Musicians Perform Winter Tours

Samantha Spaccasi, Staff Writer

Many Oberlin students spend Winter Term taking classes, interning at a nonprofit or learning a new instrument. But for student musicians, January presents the perfect opportunity to go on a short tour, as several student bands did this year.

College seniors Emma Blackman and Rob Jamner are members of Oberlin-based band Remember the Bees, which toured as a group for the first time this Winter Term. Three of the band’s four members, Blackman, Jamner and drummer Danielle Schneider, had never toured prior to their involvement in the band. Remember the Bees’ bassist, College junior Charlie Kimball, toured previously as a member of Existential Animals with Mark Moritz-Rabson, OC ’15, and Alex Tasker, OC ’16.

During a week-long tour, the band played in Louisville, KY; Allentown, PA; Chicago; and New York City. Blackman said that the fledgling group enjoyed the experience. “I learned a lot and thought it was really fun,” she said.

“It was four friends playing songs together in different cities,” Jamner agreed. “It was such a fun experience, and I’m ready to do it again soon.”

Though the tour was an enjoyable experience for the group overall, the steps they needed to take leading up to the actual tour were challenging.

“It was a little stressful trying to promote because we’re a brand-new band and we don’t have much of a draw,” Jamner said. “Finding people to share the bill with us and market ourselves was a little stressful before the tour, but once everything was set up, it went surprisingly well.”

Both Blackman and Jamner agreed that the highlight of the Remember the Bees tour was playing at Moe’s Tavern, a Simpsons-themed dive bar in Chicago.

“It had this ridiculous sound system,” Jamner said. “Charlie was noticing these extremely nice pieces of equipment. They had this spinning speaker for pianos similar to what The Beatles used.”

Blackman and Jamner said that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of their musical careers. They also shared the bill with two bands they really liked — The Luna Blues Machine and Beach Bunny — which made the night even better.

In addition to playing shows, the band’s members also took time out of their tour to add their voices to a growing nationwide protest movement. In Chicago, Remember the Bees attended the Women’s March.

“It helped to know that we could set aside time to do that,” Jamner said.

Blackman added that it was difficult to be touring during President Trump’s first week in office, but she felt encouraged seeing artistic communities in different cities continuing to thrive.

“Even in a place like Allentown, there’s this small, booming artistic scene,” she said. “It’s nice to know that people are still creating in the midst of all this.”

The World All Around, another Oberlin-based band led by Conservatory seniors Griffin Jennings and Hayden Arp, also found its tour intersecting with political activism across the country during their show at the Park Church Co-op in Brooklyn, NY. Jennings, a TIMARA major, said that it was one of his favorite places that group played on their most recent tour.

“It was the day of the New York City Women’s March, but it was after all the stuff wound down,” Jennings said. “We got a good crowd of people who were very tired but also thankful to be there and listen to nice music. It was a very long, intense day.”

The World All Around toured for a week with dates in Somerville, MA; Providence, RI; Sparkill, NY; Brooklyn, NY; and Alexandria, VA.

Prior to Winter Term, Arp and Jennings also took the fall semester off to tour. While the most recent shows featured a string quartet, past shows saw the group perform as a traditional rock band and in an electronic format. Arp and Jennings originally wanted to include other Conservatory students on the tour, but most of the students they asked were unable to join them.

Instead, Jennings and Arp collaborated with some musicians from Berklee College of Music to form their string quartet, which enabled the group to play in some intimate venues that helped articulate the “quiet, intimate moments” of the music, which “would be lost in a bar or more standard rock venue,” said Jennings.

Ben Guterl, College junior and guitarist for the Montclair, NJ-based band Forth Wanderers, also went on a short tour over Winter Term, hitting four cities in four days. Though Guterl and Forth Wanderers are no strangers to touring, it was the first time the group, previously accustomed to being a supporting act, headlined its shows.

“I didn’t think it would be that much different, being the main act, but I felt a lot of pressure and responsibility for people having a good time,” Guterl said.

The band played in Boston; Brooklyn, NY; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia.

“It was really fun and kind of crazy because we sold out every show but Boston,” he said. “It was the most popular we’ve ever felt. It was cool having people be at these shows for us.”

One of the highlights from the Forth Wanderers tour was at Baby’s All Right, a prominent local venue in New York City, which garnered a listing in the Night Life section of The New Yorker and attendances by a reporter from The New York Times and indie rock artist Alex G.

“Baby’s All Right was crazy,” Guterl said. “After the listing came out, the tickets went so quickly.” Guterl added that he likes playing in New York City because he and the band have a lot of friends there. “It’s kind of like home for us,” he said. “The whole night I was running into people that I haven’t seen in a while. It was really cool.”

Still, for Guterl, touring has its ups and downs.

“My least favorite part is that it’s a grind. It wears on you, sleeping in a new place every night, sleeping on a couch if you’re lucky.”

Despite this, he also said that touring is so enjoyable because he has close relationships with his bandmates.

“I love being with them and being trapped with them. I think we’ve come very far as friends because of going on tour. I like going through all these crazy experiences with them,” he said. “It’s a unique way to develop your relationships with your friends.”