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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

CAMPUS BANDS

Here at Dartmouth, people don't talk too often about local bands. In fact, I can only remember one time when my friends and I went to a concert and that was just because we didn't realize that Free Guinness at AD involved music. When I found out that I was to write about campus bands, I skeptically began a journey around campus that opened my eyes to an entire culture that I didn't know existed. Over the past few days, I was able to meet three campus bands, Reaction Speaks, Rightly Guided Thieves and Filligar, each rife with talent and very exciting to be around.

My first stop was in the basement of the Hop, a place abounding with musical talent, in a room called Lower Buck to watch Reaction Speaks rehearse. I entered the room nervously, not expecting to see any familiar faces. As I met the foursome, however, I realized that Dartmouth's campus bands weren't comprised of the stoic rock gods that I imagined. On the mic was Cole Entress, a familiar and respected face from campus improv and the pages of this publication. Behind the piano was Fred Meyer. Playing a Rickenbacker bass, which serendipitously matched his salt-stained New Balance sneakers, was Seth Zimmerman. The fourth and final member of the group, the drummer, Chris Laakko, now stripped of his neatly-tucked oxford, reviewed my resume at Career Services only a couple of hours earlier and recognized me as he shook my hand.

I sat in the corner, scribbling down what I saw as the band members helped each other set up, exchanging pleasantries and funny stories from the week past. But the band quickly launched into a smooth, jazzy funk-hop highlighted by witty quips which Cole rattled off of a piece of tattered loose-leaf.

The band started in the summer of 2003 after Cole won a rap battle at Tri-Kap, catching the attention of peers who encouraged him to form a group around his ferocious flow. The group has gone through many geneses. "We're sort of in a transitional period now, as you probably see," Cole said.

But, nevertheless the band was impressively put together and really fun to be around. I think it might be just as fun to watch them joke with each other as it is to hear them play, which they have done in public on twenty or thirty occasions, according to Laakko, citing AD's 2004 Green Key lawn party as the pinnacle of their success thus far.

"We don't want to get too much meaning," Entress said, calling a goofy impromptu chorus, "a post-modern reflection on the state of art," making the whole band, and me from my corner, laugh. I left the room thinking that I might actually start going to Lone Pine with the promise that they might be there from time to time.

My notebook and I continued our journey the next night. After tracking down Rightly Guided Thieves, a band that I had listened to several times while downing free burgers at Greengate, I found myself sitting in the corner of a tiny room down the hall in the Hop labeled the "Drum Practice Room." The band is all '07s: Rashid Galadanci (guitar), Ben Selznick (drums), Billy Accomando(bass) and Patrick Handler (organ).

After I found my seat on the floor of the room -- which was complete with padded walls, ample cables to trip on and sundry drum equipment galore -- the four began to fill the space with a souly blues-funk that made me feel like I'd missed a whole chapter in my music education. Selznick, a Jewish version of ?uestlove, rattled off groovy drumbeats that blended nicely with Galadanci's sensual guitar-riffs. "Why can't I have six fingers?" Rashid asked, making me wish I could offer him one of mine.

The band practiced hard appearing fatigued by the end, stopping after each song to critique their work, listening to what each other had to say and making sure every member's voice was heard. The band, which will perform at Middlebury on January 19, takes itself pretty seriously. But, all the same, RGT enjoys the fun aspects of creating and sharing music with one another and the Dartmouth community as a whole, something which they have done dozens of times by performing at "almost every frat."

Satisfied with the band's following, Handler cites a dearth of "music department resources" as something that has prevented them from reaching a higher stratum of success. Nevertheless, they have a website (www.RGTband.com) and are working on a new CD for the spring.

The last stop on my journey was the lower level of Collis outside Fuel, the home of Friday Night Rock. There I met with two '09s to talk about Filligar (fill-uh-gur), an impressive family-affair that will no doubt change the face of campus bands at Dartmouth in the seasons to come.

Teddy and Pete Mathias sat quietly chatting on adjacent sofas as I descended the stairs to meet them. They stood quickly and shook my hand, smiling as I guessed their names incorrectly, something which fraternal twins probably aren't too sick of. Teddy plays bass and Pete plays drums in the band, which is rounded out by a third brother, Johnny, a guitarist and singer who is a junior at Chicago Latin High School, and Casey Gibson, an honorary member of the Mathias clan who plays the keyboard and is a freshman at Hamilton College.

I listened to the rhythmic pair talk for the better part of an hour, their enthusiasm overwhelming me. The band started in the Mathias family's downtown-Chicago basement. Teddy explained the band's beginnings, "as a few people getting together and playing the instruments they know." Dad, a lawyer by trade, does their PR (I was supplied with a press kit and complimentary CD upon my arrival, which Pete has warmly offered to anyone around campus that's interested). The brothers reflected on their family as an asset to their band.

"Being in the band as brothers makes it easier to stay together," Pete added, as the two laughed together about hecklers comparing them to Hanson and the Partridge family. Alice, their sister and an '07 at Dartmouth, "tried out on the tambourine, but didn't make it," Teddy added, eliciting laughs all around.

The two impressed me with their ambition. They cited a fan base that extends across the country as evidenced by the postings on their Myspace.com account, which offers samples of their music and some art by Teddy, who is a nascent photographer. Their sound reminds me -- and them for that matter -- of Wilco, also a product of Chicago. Still, Filligar remain passionate about defining their own style.

I am certain that Filligar will be added to the campus lexicon in time, as they have clear goals and managed to book a gig at a Psi U Darfur fundraiser over the summer, marking their first visit to campus since they got the nod from Furstenberg in the Fall.

"Sometimes the indie image will scare people away," Pete concluded, "but we're just normal guys on stage."

Hopefully soon Filligar will end its long-distance relationship and meet up at Dartmouth for a repeat of the summer's action so that all of Dartmouth can share the pleasure of meeting Pete and Teddy, along with the rest of Filligar.

In pain, after a piano fell on my head during one rehearsal, I sat down to write about what I found. The truth is, Dartmouth bands enjoy mastering their craft and have a great time doing it. So the next time you have a chance, go out and discover some campus music for yourself. And if you find yourself in a frat basement looking for something advertised in a blitz, don't be mad if it's a campus band. To quote RGT drummer Selznick "I say we end like that ... that's bad ass."

Unfortunately, due to their agressive touring schedule, I was unable to sit down with the members of Swanburger, arguably one of the most impressive bands to hit the Dartmouth scene since the short-lived Svante Horn Experience. Following the release of their second album -- "Feed it (the bird)" -- the College proved to be too small to contain them, according to fiddler David Day '06. "We, uh, kinda blew up after I started bingeing on being totally awesome," Day said. The band's first album -- "Up Top"-- which focused more on the members' reggaetron roots was a flop. Lead harmonica player, Adam Michaelson '06, credits their recent success to the departure of Patrick Jones '06, who left after immersing himself entirely in Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and other "rigs."

Said Jonathan Hancock '06, a devout Swanburger fan, "Brah, they were, like, totally awesome at Higher Ground last week."