By Izzy Yellen
This past Friday, May 15, Artistic Expression House hosted one of the most entertaining, funny and intense concerts I have ever attended. It is not often that a laid-back and comical atmosphere is paired with fiercely loud music, but both bands—Sk8 City High School All-Star Jazz Band and Small Boys—did a great job of blending it all together.
Sk8 City is an instrumental trio that pulls influences from jazz and rock, among other genres, reminding sophomore fan Gabriel Peterson of a “young Dave King performance.” Small Boys are a hardcore punk quartet made up of members who strived to be in rock bands when they were younger, but only recently expanded on their instruments specifically for this band.
After jokingly thanking their “openers” Kronos Quartet and tuning their crash cymbal, Sk8 City was ready to rock. The band showcases the talents of sophomore Sam Pratt on tenor saxophone, junior Christian Carroll on guitar and sophomore Ridley Tankersley on drums. All three share a love for the avant-garde and cacophonous soundscapes, which clearly came through in their music.
A majority of their set involved driving beats on drums, a chugging and galloping distorted guitar, and a honky and squealing sax. While using this description to characterize most of their music may seem homogenous, this was not the case.
The trio gradually rose and fell in intensity, layered interesting and interlocking rhythms and melodies, and maintained a sense of excitement even during the quieter parts. Thus, they were able to convey some of the best aspects of punk while also being silly.
Their silliness was mostly revealed through their persona, dialogue and unique covers of popular tunes, such as “Take Me Out” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Their set was peppered with sarcastic introductions from each of the members, allowing refreshing breaks from the loud and often chaotic jams.
After one piece, Carroll whipped out a trash bag full of Easy Mac and apples proclaiming, “We’re Sk8 City, and we’ve got food for you!” He immediately began tossing out the nourishments to the audience. Judging by this performance and a short concert they did a few weeks earlier, nearly anything can be expected at their shows.
Shortly after Sk8 City finished their set, sophomore Sarah Axtell took to the stage to introduce Small Boys in an unorthodox yet adorable way—an original poem entitled “Bedtime for Small Boys.” The music that followed could not have contrasted more. It was, in fact, hardcore punk that really followed the DIY ethic prevalent in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Small Boys is made up of sophomore Noah Gunther on guitar and vocals, sophomore Morgan Edwards on keyboard, Pratt on bass, and sophomore Kobe Lewin on drums. Each member had played their respective instruments previously, but never had much experience playing in rock bands. Collectively, they decided college would be the opportune time to start.
At times, it was easy to tell this was their first gig and that they were still getting used to it, but that’s no insult—they admitted to that. However, to put themselves out there and just play was admirable, and showed they really had adopted the punk mindset. At other times though, their freshness to performing was not as evident due to their shared energy. They were always giving 110 percent, regardless of the song or instrument.
This was most evident with Gunther. Throughout the set, the vocals were mixed a bit low so when forcefully yelling the lyrics, he was clearly heard without the volume blasting. Whether this was intentional or not, it definitely had a riveting effect and fit the rest of the sound well.
It was enjoyable to watch this band perform live because they were all so invested in the music. They sounded great, but without the performance aspect, it would have been difficult to truly appreciate the music they made. I was able to get hold of a bootleg recording of the show and while it was helpful in writing this article, listening to it without experiencing it made it lose intense aspects that are indescribable.
Both have such great stage presence and exude a raw, intriguing and unique aura, while also sounding tight and hardcore. Just remember to bring some hot water and a spoon for the Easy Mac.