Andover Unplugged

The students came in droves to the Ryley Room last Friday night for the best in Andover Acoustic, and they got it. To be honest, I did not quite know what to expect from the student body and a folk singer compared to Aretha Franklin named Mieka, but the night’s music was unassailably strong and the turnout was more than respectable. Surprisingly, the night brought much more variety than one would usually expect from a “Coffee House,” with acts that ranged from hillbillies with a gangsta lean to a Dave Matthews cover from the boys in Tucker House. The festivities began shortly after 7:00 p.m. Students who trekked out early were rewarded with a surprisingly pleasing performance. Danica Mitchell ’09, a crowd favorite, kicked off the e vening with a confident, intimate performance. Even from her brief ten minute set list, her great potential was evident. Immediately following Mitchell was the band “Until Further Notice.” In their rendition of “Steady As She Goes,” Missy Hoffman’s ’09 stunning vocals received a favorable response from the crowd. Hoffman had a unique vibe that is slightly reminiscent of Nico and left this writer wishing for a cover of “Femme Fatale” before night’s end. However, while I was engaged by the performances on stage, I began to notice something major developing in the audience that distracted my attention and peaked my curiosity. Why was Pete Smith ’07 in a farmer’s hat? Why did Andrew Richardson ’08 have a banjo? Where did Miles Silverman ’07 get a bongo? And last, but not least, why was David Curtis ’07 in a calf-skin vest and only a calf-skin vest? I knew the answers would come soon enough, but I never imagined the spectacle that would soon descend on the Ryley Room stage. Actually, I take that back. What else would you expect from those four guys besides an acoustic hillbilly rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition Remix”? Nonetheless, it was the high point of the night for me. Something about watching Richardson play the same two notes over and over on a banjo while seeing Curtis grab the microphone with unrestrained glee and shouting “TOOT TOOT! BEEP BEEP!” made me extremely happy. To top it off, I was astonished that this song actually had a playable chord progression, making their parody all the more ridiculous. The next group, “The Tucker House Experience,” kept the train rolling with a series of covers and originals. Their set culminated in “Ants Marching,” which roused members of the audience, myself included, to sing along. Through the years, these guys have built a reputation on consistently good sets, and last Friday night’s performance was no exception. With enthusiastic applause, the final band, “Olivia & The Pei-Phones,” brought the student portion of the show to a close. When Olivia Pei ’07 announced that their band was starting with a Bright Eyes cover, I’ll admit that I did wince a little bit. I have always found Bright Eyes lead singer, Connor Oberst, to be a little whiny, but Pei & Co.’s version really changed my opinion about Bright Eyes’ songs. Their cover was fantastic, especially due to Pei’s shining vocals. Their playing sent the packed Ryley Room into a frenzy, proving the merits of student bands. After the amateurs, professional singer Mieka Pauley plugged in and showed her stuff. First and foremost, I now understand the Boston Globe’s comparison of Pauley’s voice to Aretha Franklin’s, infused with a hint of Sarah McLachlan’s. Pauley displayed an enormous amount of power and confidence. For the most part, her songs were very passionate, although they began to sound a little repetitive. As expected of a young woman, her songs conveyed angst over failed relationships and past mistakes. All in all, she was a great talent and yet another great snag by WPAA. As the night drew to a close, I must admit that I was impressed. The talent showcased on the Ryley stage was legitimate. As for the student acts, hopefully this night was a preview of coming attractions for Grasshopper Night and Abbot Cabaret talent shows. Pauley is a fine singer-songwriter, asserting herself as a local talent to be reckoned with. But really, let’s hear it for Pete Smith who dressed as a hillbilly, crooning “running his hands through his ‘fro and bouncing on twenty-fours.”