This is the first entry in Music Mondays. I will be using this space to share my thoughts on musical subjects of all sorts. It will include a song of the week. The entries will range from general profiles on different bands to music reviews of whatever new album catches my attention. The first entry will take a look at the bands that are a part of the small scene I’ve been involved in over the past couple of years.
The best week in music so far this year just occurred, and most of the world didn’t even know it.
On Saturday, Feruary 4th, the Geneva Songwriters Coalition had one of its many shows in Geneva College’s honorary DIY music venue, Johnston Gym. It was named Personal Best Fest. The quasi-music fest included a section that was open to all sorts of acoustic acts that took place at the college’s Brigadoon dining area, while the gym showcased three fully electric bands: Barepaw, PARK and Cephalopods. The show was generally success, with a good turnout and ideal sets from each band. Aside from leading the band that closed the night out, I’m happy to say I was pretty instrumental in putting this show together, from naming it and dreaming up the lineup and designing the promo posters. As I’m more of an ideas guy than execution, the show wouldn’t have been possible without my guitarist and one of the GSC’s leaders, Sean DeKonty, PARK’s leader, Dave Parker, and the AV guys Mitchell Steffy and Aaron Fritsch.
Personal Best Fest was only one of many successful DIY rock shows to take place on Geneva College’s campus. Before 2014, these types of shows were very few and far in between. Now, we have Angst Fest, Famfest, heavy metal smackdowns and so much more, indicating a rather lively music scene. While Geneva College’s music scene is not very remarkable compared to state universities or secular liberal arts schools, the fact that there is a music scene at all is remarkable. Geneva College is a Christian liberal arts school with an emphasis on STEM programs. It is affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, a strongly conservative denomination that is doctrinally opposed to the use of instruments in worship. While most students at the college are not RPCNA, there is no real emphasis on the arts among the student body. The success of the shows, however, have proven that there is certainly interest in the arts. Along with Dr. Dan Williams’ reading series, the rock bands of the GSC have helped encourage a healthy artistic atmosphere.
Here is a beginners’ guide to the bands that make up the unusually lively rock scene at Geneva. For more in depth profiles on these bands, pay attention to Geneva’s newspaper, The Cabinet, over the coming weeks…they are running a series on these bands, with their story on A Moment in Pompeii already out. Find it (eventually) on http://www.thegenevacabinet.com/
A Moment in Pompeii
Formed in 2014 by David Pinkerton (guitar, clean vocals), Antonio DiBiasio (drums) and Aaron Fritsch (vocals), this metal band is keeping the metal tradition alive at Geneva. Eventually, bassist Zac Podolinsky joined, and guitarist Doug Boylan was added in 2015. After Aaron left, with Zac following, Sam Allison took over vocals, and Griffin (I don’t know his last name) took over on bass. I’ve known David Pinkerton since I was 9 years old; as long as I’ve known the guy, he has been a very hard working devotee to metal. It’s been a lot of fun to see him finally channel this passion into a very solid band. I also worked with their guitarist Doug over the summer and saw his love for Christ play out, which is something he and his bandmates also communicate through their work. AMIP shows are energetic spectacles, rife with breakdowns and big choruses. They are truly a solid metal band that fills a very important niche in the Geneva scene.
FFO: August Burns Red, Counterparts, Haste the Day, The Devil Wears Prada, The Color Morale
Barepaw is the newest band to arrive on the 15010 scene. Born in 2016 out of a few songs that Zack Bowman of Primer & Grayscale wrote that didn’t quite fit his current songwriting outfit, the project grew from being simply a solo EP lark to a full-blown 6-piece band. I’m proud to say that I am playing bass for this project. Other members include Zack (guitar, vocals), Dave Parker (guitar, vocals), Andrew Flinner (keys, vocals), Matt Neal (drums, backing vocals), and Jake Rozmus (guitar, pedal steel, vocals). The sound draws a lot from blues, country, folk, mixing Americana with a solid rock sound. Each songwriter involved brings something to the table: Zack’s emo roots aren’t too distant in his songwriting (think Pinegrove…if you haven’t heard them, look them up immediately); Andrew showcases an affinity for classic rock and pop in his Beatlesque ballad “Breaking & Entering,” which also boasts a soul edge; Jake’s song “Yeah, Dad…” brings to mind late-era Wilco. And finally, there’s Dave Parker, whose heartfelt songwriting is as strong as ever, but with a full rock n’ roll band backing him. I once stated that I thought Barepaw is the “most sustainable” band in the scene due to the fact that all members were creative contributors (making for less writing time falling on one songwriter) and, likewise, all local. My statement became a big running joke among my friends. Whether it is the “most sustainable” or not, Barepaw is definitely going to do a lot of cool stuff. Wait and see!
