Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024
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STEVEN SIMPSON / PHOTO EDITOR

Comic rock group Short, Medium, Tal makes their debut performance, playing air-ukulele to Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” moments before transitioning into the harsh “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine.  

It’s a rare sight to see Hopkins students so enthused by the arts. Theater gains attention mostly by faculty and alumni, and while the University’s plethora of acapella groups offer a great artistic community, their shows are scattered and inconsistent. One might even point to the Spring Fair Concert as evidence for a perceived interest in the arts by the student body, but as far as student performances go, there is only one main event which seems to receive broad interest across all demographics: the “Spring Show,” organized by WJHU Radio.

We’re all lucky the Spring Show even happened this year. My friends and I went to the Beach to check it out at the planned time — 12:30 p.m., April 27 — even though it was raining, mainly because the promotional material stated quite boldly: “rain or shine.” Even the slight drizzle was apparently enough to stop the show, however. Understandably so, as the club rented out some very expensive-looking equipment: tall rows of speakers and multiple microphones, cables dancing around the floor and a whole mixing board underneath a broad blue tent. 

Tarps covered the instruments (which seemed to be the main worry), and no one was to be seen. Perhaps the issue was the turnout, but regardless, the club sent out a message on their Instagram — the concert was delayed. Thankfully, the rain cleared up, and although the sky was grey and dreary, people began to filter in.

A familiar face, Gustavo Fring, took the stage, an emo rock band which gets its name from the antagonist of the hit TV show Breaking Bad. I’ve seen them perform many times (and have turned into something of a superfan), but it had never occurred to me why they chose that show specifically, until guitarist and lead vocalist Ewan Armstrong stated it directly: they play meth rock, or as Armstrong called it, “that blue,” a reference to the tint of product made by Breaking Bad’s main character Walter White. 

Their set was all original songs, as multiple members study at the Peabody Institute, such as bassist Matt Warren and the band’s main songwriter, Thomas Potts, whose fast, melodic licks added a spritely character to the harsh, distorted bass. The group has a new song, “Geese on the Lease,” up on Bandcamp for free listening. 

After a short break, the punk band Lovegrove came on. Without a drummer, their performance lacked a beat-rocking swing, but the superb vocal performance by Mathew Polson made up for it. As far as composition, this band shined above the rest. They played their two singles, which are up on Spotify, “if that’ll help,” with a classic punk sound and shifting tempo  and “strange all the time” — a truly special song with a haunting melody and harsh, gritty guitar.

The next set by The Beat Attacks had a much more chill vibe. Since they are still led by a graduate of Hopkins — as he himself stated — they have added some “new blood” to the group, with freshman instrumentalists. They focused on more pop-heavy hits such as “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars, which created a nice serenity over the lawn. Their keyboardist and lead guitarist had the best vocal performances of the concert.

The biggest surprise of the show was Short, Medium, Tal, a new comic band. Their focus was clearly style over substance, as they made cardboard cutouts of instruments which they “played” while the speakers played the pre-recorded originals. The two guitarists had long wavy wigs of black and blonde, reminiscent of the hard metal style of the 1980s, one of them wearing a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket as a hat. 

They only played two songs: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne and a two-song setup that transitioned harshly from Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to the harsh hard metal hit “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine. Despite its gimmicky nature, the performance was legitimately entertaining.

Then the real St. Charles' band came on, performing some laid back hits like “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson. Their set was a nice reprieve from the energetic nature of the last performance, as the sun started to come out and more students flocked to the beach.

The Bohs returned as closers for the Spring Show, made up of Homewood graduate students. When I wrote a feature on The Bohs last year, they were just starting to make a name for themselves. Now they’ve become a familiar face, playing at numerous fraternity-organized events, such as Alpha Epsilon Pi’s “Battle of the Bands” during the fall semester, and they keep on living up to the hype. Their set included hits like “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse, “Kilby Girl” by The Backseat Lovers and a crowd favorite — “Zombie” by The Cranberries. My favorite moment of the show was when The Bohs pulled out a slightly obscure classic, “Doin’ Time,” by 80s rock band Sublime, which interpolates the jazz Gershwin classic “Summertime” over a rocking backbeat. 

This Spring Show — despite the weather conditions — lived up to past iterations and surpassed them in terms of turnout. By the time The Bohs took the stage, half of the Beach was full of scattered students drawn to the music like bees to honey. If anyone has worries about the student arts at Hopkins, it seems WJHU Radio is one of the student organizations we can still rely on. It also proves that the music speaks for itself: if you play it well, no one’s going to turn away.  


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