September 20, 2020

CUB Alt bands go bananas in Student Center

Verbilla forms a narrative through her music. (Meagan McDowell / Photo Editor)

By Heidi Cho
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Seattle-based rock band Great Grandpa created a party-like atmosphere with their set of indie songs for March 6’s CUB Alt concert in the Brower Student Center, which was opened by bands Harmony Woods and Petal.

This concert was Great Grandpa’s last hurrah on their tour before driving back to Seattle. Vocalist Alex Menne and guitarist and vocalist Patrick Goodwin settled to one side as guitarist Dylan Hanwright and bassist Carrie Miller took the other.

The drummer Cam LaFlam sat in front of a vibrant blue banner that read “Great Grandpa Plastic Cough” that had been hanging there the whole night. The entire band sported paper party hats, even the stuffed animals that sat on the speakers and hung around the mic stand.

Red balloons thrown into the crowd were kept afloat, bouncing from person to person, as Great Grandpa played songs off of its 2017 album “Plastic Cough.”

The set began with a rousing performance of the song “Teen Challenge.” The vocals skipped almost like a record with precision timing. The sound effects gave the band a jovial sound that filled the whole room and brought the crowd closer together.

Three songs in, the band invited the crowd to get close to the stage to grab some party favors including plastic toy dinosaurs and party hats to match those of the band. Crowd members donned their party hats and shook “shakers” shaped like miniature maracas to the beat.

Tracks like “All Things Must Behave/Eternal Friend” incorporated puns, catchy repetitive lyrics and the garage feel of grunge pop.

The band kept an ongoing commentary during the intermittent breaks. The casual banter offered a respite from the energizing and fun songs.

This was Miller’s last show, and Hanwright gave her a fond sendoff, phrasing her reason for departure — getting a nursing degree — the best way he knew how.

“Here at Great Grandpa, we value the collegiate,” Hanwright said. “(Carrie) is going to study how to make people feel better.”

Nearing the end of the show, the crowd was congratulated for keeping the balloons going and shaking the maracas on time with the beat surprisingly well.

Hanwright had the most fun playing the last song, “Favorite Show,” that kept the audience dancing to the very end.

“(It) has a really fun buildup and it’s the most energetic part of the set,” Hanwright said.

The stuffed monkey on the speaker crowd surfed through the palms of delicate handlers as the extended chorus and last stanza played out.

“(Great Grandpa) got the crowd into it,” Colin Lawn, a freshman marketing major and a CUB associate board member, said. “I have never listened to them before this, but I will definitely listen to them after this.”

Harmony Woods opened the show, an indie rock band fronted by lead singer and guitarist Sofia Verbilla, with support from a backup guitarist and bassist as well as co-manager Jeremy Berkin on drums.

“(Verbilla’s) only a freshman in college,” said Alex O’Connor, a junior communications studies major. “She’s becoming really big with her band.”

Harmony Woods’ setlist included two songs as a sneak peek of the band’s next album to be released in the future “if the gods allow,” according to Verbilla.

Verbilla’s lyrical quality shone in her opening track, “Vignette #1,” and all the others to follow. The songs took inspiration from some past and some imaginary relationships, according to Verbilla.

“The lyrics are a core part of the music,” said Lucia Gardiner, a freshman art education major. “The lyrics are sincere.”

Imagery was scattered throughout her songs, all to a homey and acoustic backdrop.

“I tried to make a home in you but the foundation was overlooked,” Verbilla sang in her third song, “Jenkintown-Wyncote.”

All of the material felt familiar. Part of the music’s allure came from relatable depictions of watching headlights through a window or feeling lethargic, unable to get out of a warm bed. It had audience members nodding along.

“I like the narrative lyrics,” said Sofia Hayda, a freshman urban education and English double major. “I’ll definitely look them up afterwards.”

Petal, the second opener, is the solo musical project of Kiley Lotz, who hails from Pennsylvania. Lotz stood on the stage alone accompanied only by three flowers adorning the strap on her electric guitar.

“There’s not a lot of queer women in (this) music scene,” O’Connor said. “It’s refreshing to see a powerful woman like her.”

Lotz sang songs like “Chandelier Thief” from her album “Shame” with a delicate and hypnotic quality offset by the rhythm of the guitar.

Lotz did her usual “ending spiel” before playing her last song, “Heaven,” which she had written when she was feeling depressed.

“If you feel lonely … if you’re struggling, you deserve love, and I care, and the world wouldn’t be better off without you,” Lotz said.

Despite the heavy tone of “Heaven,” Lotz ended her performance on a cheery note.

“Way to go queers!” Lotz said. “Way to go trans folks!”

Chris Ratanski, an executive board member of CUB and a junior chemistry major, found Lotz’s stage presence to be sweet and funny.

“I can tell she’s speaking from her heart,” Ratanski said.

Greg Ferretti, a 28-year-old Eatontown resident, is a long-time fan and drove to the College for the show.

“I love her, she just, her songwriting in general and just the way she conveys her emotions — I find it really moving,” Ferretti said.

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