Local Bands Fall Flat at Harvey Mudd

Noise Floor, Harvey Mudd College’s live music coalition, hosted two (sort of) local musical acts Oct. 24 in its West Dorm: San
Francisco’s/Orange County’s (I’ll explain later) GRMLN and the city of Pomona’s very own Stay Cool Forever.

If you’ve come across one of my on-campus concert reviews
before, you’ll know that they tend to be rather positive, if
not glowing. My positivity is often the result of my already liking the musical act in
question, genuinely enjoying the show and just having generally lower
standards for free shows that take place five minutes away from where I sleep. If
I’m being honest, though, this one was just a little too middle-of-the-road.

Stay Cool Forever, or at least the iteration of the group that
showed up last Friday maybe (or maybe not) under the alter ego 17againagain (if
you’re confused, their joke is working), consists of only two dudes. I would
have said “a guitarist and a drummer,” but that’d be oversimplifying the mess
that is their setup.

Roughly half their set consisted of vaguely punk-ish
meanderings in which there was indeed a guitarist and a drummer, often
accompanied by backing loops. The drummer’s sloppy-but-still-really-quite-good
style was actually extremely fun to watch, but the songs themselves often
failed to latch on to any kind of groove or melodic hook.

The other half of the set saw the two abandon their
instruments in favor of loop triggering via a complicated rig that looked like
half of it was going unused. During this time, they both grabbed mics (and one
of them grabbed a Spiderman mask) and started mumbling/yelling while
electronically mangling their voices.

I’m not entirely sure they had lyrics planned beforehand,
but I am entirely sure it wouldn’t
have mattered anyway. You know those parts in Animal Collective where Avey Tare
runs his voice through a flanger and sounds like he’s at the bottom of a swamp?
It was like that, but noisier and messier. Frankly, despite the frequent
chuckles from the audience, I enjoyed those tracks more than the
guitar and drums stuff. They were clearly having a good time, and even though it
wasn’t that compelling musically, sometimes an entertaining performance is good enough.

GRMLN, the solo-but-backed-by-a-full-band project of
21-year-old Yoodoo Park (who now lives in San Francisco despite the rest of his
band remaining in Orange County), were far less polarizing. There were
definitely no chuckles—and that was their biggest problem. Their brand of
surfy garage pop is fairly bland on record, and the live environment at West
did them no favors.

While they were smart to set up their rigs in the corner of
the large courtyard (SCF had been in the center) to make the audience crowd
together rather than spread out in a large circle, it didn’t do much to help
the energy. It was all just too middling for me—no intense moshing and no
deep vibes—firmly in the inoffensive center.

That critique might ring hollow for others who were there,
but I expected a lot more from them. I mean, they’re signed to
Carpark, who’ve been responsible for massive drops from artists like Cloud
Nothings, Speedy Ortiz and Toro Y Moi in recent years. Maybe it was an off
night, or maybe they just weren’t feeling the crowd, but for me, GRMLN just
didn’t deliver.

Gage Taylor PO ’16 is majoring in media studies and philosophy. He is the electronic music director for the 5C radio station KSPC, and his first concert was NSYNC.

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