By Kimberly Ilkowski
In a space like a college dormitory basement, there’s an “anything goes” mentality. Free of the pressures and expectations of traditional shows, artists are able to share more sincere sides of themselves and experiment with their music in a way that could only be embraced by a campus community.
Rightfully so, each artist who performed at the latest CUB Alt installment on Tuesday, March 21, debuted new songs never before played in front of a live audience. Philly favorites Hurry, the charismatic Chris Farren and headliner Eskimeaux all tried out new material during their sets in the Decker Social Space.
Led by Matt Scottoline, pop alternative outfit Hurry has risen in the scene following its 2016 album “Guided Meditation.” The band played a handful of songs from this release like “Fascination” and “When I’m With You,” as well as “Oh Whitney” off of 2014’s “Everything/Nothing.”
The band keeps things simple, lyrically and musically, allowing for catchy, up-tempo tracks straightforward enough to be widely accessible — and Hurry certainly never underestimates the power of a positive, well-crafted pop song.
Hurry has been in the studio recording its next record, and the crowd got a glimpse of the new power pop material when the band played several new songs, including one aptly about being on your cell phone.
“I’m trying a few new things, but it’s not drastically different,” Scottoline said in an interview with The Signal after the show. “So, if you liked ‘Guided Meditation,’ then I hope you’ll like this and hopefully there’s ever more to like about it.”
Scottoline and the rest of the trio feel fortunate about where the last few years have taken them and who has stuck around for the ride.
“We’ve just been very lucky ‘cause I think you can always try to make the best music you can make, but there’s a lot of people who make great music, and they don’t get lucky breaks,” Scottoline said.
One of Hurry’s biggest supporter-turned-close-friend was the evening’s next billed artist Chris Farren. The two are both known for their larger-than-life social media presence, which begged the question of what the pair was up to while Farren stayed in town with Scottoline.
“It’s not that exciting, last night we stayed up kind of late talking,” Scottoline said and then laughed. “And then we got tired and went to sleep.”
When Farren took the stage following Hurry’s performance, the ordinary portrait Scottoline painted melted into the background. With enough stage presence to power a full band, Farren embarked on the show solo with guitar in hand. Farren set his focus on material from 2016’s “Can’t Die” and played songs such as “Say U Want Me,” “Still Beating” and the instant crowd pleaser “Human Being.”
His extra long guitar cord allowed him to explore the space fully, at times wailing on his electric or making his way across every inch of the stage. In a change of pace, Farren also played “Where U Are” off of a 2015 EP and toned it down a notch for the mellowed out “I’m Not You.”
At one point, Farren took his equally as long microphone cord and ran into the audience, laid down on the floor and played different sounds off his sample pad. Later, he found himself walking completely through the crowd and to the back of the room to hang off the support beams. His style of unabashed, energetic revelry made for an absolutely captivating performance.
In an interview after his performance, Farren discussed what went into the making of
“Can’t Die,” released via Side One Dummy.
“Recording was awesome and weird and isolating,” Farren said. “I recorded it mostly on my own. I had people play on it, but I mixed it myself, and I played a lot of the instruments myself, so there was a great amount of time where I was just alone. … It feels like it means more to me than anything I’ve put out because I put so much of myself into it.”
With such an effervescent personality, it’s not a surprise Farren puts so much of himself into his work and live performances. That’s another reason he likes to share prolifically with fans on social media.
“I think it’s important to be reasonably accessible and transparent in some ways and honest,” Farren said. “The people that I connect with, the people that I’m fans of — I’ve come to realize that they’re just normal people, so it’s kind of important for me to put out there in general when I feel insecure and stuff.”
That honestly comes out in all aspects, even when he told a tale about his time spent staying at Scottoline’s home.
“He’s got two guinea pigs that I’m allergic to, and he forces me to stay at his house in the same room as his guinea pigs. … He rubs them all over me, so I’m not allergic anymore,” Farren said.
The relaxed atmosphere of the evening was highlighted by Eskimeaux’s performance. The close-knit setting found the band in a comfortable mindset, laughing and engaging with the audience, even testing out new songs, jokingly referring to it as time for them to practice.
Eskimeaux’s set mainly pulled songs from its 2015 full-length “O.K.,” with the likes of “The Thunder Answered Back” and “I Admit I’m Scared.” As the songwriting and production project of Gabrielle Smith, particular lyrics throughout the set were enthralling as clever one liners exuded emotion.
On “Broken Necks” Smith passionately delivered the line, “While you were breaking your neck trying to keep your head up/ I was breaking my neck just to stick it out for you.”
Eskimeaux make a point to be prolific on social media, but in a different way than the evening’s other bands. Passionate about political and social discourse, the band spreads information and resources, and fundraise for organizations such as the ACLU by donating its music’s proceeds.
Whether by activism or dancing with the crowd, the bands made themselves at home at the College, if only for one night.