Organ Yank Comes Home

Logan Buckley

An enthusiastic crowd filled the ’Sco last Thursday, bobbing their heads, tapping their feet and swaying to the beat of Oberlin’s own Organ Yank. It would have been a nostalgic scene had it not been so energetic.

Older Oberlin students will remember the days when the members of Organ Yank were still on campus, bringing their trademark jazz-rock to venues ranging from Slow Train and house parties to Fairchild Chapel. On April 18, the group returned to play at the ’Sco with openers Knomadik and Van ’Go.

The opening acts impressed audiences — Knomadik, with an infectious blend of jazz and hip-hop, encouraged concertgoers to dance while exploring political themes with equal passion. But the show really got going when Organ Yank took the stage around midnight, launching into their set with a shout of “We are Organ Yank” by way of an introduction.

Organ Yank’s music is capable of an incredible energy, driven by the twin pistons of Alex Cohen’s, OC ’10, electric guitar and Danny Kamins’s, OC ’10, saxophone and supported by the bass and keyboards of Andrew Lawrence, OC ’04. The band’s abilities were on full display on Thursday night: their first song began with an infectious and distorted rock-influenced riff from Cohen’s guitar, developing into a back-and-forth exchange between Cohen and Kamins. Their stage presence and musical ability testified to the time they have spent together, where their shared experiences have clearly led to a deeper mutual understanding.

Drawing on the traditions of jazz and rock as well as diverse influences ranging from the blues to Balinese Gamelan, Organ Yank’s music walks the line between experimentation and listener-friendly pop. Though not every one of the band’s attempts take off, for most of their performance on Thursday the musical alchemy worked out, resulting in a performance that was engaging, fun and innovative.

Organ Yank formed at Oberlin in 2007, quickly gaining a sizable following during their four years on campus. The band released a demo in 2008, followed by a full-length album, We Are Organ Yank, which was released in 2010. After graduating from Oberlin, the band went on a national tour, playing in cities from Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh to Austin and New Orleans. After the tour, the band relocated to Chicago, where it has been playing music since at venues like the Elbo Room, Uncommon Ground and Red Line Tap.

Organ Yank’s show at the ’Sco was part of their midwest tour with Knomadik and De’Sean Jones, which included performances at venues in Chicago as well as the Organ Pump on Friday and at the nearby venue Mike’s Barn on Saturday.