If one thing is certain when it comes to the arts community at Hopkins, it is each artist’s individual passion. Whether it’s the many theater groups, orchestras or underground coalitions of rock-loving musicians, the arts of our lady Homewood are alive and well. But is this hidden culture that courses through the student body recognized as much as it should be?
One perfect example of this sometimes-hidden culture is The Bohs, a newly formed rock group made up of sophomores and seniors alike. I had the pleasure of interviewing the group as they rehearsed their performance for the student group showcase during Spring Fair.
My first exposure to The Bohs came just this past weekend at Alpha Epsilon Pi’s Hopstock event, a party full of ‘60s love and hippie energy. The Bohs were the closing performance, playing songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Chain” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” It was extremely refreshing after countless crowded basements full of Pitbull and Taylor Swift.
Their performance was really sophisticated, with grand, Jimi-Hendrix-style guitar solos by graduate student Garret Goldin and stunning vocals from lead singer Faith McCarthy. Aside from the setlist, it was a great experience to see a live band comprised entirely of students.
The band was initiated by McCarthy and guitarist and drummer Joe Zahner, who reached out on Sidechat this past summer to look for other members. Bassist Michael Ahmadi and Goldin got back to them soon after, and they kept in touch through the fall semester, making plans to start rehearsing after winter break.
The Bohs were finally formed just this past January, but they already have three shows under their belt. Two months after they first got together — after two weeks of intense, sweaty rehearsals in the Shriver Hall practice room — they got their first gig at Phi Kappa Psi’s Underground Sound concert this past March. The event was for charity and raised well over $1,000. Soon after, the group played at a dance group formal, and their most recent gig was at Hopstock this past Sunday.
In an interview with The News-Letter, McCarthy emphasized the role of the student radio station at Hopkins, WJHU, which helped get them gigs early on. She specified that WJHU booked The Bohs for Underground Sound.
“We definitely got lucky with the timing of things, like right as we were coming up, [WJHU] said, ‘Oh hey, we have this huge mashup of bands, do you guys wanna play?’” Goldin added.
The setlist at Hopstock only presented a limited range of The Bohs’ musical interests. When I asked each member who their favorite artists were, they all cited rock bands and rock musicians (obviously), but each of them had a different focus.
Goldin is a big Hendrix guy, but his favorite bands are mostly from the ‘90s, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Nirvana. McCarthy said she was more of a ‘70s girl, mentioning Maggie Rogers, an indie artist from her hometown, as a key influence. Zahner is mostly a blues rock, Grateful Dead fan, while Ahmadi plays classical cello as well as bass. As he joked, he has “a classical background but threw it all away for rock.”
“I think it’s really cool that everyone has their own thing they bring to the table... there’s a bunch of potential to have a lot of fun and not get bored,” said Zahner in an interview with The News-Letter.
This diversity of genre is useful when it comes to gigs as well. According to McCarthy, each of their three separate sets required a completely different era of songs. At Underground Sound, the bands were asked to play more ‘90s grunge. At the dance formal, they played more contemporary, pop hits from artists such as Gwen Stefani and Paramore. And of course, at Hopstock, they went back a few decades to indulge in the free-spirited sounds of ‘60s rock.
Versatility is a defining aspect of their music, with musicians swapping instruments mid-set and embracing the different tonal qualities of separate eras of rock.
“Metal-reggae-pop-funk-alternative,” Goldin said when asked which genre they may focus on.
Talking about the band scene at Hopkins, all the band members agreed something is simply lacking — whether it be a general lack of enthusiasm, lack of time or even a lack of resources.
Zahner mentioned that the band has really only encountered three other bands: Phi Kappa Psi’s band, Saint Paul, and two other bands from Peabody. As far as Homewood Campus goes, there are certainly plenty of musicians — WJHU’s Spring Show during Spring Fair had six featured artists and bands, ranging from rock to rap and hip hop.
“[Bands] are pretty far and few, at least on the surface... I feel like it’s a bit quieter than other campuses,” Goldin said.
According to Goldin, the band culture at other college campuses, such as Princeton University and George Washington University, is very much alive and well, positing that it might be a Hopkins-specific problem.
However, Zahner pointed out that there are plenty of people who play an instrument at Hopkins, and music is still a big part of Homewood Campus.
“Somewhere else, there might be a ton of bands that all suck... like they’re just going for it. Here, I think they’d be pretty good,” he said.
Goldin theorized that people may just be too shy to look for bandmates.
McCarthy chimed in, connecting the issue to other communities around campus.
“Generally, the arts at Hopkins are undervalued... I can’t speak for Peabody, but here at Homewood... even being in an a capella group, there’s so much talent that goes unseen,” she said.
For Ahmadi, it’s also due to a lack of opportunities.
“There need to be more opportunities to showcase the talent... more than just one show,” said Ahmadi.
This is a sentiment that I have witnessed firsthand as well — lots of artists who are mildly interested in starting a band never end up playing music together. It could be a lasting effect of the COVID-19 years, but even something as simple as a lack of creative spaces could be a huge factor.
Earlier in the interview, I asked about their experience rehearsing in Shriver Hall before they started practicing at Goldin’s apartment. Shriver Hall has one, beaten-up drum set in a small room on the basement floor. The main thing the band members complained about was the heat, which was compounded by the close quarters they had to play in, but, conceptually, lugging all the equipment (such as amps and guitars) to a distant hall every time you want to practice might take a toll on one’s enthusiasm.
The Shriver Hall practice room is the sole option for bands to practice together on campus. After construction for the new student center started in 2021, bands have had to relocate along with the various dance and a capella groups. This will change once the new student center is completed, but that’s out of the question for The Bohs as half of its members are seniors.
Regardless of the many constraints on student music culture and the band scene here at Hopkins, The Bohs are an example of what can be achieved if passionate musicians reach out and stay patient. It often only takes one person to bring a whole group of talented musicians together; you just have to reach out, even if it's through Sidechat.
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