Pitzer College’s Grove House hosted
the “Barry Johnson Acoustic Show: A Night of Community Art and Activism” last Friday, Oct. 12. The event showcased five artists: John Ellis and Chloe Tess
Cohen (both PZ ’17), Merry Christmas, Tan Sister Radio, Tough Stuff, and Barry Johnson.
As musicians were predominantly local, the student duo performance stood out. Ellis and Cohen started the night off softly and
passionately with original tunes in addition to covers from Horse Feathers and Fleetwood Mac.
Ellis and Cohen combined acoustic guitar, violin, and vocals
to create a mellifluous yet crisp sound.
“I’m a classically trained violinist, but I’ve actually had
a lot of experience playing alternative, rock, and folk music,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s exit from the Grove House veranda was lavished with the praise of friends and even a photo-op from a Claremont local.
“I was really caught off guard,” Cohen said. “I did not expect for somebody to ask
for my picture, especially since it was John’s show.”
Ellis, who is self-taught, has been playing music for nearly four years, but Friday was his first public show for a 5C audience. He has played for high school audiences, but hinted at his preference
for a college crowd.
“Bigger crowd, definitely more energy. I like it
much better,” he said.
As the night progressed, so did the energy. After Ellis and Cohen, Tan Sister Radio took the stage. The band is composed of three members, with Andrew Ware on drums, Aaron Denis on guitar, and Max Greenhalgh on bass.
Tan Sister Radio’s musical aesthetic is rich with rhythmic nuances and color, but is also supremely catchy and thus appealing to any sort of listener. Their sonic style is most easily compared to a mixture of The Black Keys and Cage the Elephant, and they
cite influences like Born Ruffians and Humming Bird. Despite stylistic
similarities with other artists, the group has a distinctive sound all its own.
“It’s more about the lyrics than anything else,” Denis said.
Each member demonstrated a
unique chemistry with the other members and showed potential for even more. Tan Sister Radio is currently
spending their time working on a new album entitled Hat Trick. They are working off-label,
and all of their material is available via Bandcamp and YouTube.
Finally, Barry Johnson played his acoustic set with a
“I haven’t done this in 4 years—I’ve been
losing sleep over this—I really don’t want to do this at all. Here we go,” he said.
After a few songs, Johnson invited the crowd to come closer,
and they were not shy about it. Nearly everyone at the Grove House stormed the
stage in a huge mob so that Johnson was no longer visible.
Even performing without his usual accompanying band, Johnson was
entertaining and musically interesting, and clearly a crowd-pleaser. When he occasionally forgot the lyrics to his songs, the audience knew
them even better than he did.
Nina Posner SC ’17 praised Johnson’s lyrical style.
“I really like how much he puts into his singing.
A lot of people think his vocals are too ‘yelly’ but to me he’s just energetic
and passionate and it makes the concert experience more intimate,” she said.
The event was organized by boXcar, a Pitzer student initiative to promote local music, and KSPC. It was sponsored by Pitzer Campus Life Committee’s Fredrick J. Salathe Fund For Music and the Cultural Arts.