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This Week’s Music in Review, Pt. 2

Sozo was the place to be last night to witness a group of stellar artists. All of them, except the headliner Charlotte Sometimes, were brand new to me, yet I was far from disappointed. I’ve been fortunate enough to see three great shows in a row this week, this one being no less impressive – and people say the week before finals is a nightmare.

The club, located right next to drunken hot spot Canyon Pizza, is a fine kept establishment. For a small club, it manages to draw big name acts – something I’m still trying to figure out. Kudos to the ladies and gents at Nittany Booking. There was great attendance throughout the entire night, too. There is a certain “family” atmosphere that looms throughout the entire place – a great vibe to experience some “friends” and/or musicians.

Full recap inside.

First on the bill was Acalasia, a local band from Altoona. Only two fifths of the group was present for the show, but they were nonetheless entertaining (read their biography on purevolume for an interesting anecdote). In an acoustic format, vocalist Krystal (no last name given) was able to truly shine. Her voice was strong and smooth – never sounding forced. Backed up by bassist Stephen (again, no last name given) on acoustic guitar, it was an intimate way to discover their music and view the collective artists as people, not just performers. Multiple shout outs and a song dedicated to Krystal’s fellow graduating seniors also added to the “homey” appeal this show possessed. The highlight moment: calling up a guest guitarist (Greg, forgive me I never got your last name either) for a killer acoustic version of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”. My only reservation is that I would love to see the full group live. I feel they would truly shine in an electric format. I hope to do so sometime soon. Great set nonetheless.

The next performer, Lucas Carpenter, was the sleeper of the evening. Endorsed by the club owner as “the premiere singer/songwriter today”, I was skeptical. These sorts of sentiments don’t get throw around too often – especially in context with someone so young. This man may have been right. Lucas performs on an acoustic guitar with a host of looping pedals, guitar synthesizers to create the effect of a full band. If equipment manufacturers were looking for someone to demo these products, Lucas would be perfect. He’s gotten his act down so that he can harmonize with himself on both vocally and on the guitar. It’s – as he says – “magic”. Also in his bag of tricks are a host of percussion instruments (tambourine, traditional African drums, sleigh bells, maracas, and more), polished beat box skills (still no Matisyahu), and a synthesizer/talk box combo that makes one of the best vocoders I’ve heard yet. Still, all these bells and whistles (literally) aside, Lucas has one of the most powerful voices I’ve heard to date. His personality recalls Jason Mraz on uppers and is absolutely impossible not to get sucked into. As if was a surprise, he makes all of the girls want him and all of the guys want to be him. A genuine sticks-to-star story, Lucas’ name will definitely be in lights someday, I promise.

The supposed headliner (the flyers never seemed to agree with the internet, I suppose?), Good Old War, turned out to be the third band on. My personal favorite, they have crafted a great sound sans-bass. The group is a strong trio that uses the vocal gifts of each for rich three part harmonies that recall acts like Dispatch. The incorporation of a modest synth is also a nice touch.

They all were hilarious, too. The group had an outstanding crowd presence – a quality definitely needed to follow the dynamic Carpenter. Guitarist/vocalist Keith Goodwin was dead on, gesturing to the crowd as he bellowed out the melodies to such songs as “Coney Island” and “Looking For Shelter” (which sparked some unappreciated crowd heckling). Drummer Tim Arnold was likewise witty and talented, showing some of the best drumming I’ve seen since I arrived at Penn State. I’d be anxious to see what he could do with a band that isn’t as easy going. And who could forget guitarist Dan Schwartz? We had the chance to meet him at the merch table before the show and he proceeded to prove himself as the most humble rockstar ever. It’s impossible not to enjoy their company – especially when they’re performing for you. Also, having played at Sozo before, their performance seemed like putting on an old pair of shoes: easy and comfortable. Even the technically difficult pieces – most notably a cover of CSNY’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – seemed effortless to this trio. As with just about every band I’ve had the pleasure to see this week, I recommend purchase of their album soon. If you’d like to hear what the show sounded like, just listen to the disc – they do a great job recreating their studio magic live.

Unfortunately, we did not get to see headlining act Charlotte Sometimes, yet her mainstream success (she has appeared on Vh1 and MTV multiple times in the past year) leads me to believe that it couldn’t be disappointing. Under normal circumstances, it may be impossible to attend three concerts in a row and be amazed by each, yet I say that State College possesses no normal circumstances. This is the beauty of Penn State. I recommend a visit to Sozo soon to any self-proclaimed music buff. It provides one of the closest (again, literally) looks at great musicians one may get the chance to see for a long time.

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