Shapiro raced back and forth across the front lip of the stage greeting Brandeis with a bright smile. Initially, the audience was extremely receptive of the vigor of the young musicians, but as soon as the poor sound quality and volume balance became evident on the first song, the audience’s excitement level lessened significantly.
“I couldn’t hear a single thing coming out of either microphone,” said George Dragoi ’16, who, like many of his fellow concertgoers, expressed disapproval with the venue’s aural situation.
It would be a lie to claim that such shortcomings have not occurred in the past. The 2012 fall concert, featuring Santigold and Theophilus London, was subject to an identical problem, which subtracted significantly from the artists’ passionate performances. It is such a shame because Shapiro is a phenomenal singer with nearly studio-quality vocal tone. Unfortunately, such attributes were lost to the ears of the audience members. Consequentially, fans were unable to please Shapiro during several moments of call-and-response and sing-along, thought he was good at hiding any disappointment he might have felt. His performance was so dramatic and physical it was impossible not to watch with awe, despite the subpar acoustics. Shapiro was able to convert the concert from solely a musical experience to a musical and visual show.
Timeflies first attracted the spotlight thanks to their remixes of popular songs featuring impressive freestyle rap verses, courtesy of Shapiro. Often, Shapiro would be presented with a list of terms or phrases and would be challenged to construct a freestyle on the spot. This technique stands as the perfect marketing ploy to generate enthusiasm at a concert. Later into the set, a representative of Brandeis’ Student Events club walked across the stage, handing Shapiro a page with Brandeis-related keywords with which to construct a verse. While the duo’s earlier attempts to reach out to the crowd only gained audience attention for brief moments, Shapiro’s use of Brandeis’ plethora of inside jokes in a rap verse drew in every member of the audience and allowed Shapiro to hold that attention from the remainder of the concert. Shout-outs to the “Judges Get Hammered” tank-tops that spread across campus last year and the unclassified breed of insects found in the dorms of East Quad echoed through the gymnasium. Although the audience members clearly enjoyed the freestyle significantly, they swooned the most during the following track when Shapiro, started quietly singing in a chair, slowly standing up more and more as the music became progressively more dramatic. When the song reached its climax, with a scream, Shapiro thrust his chair across the stage, leaping in the air and soaring through the last few songs, closing with an incredible rendition of “I Choose You,” Timeflies’ most popular song.
The show certainly did not rank among the strongest of Student Events’ efforts to date. This, however, was not entirely that band’s fault. Timeflies found themselves under intense pressure to grip the attention of a distracted, distant crowd, with a poor audio system. Because of the electronic nature of Timeflies’ background music, concert-goers dressed and prepared themselves for an electronic dance music event, typically classified as a rave. Because the musicians do not consider themselves strictly EDM artists, they proceed through a concert like any other rock or pop artist would. However, thanks to the expectations set by the music, the audience found itself dancing rowdily to the electronic music as they might at a Calvin Harris concert. Thus unlike a show of that sort, when Shapiro and Resnick finished a song, the music stopped. It then took the audience the entire duration of the next song to find that groove again, only to lose it soon after. Combining an artful concert and an EDM rave can get messy if not executed perfectly. All that being said, despite some minor setbacks, Timeflies put on an exuberant and enjoyable concert and established themselves as extraordinarily talented musicians who know how to write fun music.