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URI Musician's Guild Concert showcases student talent, local artists

By Conor Fagan
On February 6, 2012


The startlingly eclectic mix of sounds on display last Friday during the URI Musician's Guild Concert begat an equally diverse crowd of onlookers. Scarf-adorned, neo-hippie chicks, long-haired, leather-clad biker dudes and every strangely distinct concert-going stereotype in-between filled the 193 Coffeehouse and the Memorial Union Atrium on Feb. 3, and throughout the evening I had quite an amusing time attempting to match each fan milling about the rooms to his or her respective band of choice.

This, in the end, proved to be very difficult, as several of the acts showcased such striking originality that pigeonholing their sound into a single rock subgenre and matching scene aesthetic simply wouldn't do justice to these righteous up-and-comers.

The first band I caught was Sun Bears in the coffeehouse. When I strode in, the quartet was locked in a syncopated rock riff visceral and jagged enough to serve as the breakdown section of a hardcore or metalcore song, which, I assumed, was what I was hearing. Little did I know that the band was about the make the mentally jarring transition from heavy rock ‘n' roll to what can only be described as swirling carnival keyboards over a funk rhythm section. It was unmistakably groovy.

Clearly the colors of musical influence with which these gentlemen painted their original pieces extended vibrantly far beyond the gunmetal gray monotone of contemporary metal. The members of Sun Bears confirmed this when I spoke to the South County area band after their performance. After citing its identifiable predecessors such as The Mars Volta, Mastodon, and Mahavishnu Orchestra the group's drummer surprised me by mentioning that Miles Davis was his chief musical inspiration.

As I meandered down the hallways of the Union, I heard wavering echoes coming from the Atrium and assumed it was merely the acoustics of the building warping the sound of a straightforward alternative rock band. I walked in, already preparing to be bored for 25 minutes, and was pleased to find that the source of the whale sounds and cave reverberations were the delay pedals and two-handed tapping guitar theatrics of the band Scarlet.

Where Sun Bears thrashed, Scarlet crooned to a quick, clattering drum beat. If Minus the Bear had a baby with Third Eye Blind and that baby really identified with the lyrics of Pornography-era The Cure, Scarlet would have a tough time professionally marketing its sound because that personified combination of bands I just made up would probably be a lot more appealing to record executives.

The female-fronted Leave It Blank impressed me with its blend of pulsing disco and violin-centered indie pop and punctuated their succinct jams with a raunchy cover of a Grace Potter and the Nocturnals cut. The band that impressed me the most was Providence duo Vulgarity. The drummer/vocalist and bassist/keyboardist donned the stage clad head-to-toe in leather and black, cranking out slabs of raw industrial krautrock. They layered their grinding sound with two separate loop machine, devices which allowed them to sound instrumentally dense and tighter as a unit.

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