By Tom Charles
Asst. managing editor
Rule No. 1 about the Schine Underground: It will forever hold the toughest crowd on campus. For that, I suggest we start a petition to start serving beer. It’ll do a world of good. That being said, the bands on the bill for WERW’s first campus concert of the year did a solid job loosening students up as best as they could Thursday, Oct. 11.
Beekman, New York’s Dumb Talk kicked things off with their first performance in Syracuse since adding guitarist Liam Walsh to their lineup; his presence was immediately recognizable. By adding Walsh for the recording of their eponymous debut LP (released via local Syracuse record label Miscreant Records), Dumb Talk also introduced a more sonically enriching element to their music that has long seemed necessary to distinguish the band from being yet another group of angst-filled adolescents. It allowed them to break from their lo-fi identity that they’ve long insisted was more fiscally-motivated than anything else. However, their stage presence didn’t match the supposed maturation of Dumb Talk. With little said to the crowd, the members seemed as reserved as ever – guitarist/vocalist Will Smith carried himself with a demeanor bordering on apathy, eyes fixated on his feet more often than not. In turn, the crowd – assumedly unfamiliar with the band’s aesthetic – reacted with just as little energy. Dumb Talk closed their set with “Virginia” before leaving the stage without a word.
Math the Band couldn’t have offered more of a contrast in style if they tried; the electrorock duo instantly energized the audience. Upon taking the stage, frontman Kevin Steinhauser took a knee and asked the concert-goers to put their hands together and chant, “everybody have fun tonight.” They then burst into an excited performance which quickly transitioned into Don’t Worry’s leadoff track, “Hang Out/Hang Ten.” Steinhauser, donning above-the-knee grey shorts and a white headband, brought an energy level uncommon to the Schine Underground, inadvertently knocking over his mic stand during his set and, at one point, crowd surfing his guitar. The audience reacted in turn. To her credit, Justine Mainville was able to keep up with Steinhauser’s impressive energy despite the limited mobility that comes with balancing both keyboards and percussion simultaneously. In short, Mainville summed it up nicely: “The funny thing is we’re probably the dumbest band tonight,” poking fun at their fellow performers’ band names. And having done the Macarena on stage, that’s probably a true statement.
The all-black image of Dum Dum Girls made little sense when paired with their bubbly melodies and Dee Dee Penny’s swooning vocals, but the crowd didn’t even look twice. Whereas the audience was mostly lifeless for Dumb Talk and surprisingly alive for Math the Band, they settled into a happy median during the headlining performance. Fans swayed and shimmied up front while a few couples made their way to the back to dance freely in the open space. Some of the 120-person crowd started trickling out slightly before 11 p.m., and that was unfortunate for them, as they missed the band’s best performance of the evening – a cover of The Smiths’ “There’s a Light That Never Goes Out,” which ended the show in a delicate fashion.