With every Big Ten university there is a mainstream feeling that looms over the entire campus. From the ubiquity of spirit wear to the predictable night life (Natty Light, “Paper Planes”, and Canyon Pizza anyone?), there is a strong inclusion principle amidst us, Staters. This is great though. I couldn’t imagine anything better than cheering “We Are Penn State!” every football Saturday or thinking up more reasons (it’s an endless list, by the way) as to why State College houses the world’s greatest university. I wear my blue and white with pride.
Unfortunately, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. There is something beautiful occurring in the “counter-culture” (I use this term delicately) that exists today – most importantly – right under our noses. The Central PA Community Housing – better known as the Houseasaurus CO-OP – hosted a few of our correspondents this past Friday evening. They couldn’t have been nicer people. It was a life-changing experience.
Being a rock and roll star (everyone’s dream, right?) is changing from a life of constant excess to a more subdued being. The “indie” movement is in full steam with these acts landing mainstream radio play and multimillion dollar record contracts. Unfortunately, Fall Out Boy is not indie. Neither is anyone else you’ve probably heard on Power 100 FM or Beaver 103.
The CO-OP regularly features bands in their basement, putting everyone front row for the next generation of artists. Intimate shows are a great way to better understand musicians. These were far from those blokes at your local Starbucks. Arriving a little late, I was pleased to listen to the closing number of the opening act who came all the way from – listen up now – New Zealand. Armed with nothing but a microKorg and a drum machine, it was a soundscape that was three parts electronic, one part heartache.
It was only shortly after that the show began to take speed. Jordan O’Jordan, a Columbus Discount Records artist, took the stage in white and green face paint and an outfit to match. His singer/songwriter vibe was evident from his first number, which featured him on an autoharp singing a ballad about lost love and traveling to faraway places. He continued to amaze as he switched to banjo – his personal forte – and continued to sing songs that went from delightfully cheerful to depressing, taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride of care-free sing-alongs (listen to “Little Finger”) and deep introspection. He has even breached the walls of iTunes. You can buy his album for $9.99 – it will be an investment well made. Probably the most endearing part of Jordan’s performance was his modesty and genuine love for spreading his stories through song. He’s a huge hit among the CO-OP’s inhabitants, too.
Following the talented O’Jordan was The Ocean Floor, who, this particular evening, only included leading man Lane Barrington of Portland, Oregon. Putting on a solo acoustic performance, he was equally mournful, while much more inaccessible. This wasn’t bad at all though. It was a hearty challenge to uncover the mysteries behind his compositions, none of which spared the raw emotion and intensity of a good poet. Supported on drums by Philtholomew Pizza for a few numbers, his performance hit a high point.
The final act of the evening, Telethon Veginald Cheeseburger (“The Tele V.” as he’s known on the streets), was not as sonically pleasing as Jordan O’Jordan, but he was easily the most enigmatic character to grace the basement stage. With one-liners like,
“Wang Tang Coconut and Lil’ Jon couldn’t be here tonight. I wish them well whenever they are.”
…it’s easy to see why he is the quintessential performer. Supported by Philtholomew Pizza for a few tracks, he continued to surprise with a host of synthesizers, beat boxing, and drumming in addition to his acoustic guitar work. Touring with The Ocean Floor currently, he makes a musical statement that will soon become the staple of scenesters’ iPods soon. Both artists have contributed to a split EP that is available for online download, too. Be sure to check out the free tracks on his MySpace (linked above).
If none of this sounded remotely interesting to you and you managed to make it this far in the post, no worries. The CO-OP is host to all sorts of good times. A fully fledged rave reminiscent of a British discothèque took place upstairs while this concert took place and for many hours after. The party atmosphere is completely different from your typical Saturday post-game celebration and for those looking to experience the many facets that make up our societal makeup – this is most definitely one to check out. There is something going on at the CO-OP, and it’s beautiful. Be forewarned though, normal rules apply: you must know someone. Manners don’t end off campus, mind you. If you should someday receive an invitation to visit though, I heartily encourage you to attend. The only cover charge: an open mind.