WBRS brings indie spirit to campus

January 25, 2019

WBRS held a concert last Saturday, Jan. 19 to kick off the new semester and welcome new midyear students to campus. A relaxed event featuring an array of truly independent artists, the concert was an impressive showcase of college music.

The show started with a performance from Adam Sickler, a former Berklee School of Music student with strong ties to Brandeis’ music scene, including acting as producer to Late Night Thoughts. Having recently moved to Nashville to expand his musical career, Sickler brought the Music City feel to the stage with soulful semi-country ballads about love and learning how to live.

Sickler was followed by Brandeis’ own musical phenoms Late Night Thoughts. The duo of Brian Rauch ’19 and Michael Harlow ’19 greeted a crowd excited to hear another performance from some of the most talented musicians on campus. The duo is remarkable for their ability to create comfortingly smooth music which captures the blend of anxiety and ambition we all feel when the night is ending, and we begin wondering what tomorrow will bring. Many of their songs capture the moments of heartbreak or harsh realities of life. But in Saturday’s performance, they infused this mood with an optimistic spirit, performing with an infectious energy; they felt almost as cheerful when singing about love for grandmothers as when singing about how everyone will turn to dust and be forgotten. The band’s most popular song is “Shit Happens,” a casually melancholy song about the inevitability of tragedy. Saturday’s performance exemplified the attitude of the song: Accept the realities of life and keep moving towards a better tomorrow.

The headlining performance was Sidney Gish, indie phenomenon whose 2017 album “No Dogs Allowed” blew up on streaming platforms—thanks to Twitter—while she was a junior at Northeastern. This earned her a tour with Mitski and “Album of the Year” from the Boston Music Awards. Her music on “No Dogs Allowed” and earlier album “Ed Buys Houses” is reminiscent of a combination of The Avalanches, Regina Spektor and cited influence Bill Wurtz (yes, the history of Japan guy, go look up his music; it’s kinda dope), incorporating a variety of classic indie sounds and well-placed vintage samples. She is most well-known for her ability to capture the spirit of contemporary “young adults,” or as Nina Corcoran writes for Pitchfork, “she stands out as a[n]…entirely relatable young person in the post-Tumblr era.” Or as the crowd repeatedly put it Saturday, “big mood.” She is, in many ways, a poet of a new generation, crafting passages as packed with meaning as those we dissect in English class, but which is so familiar to her peers it’s fully understandable without analysis. At a time when the world seems to be drifting without guiding principles and our impending independence seems threatened by internal insecurity and external hatred, Gish’s music helps us laugh off the anxiety and embrace the culture our new generation is creating.

Gish’s performance at Brandeis matched her music: Intimate, self-effacing and meaningful. She started by confessing she had broken her nail, forcing her to use a guitar pick for the first time and at one point pronounced her guitar “in tune enough.” The performance was largely a simple run-through of popular songs, split up by Gish crouching down to adjust her pedalboard occasionally. The music was remarkable live. Embraced by an excited crowd, the songs took on a universal meaning for everyone in attendance.

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