FFO: Wilco, Pinegrove, The Band, Neil Young
Captain the Sky
Aaron Fritsch, formerly of A Moment In Pompeii, decided to try something completely different from the genre he was most associated with, metalcore. He formed the band Captain the Sky in mid-2015. Their sound incorporated a lot of influence from indie-pop band Young the Giant, while traces of the technical indie rock of Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party also cropped up in his songwriting, as well as the smooth pop of the 1975. Being one of the most grounded and proactive people I know, Aaron was able to fully form his band, play several area shows, release an EP, and release a full length album, the 12-track Mary Celeste, within a few months. Their sound is going through some exciting changes, and those will be heard on Lions and Foxes, the new EP coming out on March 25th.
FFO: Young the Giant, Vampire Weekend, Cold War Kids, Grouplove
It feels a little vain to write about my own band, but it’s also fun, so I’ll just do it anyway. This band began back in 2014 as a folk-punk band. My original intent was to make a project that mixed Neutral Milk Hotel-type lo-fi folk with the noise of Pavement style indie rock. Instead, we ended up sounding a lot more like the latter, with a grungey power-pop sound. Ditching acoustic guitars for Flying Vs and SGs, we’ve gotten comparisons to said Pavement, Weezer, Pixies, and even Velvet Underground. Seeing as I like those bands, I’m pretty happy about that. Our shows are a raucous affair, courtesy of our acrobatic guitarist, Sean DeKonty, as well as the romping, stomping rhythm section, Nick Smith (drums) and Ian Miller (bass).
FFO: Weezer, Desaparecidos, Pavement
Not to be confused with the C-list emo band. Originally Dave Parker’s indie-folk solo project, he’s expanded it into a full band, inviting his friends in on the fun. His squeeze, Karis Bowman, flavours his songs with some sweet backing vocals; the band shares a rhythm section with Cephalopods; and Sam Stucky contributes guitar. At the forefront of this project is Parker’s songwriting, which is so beautiful it hurts my feelings. In November Dave released his strongest recording yet, the EP Heuristics, to go along with his 2nd full length album Sufficiency (2015) and his debut album, Songs (2014).
Primer & Grayscale
Originating as pop-punk band The Misinformation Desk in 2014, the boys in this group grew up and became an emo band with a sound owing to Brand New, Thrice, and Manchester Orchestra. They didn’t completely ditch their pop-punk roots either, continuing to work with loud, fast hooks. Songwriter, lead singer, and rhythm guitarist Zack Bowman, a philosophy major at Geneva, incorporates his knowledge of philosophy and culture into his deeply personal lyricism. Keep your eyes open for their debut LP, coming this spring.
Second to Safety
The greatest guitarist who has ever lived, Sean DeKonty, formed this band with his high school friends Tyler Rutherford and Brandon Blackhurst in early 2016 (Nate Detwiler was also a member, albeit briefly). Technically not a Geneva band, but fronted by a very instrumental (no pun intended) man in the scene, Second are honorary members of the GSC rotation while being based near Philly. They challenge conventional song structure, throwing jazzy riffs into their own brand of punk. Influences from Sean’s iTunes, including Dinosaur Jr, Streetlight Manifesto, and other disparate bands, manifest in the beautiful explosion that is Second to Safety. Their EP Horseshoe Pike lays down a solid foundation for a sound that they have been expanding on, getting only crazier in the process. If you know Sean, it all makes sense; sometimes, when he’s at his highest, you just feel the need to tell the guy to calm down, even though you don’t want to because it’s entertaining as hell. Listen to Second and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
FFO: Dinosaur Jr, Built to Spill
Spoon the Whale
A cover band.