Photos courtesy of Lily Andrey.
Ankle biting, tracksuits, haircuts, and not one, but two renditions of the Scooby-Doo theme song: an authentic DIY scene experience.
On Friday, September 29th, Phi Kappa Sigma (Skulls) hosted Franklin and Marshall’s first house show of the semester – and excitingly not the last.
The student band The Water Bears opened the night with Indie covers from Sweetheart, Phoneboy, and Joy Again. Driven by an incredibly tight rhythm section, the band wonderfully balanced niche covers and more popular songs to develop their Indie Rock sound. Other than their opener – and closer – “What’s New Scooby Doo,” the crowd’s favorite was overwhelmingly their original song. The Water Bears certainly have a promising future, and hopefully, their future sets will allow for more original content.
The crowd went wild before Test Drive played their first note. With effortless shifting between her soft, soprano runs and powerful belts, lead vocalist Christline Edward truly knows how to capture an audience. Although the primary instrumentation consisted of drums, bass, and keys, not once did their set feel empty, or like an instrument was missing, a challenging task to pull off with covers like The Weeknd and Dua Lipa. There was a wonderful balance between soft ballad originals and well-known fan favorites. Test Drive knows how to make a popular song sound like their own, proving their sophistication as a Franklin and Marshall band. The most energetic moment of the night was without a doubt when the Taylor Swift cover ended their set, attesting to the fact that no one can unite an audience like Taylor.
Demonstrator whipped out their tracksuits and overwhelming energy to headline the event. The Brooklyn-based band had clear New Wave and Punk influences but a unique sound. The frontman’s ability to work a crowd was the most striking feature of their set. Very few songs finished without him on the floor, once even crawling on all four biting ankles pretending to be a dog. The set moved to a more Punk feel as it progressed; with more aggressive instrumentation and banter leading into each song. Even if an audience member were a stranger to Demonstrator before the night, they could easily engage in their set due to their repetitive, memorable lyrics. Those who love live music were truly captivated by the presence of a band that understood the essence of a DIY show on the F&M campus.
Overall, the atmosphere was wonderful. Isak Murphy, bassist of Test Drive, said the event was “their best show yet” because of the intimacy of the venue. Other shows they’ve played failed to match the energy level.
So why hasn’t F&M seen more house shows? The answer is certainly not a lack of student interest. Nor is it a lack of student musicianship.
The unanimous verdict among musicians is that the thriving DIY scene is in Philly, not Lancaster. Even though Lancaster does offer spaces for jazz musicians, the same cannot be said for indie, rock, or punk artists. Isaac Kelly, senior at F&M and keyboardist for Demonstrator, said “The main issue is monetization.” He explained that bigger cities have an existing cash flow for the scene, making it easier to have a platform as a musician.
Lancaster has money, however. It’s just not dedicated to this. There is a sub-scene of Punk people in Lancaster, but “the problem is finding a place to do so.”
The simplest reason I can provide for the lack of house shows is this: no one has successfully organized until now.
So, what exactly inspired Skulls to host?
The social opportunities for Franklin and Marshall students are a bit polarized. The Lofts with their questionable aux and sweaty, sardine-like conditions can make a self-declared “party person” question their limits. Or the school’s engineered events, even with the best intentions, can still remind a student that they are in fact, at a school-sponsored event.
Jared Levine, former Social Chair and current President of Skulls, decided there was a need for “more traditional fun” on F&M’s campus, since many events relied on the use of alcohol, and Phi Kappa Sigma was no different. Campus pressure to host events with alcohol cannot be ignored, however, the fraternity needed to host a dry event that still interested students.
As a musician himself, Levine recognized the school provided no platform for musicians to perform. This is how Kelly and Levine crafted the idea of Skulls hosting a house show. Kelly had the musical connections and Levine the space, resulting in an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere where everyone had a great time.
Now, in all honesty, this dry event was not Skull’s effort to revive the punk straightedge movement in PA – the fraternity is on probation. However, maybe this “time out” was a much-needed period of reflection on the party scene at Franklin and Marshall. With its severe reliance on alcohol and clear domination by athletic teams, it leaves many students feeling that they have no social opportunities that interest them.
It comes as no surprise that these shows will become a regular event at the fraternity, at least once a semester.
Levine is aiming to change the reputation of Skulls, leading the fraternity into an era of inclusivity, and offering a sustainable alternative to the current social atmosphere. Skull’s efforts will not only benefit students, but will also create drastic strides in the formation of Franklin and Marshall’s much-needed DIY scene.
Freshman Lily Andrey is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.