By James Nicoli
Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Koji took the stage Friday evening. The Pa. native was the opening act for the College Union Board show featuring Anthony Raneri. Koji began the night by belting out his upbeat rock tunes at a ferocious pace.
Immediately you could see why he has been busy touring around the country over the last few years, playing at a number of high-profile festivals and releasing splits with the likes of La Dispute and Into It Over it. Koji’s confidence and ease of delivery was that which only comes with a road-hardened, seasoned professional. The interaction between Koji and the crowd was also great, with the songwriter encouraging numerous sing-a-longs as well as providing some witty stories from the road.
After Koji performed a strong set, Anthony Raneri, front man for N.Y. pop-punk crew Bayside, began performing the now packed Rat. People were crammed up against the stage, filled in up against the walls and the bar was a hive of activity. From the opening few notes, it was clear that Raneri was a musician of many talents and genres as he treated the crowd to a set of folk-influenced pop tunes.
Having only released his debut solo EP New Cathedrals earlier this year, the singer-songwriter’s performance sounded fresh and the set had a good mixture of more pop-oriented songs mixed in with some folk numbers and a few slower tunes.
Throughout the set there was no doubting that the crowd were enjoying the performance with a number of eager fans gathered right up at the front of the stage as well as many people dotted around the venue singing along to every song word for word. Perhaps the most memorable moment about tonight’s performance was the way in which both musicians seemed to be truly humbled and appreciative of the crowd, and both seemed to be enjoying the experience of being up on stage and engaging with the audience.
At one point during Raneri’s set, the noise and buzz around the bar had become so loud, the guy behind the counter had to keep yelling out people’s names to collect food orders. Just as Raneri finished a song, the guy yelled out and his voice traveled around the whole room with the singer-songwriter adding to the laughs by repeating into the microphone “your order is ready.”
And just as soon as Raneri’s set had begun it seemed it was over. Yet as the crowd slowly dispersed and left the room, there was no doubting they had witnessed a memorable performance from two experienced performers.