By Sean Philip Cotter
Indie rock outfits Jukebox the Ghost and Io Echo played this year’s final Bandersnatch show in the Schine Underground — a show that fell flat thanks to technical difficulties and an unresponsive audience.
Check out our photo gallery from the show.
When a show focuses on live music, it’s a good thing for both the venue and the band if the audience can, well, hear the music.
This wasn’t the case at times Tuesday night, March 19, when indie rock trio Jukebox the Ghost and its opener Io Echo took the stage in this year’s final show of University Union’s Bandersnatch Music Series. Or maybe more accurately, when they didn’t. Not until an hour and 20 minutes after the doors were supposed to open, at least.
The show had been slated to have doors open at 7:30 p.m. in Syracuse University’s Schine Underground, but technical difficulties prevented the opening act from taking the stage until 8:50 p.m. The small crowd of under 100 people was pleased to finally see the three members of Io Echo, an indie rock outfit that seemed to be uncertain if it had oriental influences, wander their way onto the stage.
Ioanna Gika, the band’s bathrobe-clad frontwoman, spent the remarkably short set murmuring into the microphone in her best try at mysterious ethereality. Next to her stood guitarist Leopold Ross, dressed in a kimono-ish shirt. His hair and overall vibe seemed to point to an attempt to channel Kurt Cobain circa 1993, but his energy level ended up making him seem more like Kurt’s 2013 state of being instead. Fortunately, he seemed to wake up after three or four songs and realize a crowd stood before him. He then turned up the energy a little.
The high point of the band’s set came when Io Echo set aside its happy indie pop rock and slowed down the tempo in preparation for busting out a little bit harder rock ‘n roll track. It was apparent the band is not without talent, but the members had a very hard time getting the audience at all involved. This was probably in some part thanks to the sound, which stifled both the vocals and the guitar, somehow making both unclear and somewhat abrasive at the same time. Both the sound and the lack of involvement, unfortunately, ended up becoming themes of the night.
After a couple more songs — the set only totaled about 25 minutes — Io Echo’s members all but threw down their instruments and bolted for the door, as if University Union had been holding them hostage onstage and had finally deigned to set them free.
The Philadelphia-based Jukebox the Ghost took the stage after a short changeover. The band featured Jack’s Mannequin-esque piano-driven indie rock. The musicianship was impressive and the two vocalists’ harmonies were spot-on. The songs were generally written in the major key, and often featured classically-sound pop rock chord progressions that wouldn’t have been out of place being formed on a piano by Elton John’s fingers.
The two vocalists, Ben Thornewill and Tommy Siegel, traded off lead singer duties as the former sat behind his keyboard and the latter switched between electric and acoustic guitar. But their undeniable musical skills ran into the obstacle of the subpar sound quality. Vocals, guitar, and piano all seemed blunted by the speakers, as if the equipment or the settings couldn’t quite handle the musicians’ output. Often the sounds seemed just a little muffled and muddled.
Before the set, Allison Clark, a senior graphics major, had said she didn’t have much knowledge of the band before she came to the show.
“I got one of their CDs maybe a year or two ago, and I’ve only listened to it a little bit,” she said. But Clark, as a fan of music in general, was more than happy to pay the $5 entrance fee and see a new band she’s heard good things about.
Others must have had the same thought process, as a few people right in front of the stage appeared to know many of the songs Jukebox played, but everyone else just stood and watched, unfamiliar with the music. The crowd was unresponsive enough to prompt a comment from Siegel: “You guys are so quiet! What do you want to talk about?”
SU being SU, someone responded by shouting something about the SU-Georgetown game. The band didn’t really have anything to say about this, so after a few cracks about how they know nothing about sports, Jukebox returned to playing music.
Increasingly through the set, all the band members played with great energy that was apparent in their music. But the audience, huddled around the stage and leaving most of the Underground dark and empty, just wouldn’t get into it.
You know audience participation is an issue for the bands when the time the crowd got the most excited throughout the entire two-and-a-half hour show came between sets when the “What What, What, What” intro to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” pushed its way through the seemingly begrudging speakers. Fewer mouths sang along with any song performed onstage than formed the words of the hook on the Seattle rapper’s hit — “this is fucking awesome.”
Maybe because the show — thanks to the band, the sound, the crowd, or whomever — wasn’t.