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Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers Bring Psychedelic, Feel-Good Vibes To Champs Downtown

Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers made its debut in Happy Valley on Wednesday, April 5, at Champs Downtown. Self-described by lead singer Joe Hertler, the Michigan-based band’s vibe is a blend of Jamiroquai funk and jazz, Death Cab for Cutie indie rock, and The Flaming Lips’ psychedelic sound.

The show hummed to life with a saxophone-heavy, instrumental opening at 10 p.m. The stage, covered with large flowers, was blasted with vibrant lights. The TVs surrounding the bar displayed the classic Champs logo, accompanied by overlays of 70s smiley face flowers, waving tye-dye colors, and fading images of jumping dolphins.

“Our career is very much immediate Midwest, mountain states, and West coast with a little East coast thrown in,” Hertler said. “This tour in particular has been about hitting a lot of cities we have never played in.”

The band fully embraced the psychedelic, feel-good vibes of its music, and the venue invoked feelings similar to when Dorothy first landed in Oz, seeing vibrant technicolor.

The members fit the whimsical theme, donning colored outfits for the set, including a pink gingham jumpsuit, a 90s patterned hoodie, and a bright red tracksuit with light-up gold sneakers.

One of the first songs was a recent release, “Spinning Out.” Hertler led with his acoustic guitar and overalls. Over by the bar, people were nodding their heads to the tune, and a crowd gathered at the stage.

The next number was “Evening Coffee,” which was a jazzy number that showcased Caleb Elzinga’s saxophone playing.

The following song, “HELP,” highlighted Ryan McMahon’s heavy drum beats and guitarists Ryan Hoger and Jason Combs’ classic rock chords. The main chorus energized the crowd as it was jumping under the rose-shaped spotlights on the dance floor.

Another highlight was “Last Ovation.” The song was slower and an easy listening tune, but Elzinga returned with smooth jazz runs, much to the audience’s excitement.

One guy in the audience even screamed, “I love the saxophone,” with a heart full of passion during one of the saxophone solos.

At this point, Hertler pointed out the colorful merch table in the back, manned by tour manager Logan Schooley. It was decorated with quirky band t-shirts, free stickers, and a wood-carved statue of a one-eyed raccoon.

After a quick pause, the band started the friendship-inspired song, “Last Two Dinosaurs Alive,” which had a coming-of-age movie, summertime feeling. At this point, the dance floor had a solid number of couples and friends swaying or dancing to the warm sound.

Hoger ended up “Weezer-ing” the crowd with the iconic “Buddy Holly” riff at the end of the song.

After a few other songs, the Rainbow Seekers ended up doing two covers that inspired some of its own records. One was “Canned Heat,” the popular song Napoleon Dynamite danced to during student election day. Hertler followed suit, busting out similar moves to the iconic Idahoan during the performance.

The second cover was Village People’s “Macho Man,” which the crowd went crazy for. The dance floor was filled with arms in the air moving to the beat and loud chants of “I’ve got to be a macho man.” Who knew so many people knew the lyrics?

“It’s just fun. It’s interesting to play, but you gotta really sell it,” Hertler said.

The set ended with “What I Want,” a funky-pop tune. Hertler dazzled the crowd with his falsetto, and people were interested in the catchy chorus. People continued to dance and boogie along to the song, followed by loud applause for the band.

The general audience reception was overwhelmingly positive.

“They were phenomenal. I was so hyped to see them, and they really showed out,” audience member Jonathan Perini said.

Some students, like junior Everett Klusmeyer, have been following the band for a while and were excited about the performance.

“I’ve been listening to them on Spotify for a while. It was a good mix of new songs, old songs, and covers,” Klusmeyer said. “If you love funk or retro-type stuff, I would absolutely listen to it. It’s so engaging and interesting.”

The band was also happy with the Penn State crowd, and it’s safe to say Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers are planning on returning to the 814 again.

“The fact that people came out, and people were ready to dance and party was super fun for us,” Elzinga said. “You guys f*cking rocked State College to the max.”

Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers will finish touring this April. You can stay up to date with its music on Instagram and Spotify.

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About the Author

Marie Moyer

Marie is a fourth-year student majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. She loves being fiscally irresponsible at local farmers markets, watching niche documentaries on HBO, and going to Penn State hockey games as "self-care." You can reach her on Instagram - @_mariemoyer_ or send her suggestions (and cat photos) via her email - [email protected].

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