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SOMA Arts Crawl: A Retrospective

Four writers wandered around north campus during SOMA’s (Students Organizing the Multiple Arts) Arts Crawl on Friday evening to embrace a variety of musical perspectives. Here are their respective thoughts on the great day of music and entertainment.

According to Leo Dillinger…

Every year, I get excited for Arts Crawl because it’s an opportunity to witness the creative mind at work. I walked up to Palmer Museum and saw a crowd of students breakdancing in the overcast weather. I couldn’t help but admire their style and finesse. Every movement contrived second-by-second in order to maintain a natural appearance.

Photo by Leo Dillinger
Photo by Leo Dillinger

I walked into the Stuckeman Family Building and climbed up the stairs to see Try/Catch, a guitar and drum duo with a viciously melodic tone. I became lost as I listened to the lyrics reverberate in my head. Like many bands there, their set only lasted for a half hour, but it was a great start to the afternoon.

Photo by Leo Dillinger
Photo by Leo Dillinger

Another musician that stood out for me was Lines&Lies, a one-man band with a powerful voice. Every moment of his set, I could sense the passion behind the music. He shouted and screamed as his songs rose in intensity, making the audience cringe with empathetic approval.

Photo by Zach Berger
Photo by Zach Berger

All in all, I’d say that Arts Crawl definitely deserves more recognition among music connoisseurs at Penn State. The amount of talent packed into one corner of the university is incredible. Everywhere you turn, students and regional musicians are expressing themselves in ways that cannot be summarized with words. Their music can only be appreciated through the living experience. For those who have never seen SOMA’s Arts Crawl, I’d highly recommend it.

According to Noel Purcell…

Penn State’s own Mute Cities stole the show at Arts Crawl 2014, displaying the most well-rounded sound of any act I saw this year, despite the fact that they’ve only been playing together for a few months. Their range, energy, and chemistry as a group makes them fun to watch and better to listen to.

Photo by Leo Dillinger
Photo by Leo Dillinger

Their first track, “Family Tree”, reminded me a lot of a White Blood Cells-era White Stripes or Is This It-era Strokes track, that sort of rock revival feel that became somewhat of a meme in indie music a year ago, but is now more refreshing than anything. There was a happier, more poppy undertone to the song, though, recalling some Streetlight Manifesto or even Pixies feel. All in all, a very well done track, utilizing noise in an effective way, which is difficult to pull off.

Second was “Good Deed, Goodnight”, which started out feeling a bit like a Format track with a slower, quieter intro, then dropping into the LCD Soundsystem-styled indie rock “drop” and transitioning into more of a jam band feel. Rarely do local acts who have had only a handful of performances together display such range in an entire performance, let alone one song. The crowd began to build during and after this track, and everyone was really into it.

“Spout” reminded me of a lot of different songs, and it’s hard to put my finger exactly on what to compare it to. Another track that went hard without going overboard, Mute Cities were able to take the song to another level when it fully got going, again displaying that fantastic variety that kept the audience captivated throughout.

“Point of View” again changed the feel of the show completely. With drummer Zachary Kramer hammering away on the intro, the song could’ve gone multiple directions. The jam band concept has been played out over the last few years, but Mute Cities found a way to take that genre and make it something wholly their own; interesting instead of generic. Dads, The Promise Ring, and even Modest Mouse could be echoed in this song.

The encore turned the show around and called back an early performance in which the band covered Weezer tracks, as a cover of “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit had the singalong feel that most encores look for. Showing the ability to transition from a more deliberate track to one that thrives on energy again showed just how good Mute Cities can be.

Overall, Mute Cities proved why they should have had a spot at Movin’ On this year (despite losing Battle of the Bands to a very deserving competitor in Lenina Crowne), with a very eclectic yet utterly captivating performance. Give them a few months and a few more tracks, and calling them the best up-and-coming local act at PSU wouldn’t be a stretch. Hell, between the smooth bass lines of Jon Callan, the laudable dual effort on guitar and vocals of Derek Williams and Jacob Ludwig, and the inspired performance of drummer Zachary Kramer, they may already be there. Think about what they could sound like with a year’s worth of polish and performances under their belt, because no other act from the weekend displayed as much potential as Mute Cities.

