Last Tuesday night, SA concluded their Springfest activities with their annual concert in the Reynolds Center. The short distance from the crowd to the stage and the standing room floor gave the venue a similar vibe to concerts held at Cain’s Ballroom.
This year’s show was the largest in the last three years, with four artists performing throughout the night. Opening bands The Rebel Light and Knox Hamilton warmed the stage for The Mowgli’s and headliner Misterwives.
Though it may seem initially appealing to have as many bands as possible to maximize the concert experience, the concert started at 7:45 and ended almost four hours later. Though it may be an appropriate tactic for a weekend festival, having a four hour concert on a Tuesday night when many people, myself included, had essays and homework due the next day felt like more of a nuisance than a benefit.
It also certainly didn’t help that the first band, The Rebel Light, only managed to shift back and forth between being actively annoying and blandly inoffensive. The actively annoying portion was their banter before the show began. The L.A. indie pop band’s attempts to banter with the crowd came down to cringe-worthy cat puns, shamelessly plugging social media (including Flickr and Google+) and attempting to take a selfie with the small, unresponsive crowd. The most egregious offense, however, came when the vocalist referred to our school as OU Tulsa while attempting to talk about how much of an honor it is to be playing here.
Thankfully, in a sense, their six-song set fit into the blandly inoffensive category. There was nothing horrid about the performance, but there was nothing to grab the listeners’ ears, either. The chord progressions were simple, the lyrics were uninspired and their stage presence was almost nonexistent. An occasional trumpet solo seemed to show potential, but they each used five notes at most and felt unnecessary. Similarly, their attempt at a big rock ending sounded less like a showcase of musical prowess and passion and more like the song was awkwardly falling apart.
After The Rebel Light left the stage, next on the lineup was Knox Hamilton. The band came to campus to perform last semester, thanks to SA, and seemed happy to be back to TU. Their set was more instrumentally complex and high-energy than The Rebel Light’s, allowing them to captivate the crowd and have some fun banter between songs.
Each of their songs felt unique and distinct, though the set as a whole lacked an ebb and flow. Like a good album, a good concert set has periods of highs and lows, times to speed up and times to slow down. Even The Rebel Light had a slow dance song near the end of their set. Knox Hamilton, however, had a consistent high level of energy, leaving them feeling like a bit of a one trick pony. This does not diminish the quality of each individual song, but it would benefit their performances in the future to work on incorporating more variability into their set.
After Knox Hamilton made their way offstage, the first headliner, The Mowgli’s, came to perform. The band’s feel-good lyrics and chill vibes create a very engaging juxtaposition when paired with their high-energy instrumentals, and their set as a whole had a good mix of slower songs and celebration tracks. One thing The Mowgli’s did well that the first two bands didn’t attempt much was giving more than one member of the band time in the spotlight. While most of the focus was on lead vocalist Colin Dieden, percussionist Katie Earl and guitarist Josh Hogan also received time in the limelight.
The band’s vibrant stage presence and frequent banter between songs gave the impression that they were truly enjoying themselves and were grateful to be performing. They were especially receptive to the crowd’s applause after performing their brand new single (unreleased at time of performance), “Freakin’ Me Out.” For their final song, “San Francisco,” Misterwives saxophonist Mike Murphy and trumpeter Jesse Blum joined the band on stage, a sneak peak of the final act of the night.
Once Misterwives finally took the stage for their set, they immediately filled the stage with energy. Vocalist Mandy Lee, in particular, was almost constantly moving, engaging the crowd and bringing her very unique personality to the show. Every other member of the band had their time to shine throughout the course of the show, but Lee was the one commanding the attention of the audience during most songs and speaking between songs.
Lee was very vocal about her beliefs and political opinions throughout the show, explaining them as the basis for some of the songs. She talked about inequality between men and women and going against society’s emphasis on conformity. Lee also called out Donald Trump before playing “Hurricane,” saying “I believe that love is stronger than hate, and we won’t let a racist, misogynist homophobe run this country!”
The set as a whole had an excellent variety, juxtaposing slow songs like “Oceans” and “Queens” with more energetic songs like “Best I Can Do” and “Reflections.” Their between-song banter and segments was also the best of any band at the concert. Moments like band members can-canning during the slowed down section of “Not Your Way” and Mandy Lee interpreting Jesse Blum’s horn (“I speak trumpet”) before the same song made the set fun and engaging.
The best part about Misterwives’s set, though, is how genuine Mandy’s every word and action felt. Whenever the crowd cheered after songs or after Mandy thanks them for being a good crowd, as she was apt to do, a smile would spread across her entire face and she would throw her head up to look away from the crowd and take a deep breath. She made the gesture rather frequently, but it always came off as genuine, like she felt truly blessed to be loved and respected by so many people.
Each band felt more engaging and entertaining than the one before them, and the show as a whole was a worthwhile experience. Despite a weak first band and a lineup that was too long for a Tuesday night, the Springfest concert was an excellent experience full of legitimately talented performers.