Rez Open Mic Night: Spotlight on Tufts Talents

By Kristina Mensik

Last Thursday night, the Rez was packed with far more than a few caffeinated kids killing time until they could go start their weekend elsewhere. It was teeming with students and performers, there to hear each other flaunt their wares, including instrumentals, vocals, and poetry. This was my first open mic at the Rez, and, somewhat cynically, I was not expecting any of the performers to blow me away.

My expectation was pleasantly defied. The event – which stretched for about 4 hours – was a showcase of diverse talents. Various acts showed honest practice, musicality, and effort. I had the chance to interview an eclectic mix of these performers.

One of the most spirited acts was the Packard Barrel Family Band, who livened the crowd with a mix of the Beatles, Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber,” and a “protest song written for Boston.” Each band member chipped in to the interview.

Packard Barrel Family Band How did you guys wind up forming a band?

It came together by virtue of living together. It was a confluence of weird factors… I was playing guitar in my living room, when all of a sudden Evan walked in with the banjo, and Sam walked in with the Ukulele, and Kevin walked in with a washboard (he really wanted to play the banana-grams).

What are your major musical influences?

The name’s based on cracker barrel, so we like to play music in the style of that feel, that cozy. When people listen to us, we want them to think fine dining. As you can see, we play sing-a-long songs. We have some original songs that we are working on, but when we play, we like to encourage everyone to sing along.

How do you feel the show went?
Well, there were nerves. We’re kind of an ‘unplugged’ band, so with the mic and the speakers, we just needed to get our bearings. We might be better suited for the rough crappy hills of Appalachia.

What’s your favorite thing to get at the Rez?

Medium Mind-Body Soul, with room for milk. And then I put skim milk in it.

A little more serious of a performer, Junior Stephen Dennison displayed impressive compositional talent through two original songs.

Stephen DennisonWhy don’t you start by introducing yourself?

I’m Stephen Dennison. I’m a Junior, electrical engineer, and I’ve been playing music for a while, I guess. I’m not really a member of the Tufts music scene, per se. I haven’t really had that many opportunities to get my music out there.

How do you feel tonight went?

It went pretty well. I actually wasn’t supposed to be playing tonight, but by a little bit of manipulating I was able to get myself up on stage – then they invited me back on stage.

And the songs you played were original pieces?

I mean, yeah I have a personal philosophy that if you can’t make a song better or different in any way. You could just go see the real person play the music. When you write the song, you have it under your fingers, you know the song, everything makes sense in your head. 

What’s your favorite thing to get at the Rez?

I’m a simple guy. I get a small coffee, put a little cream in it.

Similarly, Senior Dave Igliozzi performed solo, and set himself apart from the other performances by his slightly unhinged and hugely musical sundry three songs.

Dave IgliozziWas this your first open mic night?

The first open mic night at the Rez. I’ve performed mostly at 3 Capen. It’s just a house, a certain group of people, and I’ve been there two times.

How long have you been playing?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was fourteen. But recently, I’ve started having the confidence to work on my singing, so its not like I’m playing overly complex stuff, just normal, working on the voice. But obviously not trying to be like Frank Ocean.

Who are your favorite bands or musicians; who influences you?

The thing is, it varies on period. Right now, this week, I have been listening to Modest Mouse a lot, I love Modest Mouse. Tune-Yards – It’s just one woman who really orchestrates the whole thing, and it’s just sonically, the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. And I’ve been dipping into Nina Simone, who’s an old jazz musician.

The first song I played is a song by Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, very inspirational song for me. I think it influences my playing a lot. He actually went to Tufts, I think he graduated in 2006. So Ezra’s a huge musical influence on me right now, and Bob Dylan a personal influence, with the harmonica-playing-guitar whole thing. Modest Mouse – I appreciate all three of their vocal styles; they use their voice the way they know how. They don’t conform to, ya know, and this is in air quotes people “traditional vocal styles.” I mean I want to be crazy. I hope I was a little crazy out there.

What is your favorite thing to get at the Rez?

I like your, what is that lightest roast? I like the Mind, Body and Soul black, because I just want my coffee to be no bullshit: I just want the caffeine, and I need the pickup.

The night also included classical instruments via Wakana the Band. This group of 6 first-years (performing without their 7th member for the night) are clearly Granoff veterans.

Wakana the band

How did form your band?

It all started when I met Sonja at Georgia’s Island, we hit it off, and decided to jam sometime. Then we were in a practice room, practicing, and “knock-knock-knock” in comes Liam, who’s like “hey you guys sound good.”

Purnav: I was invited to the same jam session, and I remember beating my hands bloody on the top of a piano because we didn’t have any percussion instruments.

Julia: I met them in music theory, and then I ran into them in Davis Square. I was running back from a lesson, and they were all holding their instruments out in the middle of Davis Square, and so then we just started jamming.

Was this your first open mic?

This was most certainly not our first open mic. We did this all of last semester, and it was a great experience.

Any hopes for the next semester, coming years?

– Graduate.

– Keep writing, keep playing.

– Record an EP. We’ve talked about it a little bit.

– Built a suitcase drum kit.

Do you have a favorite thing to get at the Rez?

Medford Fog with a healthy dose of honey.

Closing the night was Gabe Terracianno, Travis Percy, Eric Breuss, representing Blue Ives, who seemed to have flaunted the sign-up sheet. While not all their band members appeared, their performance ended the night on a high, with the crowd grooving to their rendition of Beyonce’s “Love on Top.”

Blue

Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves?

The name of our band is Blue Ives, as in Charles Ives, “I-V-E-S.” So its like Beyoncé meets the atonal composer from the 20th century atonal classical music. We’re all huge fans of both Beyoncé and Charles Ives.

Was this your first open mic?

This was our first public performance – kind of. We’ve practiced in Granoff, and had people come down there and check it out.

How did you come together to form a band?

Gabe: Eric and I have known each other; we were in two previous bands known as Thoroughfare and Income Mummy Girl. I don’t know if you’ve heard of either of them, but they were great. I went abroad last semester,but we kept in touch, thought we were pretty musically compatible. I actually follow him around wherever he goes these days. I am Eric Breuss’s shadow. And the rest of it kind of came together. Eric knew a lot of people from doing Tufts’ Jazz Orchestra, and Travis knew Grant and Jackson, and we’ve expanded now to eight members.

Do you have a favorite thing to get at the Rez?
Eric: I have never, ever gotten anything at the Rez.

Travis: I’m so incredibly basic, I never get anything except coffee.

Gabe: I think I got the Medford Fog once, and it was really good. I would just like to say, though, there are four more people who are part of the group. There’s Grant on Tenor Saxophone, Jackson on Drums, Aiden on keyboard, and Andrew on trumpet. So its three horns, full rhythm section, lead singer, all coming together for an eight piece band.

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