This year there was an added incentive to join the Big Ten’s only student-run record label, Green Street Records. The selected student bands not only will receive assistance in promotion and booking, but this year they will be able to record an EP for free at Pogo Studio. Obviously, a lot of student bands applied for this great opportunity. Tough decisions had to be made, but this year’s lineup was announced in late October.
The Brother Whys, Dr. Doctor PhD, FIVEOHfirst, Jack Pine Savage, Mark Donnelly, Jonathon Childers, Jake Cooper and Stephanie Swick were all added to the roster. Two of those acts, Jonathon Childers and Jack Pine Savage, were featured at Mike N’ Molly’s Saturday night in the first of this year’s Green Street showcases.
Childers took to the microphone first. Accompanied by only his guitar and the occasional harmonica, Childers’ distinctly deep voice and blues-oriented guitar work managed to fight through the chattering and growing crowd throughout his 40 minute set. He even got a number of the noisy audience members to bob their heads and acknowledge the talent in front of them.
Many different uses and definitions of the word “derivative” undoubtedly enter the mind when listening to Childer’s finger picking and Cash-meets-Dylan howling. It can sometimes have a bad connotation, but Childer’s technical skill and vocal expression steer the listener away from that reading.
Oddly enough, he distanced himself further from his obvious influences by playing their songs. Childer’s renditions of “When the Ship Comes In” and “Bad Moon Rising” exemplified that he could bring different elements to more or less faithful covers. Using the Dylan classic as a comparison to his original material, Childer’s unique guitar stylings and song structures felt decidedly more modern than the classic folk that has come before. Lyrics covering topics such as drunken promiscuity and crack also served that purpose.
By the end of Childer’s set, the upstairs of Mike N’ Molly’s was getting crowded. While the second act, Jack Pine Savage, set up, the crowd was getting excited. When the four-piece started to play the place was ecstatic.
I can’t say I was as thrilled as the fist pumping, head bobbing students around me. Audioslave-esque vocals were drowned out by cymbal-heavy drumming and distorted bass. The lead guitar, though executed flawlessly, aided the group in sounding like any and every mainstream alternative act from the past ten years.
Simply stated, it wasn’t my thing. The beginnings of songs were often interesting and showcased Clayton Heinrich’s pitch-perfect voice. In nearly every song, however, as the band moved to the bridge, an uninspired “rock out” followed by a “break down” forced me to lose interest.
The vocals were great and the lead guitar managed to distance itself from the junior-high level thrashing that finds a home in hard rock college bands, but the desire to melt faces got in the way of what was going for the band.
The talent of the outfit was shown near the end of their set when they played an inspired cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind.” Though not a difficult feat, I’d say it beat out the actual Pixies’ rendition of the same song when they played a sluggish set at Lollapalooza in 2005. The outro featured Heinrich singing “say it ain’t so!” to the delight of the highly receptive crowd.
Though something I’d never sit down and listen to, Jack Pine Savage put on a show that did not disappoint the 30 or 40 people wildly applauding throughout the set. With that in mind, the show was a success.