Kenyon Graduate Brings Synth-Pop to Cat


Kellianne Doyle

Half Waif frontwoman Nandi Rose Plunkett performs for an attentive Cat in the Cream audience. Half Waif previewed songs from its upcoming LP, the yet-to-be-titled follow-up to its debut Kotekan, on Saturday night.

Lya Finston

College junior Sammy Mellman joined bands Half Waif and Sedna’s not alone. for a cohesive and friendly show at the Cat in the Cream Saturday night, creating a warm atmosphere of sweet tunes and even sweeter friendship.

Half Waif, the synth-pop project of Kenyon College graduate Nandi Rose Plunkett, headlined the rainy evening with a dreamy set. In addition to a handful of older material, the Brooklyn-based group, which also features drummer Zack Levine and guitarist Adan Feliciano, premiered songs from its latest LP, the yet-to-be-released follow-up to its debut Kotekan. Completed at the end of July, Half Waif ’s latest release is shaping up to be a musical testament to the summer sun, as its upbeat, exuberant tracks spread a warm glow throughout the packed and highly attentive Cat audience Saturday night. Plunkett’s voice pierced through the band’s instrumentation with striking clarity. Smiling and nodding her head throughout the set, Plunkett’s charm was impossible to ignore, especially after her constant compliments and thanks to the Cat in the Cream and the audience. While advertising her handmade CDs and hand-printed T-shirts toward the end of her set, Plunkett added, “I really want to make friends, too, so come talk to me!”

Plunkett thanked her new Oberlin friends once more with a good-hearted post on Half Waif ’s Facebook page after the show, saying, “You never know what to expect from venues you’ve never played. … Oberlin, you are crazy! Thank you for … being so earnest, enthusiastic, encouraging and kind. … Those cookies are the stuff of dreams.”

Sedna’s not alone., the solo indie rock project of Sandusky, Ohio, native Michael Kaple, preceded Half Waif with a moodier and heart-wrenchingly earnest performance. With only his guitar, crooning voice and loop pedal, Kaple played a somber set of lo-fi tracks off of his 2014 EP Carolyn, which he recorded in an attic. He also called Mellman back up to accompany him for two songs.

Fans of minimalist Midwestern blues were immediately enamored by Kaple’s performance. His slow guitar strums and melancholic lyrics lulled the audience into an introspective sobriety that flowed naturally and seamlessly into the following act. The record’s title track, “Carolyn,” struck audience members with lyrics like, “Carolyn, / you watched me climb into your attic / in a dream / a long, long time ago. / If I wake, / I’m sure to find there’s something magic, / and if I don’t, / I guess I’ll never know.”

However, Kaple’s loop pedal was less effective, at times giving way to cringingly overdramatic harmonization that went on for far too long. During one song, an exagerated ending featured Kaple crouching over his pedal for a slow fadeout of looped vocals that felt awkwardly studio-esque in the context of a live performance setting. In the end, the singer-songwriter should have stayed truer to his lo-fi, minimalist sound rather than spoil it with grandiose vocal loops. Nonetheless, Sedna’s not alone.’s set was almost equally enjoyable as Half Waif ’s, perhaps even more so.

Like Plunkett, Kaple rounded out his act in an amicable manner, telling the crowd, “If you want to buy CDs or be my friend or come talk to me, just chat me up after the show.”

College junior and trombonist Sammy Mellman, who played before Kaple, quickly won the hearts of Cat crowd members with his opening set. Mellman started the night off strong with a set of both covers and originals, including songs by Elliot Moss, Alex G, Bon Iver and R.L. Kelly. Many of the songs Mellman played Saturday night came off of his latest cover album Close to Home, which he home-recorded with only his iPad, loop pedal and trombone and released last February.

Throughout his performance, the Oberlin trombonist capitalized on the presence of to join him in playing the majority of his set list. Levine played four songs with Mellman, including “Poem,” a spoken-word piece written and performed by Feliciano.

Mellman sang and bopped up and down passionately to the beat of his own music. As a one-man band, he impressed with the full, complete sound he created for each song with the aid of his loop pedal and beatboxing.

Mellman pioneered the theme of artist-audience friendship that characterized the rest of the show when he told the crowd, “If you don’t know me, say hi to me after the show … or around campus or something.”

At the end of the show, audience members piled out of the Cat in the Cream with not only a pleasant musical experience but also five new friends.