According to Sarah Caskie…

Arts Crawl is possibly one of the most underrated events at Penn State. Outside Arts Fest, it’s probably the largest artistic collaboration among students, yet it still seems to be overlooked by many. Nonetheless, this year’s Arts Crawl successfully showcased a variety of music and art in a way that was fun and interesting despite the shoddy weather.

I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of bands playing. Anybody who wandered into Arts Fest could most likely find something they enjoyed, simply because the musical genres were so varied.

Musician Anthony D’Amico had one of the more intimate performances. He sang while accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and no microphone in front the crowd gathered in the Palmer Museum. His performance was one of the most memorable.

Student band Mute Cities also had a standout performance. They took the “stage” in the lobby of the Stuckeman architecture building to play their indie rock set. The band seems to have gained quite a following, though that really isn’t surprising after hearing their music, which is catchy as hell.

Philadelphia-based band Mumblr, who is always a crowd-pleaser, didn’t disappoint. Though their set overlapped slightly with headliner Kevin Devine, they still managed to pack the room. Though I’m a fan of the band, and my opinion is slightly biased, it was probably one of the best performances of the night.

Last but not least was headliner Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band. As someone who didn’t know much of his music going into the performance, I didn’t really have many expectations. I have to say I was impressed.

Photo by Zach Berger
Photo by Zach Berger

He played for what seemed to be the better part of an hour, taking time to talk to the audience between songs. He chose to close his set with one of his older songs “Ballgame”, which seems to be a ballad about his past struggles with alcoholism. It was an interesting choice for an ending, but it really worked, and the audience seemed to respond well.

All in all, Arts Crawl was a great time. A lot of people put their time and effort into putting this thing on, and it was certainly successful. Here’s to another one next year.

According to Zach Berger

Ever since I first covered the event during my sophomore year, SOMA Arts Crawl has been one of my favorite annual Penn State events. Blending visual art with just about every type of music you can imagine, Arts Crawl is truly one of the hidden gems of the Penn State entertainment scene.

I’m a music guy myself, so I tried to catch at least a bit of every band playing on Friday. I had to stop by and hear Keegan Tawa’s set first. Tawa is by far and away the most talented electronic music producer and DJ in town, and it showed once again at Arts Crawl. What was disheartening was the crowd for his live set. Playing on the Stuckeman balcony, there were never more than a small handful of fans below to hear him mix for two hours, accompanied by live vocal at one point.

Photo by Zach Berger
Photo by Zach Berger

I walked away from Arts Crawl with a bad taste in my mouth because of the attendance, which was relatively small at just about every performance I saw. The acoustic sets in Palmer Art Museum were poorly attended. The stage in the Stuckeman lobby had no more than 20 onlookers at a time. The upstairs Stuckeman stage was even worse. And that’s unfortunate because Arts Crawl draws some extremely talented artists, both local and not, and when telling people about how great it was this weekend, the most common response was: “What’s Arts Crawl?”

But I digress, because what truly matters is that there were people there to hear the music and those that attended were vibing along and enjoying every minute of it. I saw some familiar acts, and I was wowed by some new faces. The headliner, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, were so unbelievably good. They were tight, they were energetic, and they were so much god damn fun to watch.

The highlight of the event for me, however, was checking out Soda Bomb. The Long Island natives played in the (very small) lobby of Patterson, hosting a crowd of 50 or so fans that were packed into the room like sardines in a can. The punk/garage/indie band let me forget that I was in a building where my Photo 100 class took place, transporting me to a hole in the wall venue that I’d expect to have a band like Soda Bomb rocking out at. The crowd was eating up the electric set, and I use that adjective both literally and figuratively because it was damn near impossible not to at the very least bob your head if you weren’t going to jump up and down and rock out.

Photo by Zach Berger
Photo by Zach Berger

Arts Crawl came, Arts Crawl saw, and Arts Crawl conquered Penn State yet again. If only Penn State’s best live music festival (sorry Movin’ On) was a little better advertised…

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