Category Archives: Stuff to See (or Not)

Instrumental Music: A Snooze Show?

When many young people think of instrumental music, many of them think ah how boring. However, I believe that instrumental music has a lot to offer–if you give it a chance. If you are looking for an event to demonstrate everything this music can be, then you should definitely check out the Odyssey Chamber Music Series.

The First Baptist Church where they perform is a mere seven-minute walk from Stephens, and the tickets are ten dollars for students. The crowd is made up mostly older people, but there are a few college students mixed in. The church has pretty stained-glass windows and ample seating perfect for the performance. The concert I went to see was Autumn in Paris and the name fits the vibes of the concert very well.

The pre-concert consisted of two freshmen in high-school playing piano solos. They clearly knew their pieces well and were very skilled. The pieces that they played were a nice prelude to get the audience ready to listen to some great music.

The opening piece was the “Sonata for Oboe and Piano in D Major, Op. 166” by Camille Saint-Saens. Alison Robuck on the oboe and Ayako Tsuruta on the piano played beautifully together. During the waltz-like part, Robuck’s stylistic articulation made me feel like I was in Paris dancing. Overall, they both did an excellent job (plus I’m a sucker for a good oboe, but who isn’t?).

Next, Iskander Akhmadullin on trumpet and Natalia Bolshakova on piano performed “Five Melodies Op. 35bis” by Sergei Prokofiev. This piece began pleasantly. Akhmadullin’s entrances into phrases were seamless (a technique that many trumpet players need to work on). About halfway through this piece, his lips started to get tired. This caused his entrances to get a little sloppy and his pitch to drop. Even with this, he still sounded okay, just not a great as he began with. He might have benefitted from cutting out one or two of the melodies to save his chops.

Now, it is time to talk about the person who stole the show: David Colwell on the violin. Oh my goodness what seamless transitions from fast to slow tempos, articulative differences, stylistic differences; you name it, he could do it. In “The Sonata for Violin and Piano” by Francis Poulenc, there are very dramatic dynamic changes, and you could always tell because of how he moved his bow. At suspenseful, quiet parts, he had little strokes; at big, loud parts he struck his bow with force and excitement. This piece was a pleasure to not only listen to, but also watch.

His next piece was “Meditation” form Thais by Jules Massenet. This piece was very different from the last. The music was calmer, and Colwell’s face reflected that. He swayed with the music and I was in a trance just waiting for the next note to come.

Usually, these concerts last for an hour and a half, and that is what I was planning on. However, this one went over that, and I had to leave at the intermission because I had a prior engagement. As I walked out of the church, I found myself looking back, wondering if I really had to leave (I did, but I did not want to). If you want to enjoy some dope music, you should see their next concert Tchaikovsky Holiday on December sixth at seven. Trust me, you will not be bored or sleepy; you will be mesmerized by just how interesting music can be.

I Only Stayed for the Unopened Jar of Skippy

7:24 p.m.

I enter the Rose Music Hall, a long narrow bar venue mildly resembling a barn, completely blind to what I’m about to experience, and my God, I wished I had used the wonderful tool at our disposal called Google to find out more about that night’s headliner, Jared and the Mill.

There weren’t many people present. I couldn’t exactly identify the crowd—there was some strange mix of cowboy hipster, and everyone there could have been either 25 or 62. Sure, it’s a smaller venue, but the merch table containing albums printed on vinyl, posters, CDs, T-shirts and other goodies told of a more successful indie band. The promotional material pointed towards a bad emo from the dark age that was the early 2000s, but the bluegrass playing over the speakers before the concert sent the fear of God into my soul.

7:50 p.m.

No part of the atmosphere has changed since my arrival, besides a small break in the bluegrass to allow room for Paul Simon’s Graceland. Now ten minutes before the show, the number of people tops at a generous 20-something people. They continued mingling about, drinking beer and talking about the main event. I thought the 30-minute wait would be just fine to make sure I scored a decent spot for the concert, but the country music pounding into my brain is becoming unbearable.

8:12 p.m.

The first band of the evening, Bluejay (never mentioned in any promotional material for the show), begins setting up almost 15 minutes after the scheduled showtime. After a few minutes of shuffling, muttering and tuning, they kick off with their first song. One of the two men, who resembles Peter Dinklage if he had swapped faces with a cast member from Duck Dynasty, has a voice that can only be described as southern Alt-J. The other, a sad man with the hair of Pete Wentz circa 2007, has no memorable feature other than the fact that he plays the banjo. I will say that the music played was sweet, yet very repetitive.

“We’re Bluejay and we write sad music!”

And so began a full hour of sad songs about their wives and drinking.

9:19 p.m.

After Bluejay exits, I find myself so bored that I’m tempted to take my detailed notes of their performance and change the focus of my review completely. I almost did, if it had not been for the mysterious jar of smooth Skippy peanut butter placed next to where the bass player was positioned onstage. On top was a plastic spoon, still wrapped in plastic.

Now this, I thought, is worth listening to country music for.

And so I stayed. For another hour and a half. I moved around the venue a few times, trying to get a full perspective of the band, trying to see their full essence. But to my disappointment, Jared and his Mill were so far quite undesirable. However, I was impressed by both the drummer and the bass player—they really were too good for the band, and it was sad to see them so bored and so ashamed of themselves.

Now, I really did give them a chance. I enjoyed the drum and bass. They were solid players, but country music was obviously not what truly called to them. This was made obvious by the fact that the bass player was wearing a full adidas tracksuit, Dr. Martens work boots, and a red bandana around his neck (quite strange.) The lead and rhythm guitar, as well as the banjo, were weaker. They were unable to match the dynamic energy of their bandmates.

The way they transitioned between songs was strange. When one song ended, the reverb from the instruments would continue on for a few seconds before another song began. Maybe some plucking of a guitar or vocalization would be thrown in; perhaps a few words from Jared. After a while, this became unbearable and impossible to distinguish the songs from one another, especially since many of the songs used the same four chords.

Not only does Jared love a four-chord country song, he also likes a crappy acoustic guitar break in the middle of it. Many times, Jared would change the entire time signature of the song just to have an acoustic guitar solo. He was obviously forcing the band to work around his capabilities as a musician. It was disruptive, nonsensical, and bothersome.

I don’t know what time I left exactly; I was just happy for it to all be over. My ears were ringing, I was exhausted, and I had to stop myself from getting too upset that I had wasted nearly three hours of my life listening to live country.

Jared and the Mill as a whole failed to impress me, not just because of the country music, but because of Jared’s obvious unwillingness to work to the strengths of his bandmates and not just focus on himself.

And, no, nothing was ever done with the jar of peanut butter sitting ominously onstage.


A Different Side of Benton

When you first walk into the State Historical Society of Missouri’s art gallery, what will immediately catch your eye is the gigantic George Caleb Bingham piece “Order No. 11.” Or perhaps if you say hello to the man behind the desk, the huge portrait of President Truman and his family painted by Greta Kempton will be the first painting you see. But neither of these pieces will prepare you for what lies around the corner.   Continue reading

By The Way, This Play is for Those Over 70

When my composition professor first told me I would need to pick something to review, other than the Jonas Brothers’ concert–I was heartbroken to say the least. So while looking through my options, I stumbled upon something called Talking Horse Theatre and a little play called By the Way, Meet Vera Stark produced by Adam Brietzke. After reading a quick synopsis. “Young black maid in the fifties struggles through Hollywood to make it big” I decided it was worth a shot, and that I’d probably enjoy it more than an art exhibit. I was half right.  Continue reading