The Oberlin Review

Despite Virtuosity, Listeners Unconvinced by Hamasyan Show

Clara Shannon

April 25, 2014

It’s not on every college campus that students can spend their Saturday night devouring vegan cookies, sipping on peppermint tea and watching a performance of an Armenian award-winning jazz-rock, avant-garde trio — but at Oberlin they can. Renowned musician and composer Tigran Hamasyan took the stage at the Cat in the Cream, greeting a completely packed audience last Saturday. Since he began playing recitals and music festivals at the age of 13, Hamasyan has earned serious recognition for his piano skill. Aided by the huge success of his five albums, he has performed all over the world, including Montreux, Montreal, North Sea, Juan Les Pins, Marciac, the London Jazz Festivals and the Winter Festival in New York. Since...

Improv Troupes Find Humor in Low Places

Matthew Sprung, Staff Writer

April 18, 2014

Sometimes improv comedy gets weird — but even though this weirdness can turn newcomers off to the genre, it’s also the best part of the show. To kick off the two-day Oberlin College Improv Conference last Friday, three professional improvisation teams performed what could be considered “extra” long-form improvisation, staying on stage continuously for fifty-minute sets at a packed Cat in the Cream. The anticipation that usually draws crowds to this annual conference is the name recognition of the headlining act, the hugely popular group Upright Citizens Brigade, but the two other acts of the night also got their share of laughs — and yes, things got very weird. As the room quieted down, the first of the...

“Tales By Moonlight” Showcases African Literature and Folktales

Rosie Black, Production Manager

April 11, 2014

“You have an event in your life that wakes you up, and not just you but all the people around you,” College sophomore Sophie Umazi Mvurya said, explaining why she’d chosen to read a passage from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Purple Hibiscus. The setting was “Tales by Moonlight,” a low-key and eclectic reading sponsored by the African Students’ Association as part of Africa Week; Mvurya was one of many students who took to the Cat in the Cream stage Tuesday night to share their diverse selections. Selections were drawn from both modern literary sources and traditional folktales, and although the evening got off to a rocky start, it eventually found a sweet spot in the combination of the...

Annual Friendship Day an Artful, Varied Meditation on Companionship

Clara Shannon

April 11, 2014

Despite the chaos that always ensues after spring break, Oberlin students and faculty alike came together to celebrate and honor the meaning of friendship at the Cat in the Cream on Tuesday afternoon. Friendship Day showcased student performers of many forms and genres, including spoken word, jazz, folk, didgeridoo, speech and poetry, all of which focused on the topic of friendship. Along with the entertainment, attendees were encouraged to eat free food, doodle with a friend, make friendship bracelets and relax in the warm, positive environment. Friendship Day was originally created in the spring of 2010 and has remained an Oberlin tradition since then. The two-anda-half hour event was organized by Oberlin’s Friendship...

Psychedelic Art Rock Clashes with Folk Expectations

Psychedelic Art Rock Clashes with Folk Expectations

April 4, 2014

Subverted expectations are familiar to everyone, be it a “date” that was actually just “hanging out” or a book with a bad cover but a great ending. The Heather French Henry concert at the Cat in the Cream on March 31 followed this pattern, leading the audience to expect mellow folk, but delivering psychedelic art rock instead. While the bait and switch was disorienting at first, the show was engaging enough to overcome such a handicap and deliver a strange but captivating night. Opener...

Roche Returns to Share Poetic Music, Oberlin Anecdotes

Nora Kipnis

October 4, 2013

“Is that bothering you guys?” singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche, OC ’03, slyly asked in her feather-light voice, as she stood in red leather boots and tuning a guitar with a borrowed strap on the Cat in the Cream stage last Thursday. The audience laughed, and it was unclear when exactly she stopped talking and started singing: “Why not put all our doubts behind us / We’ve got Brooklyn at its finest.” In celebration of the release of her sophomore album, There’s a Last Time for Everything, on Oct. 15, Roche drove to Oberlin from New York to play a reunion concert of sorts at her alma mater. “Pennsylvania, man. It’s too bad about that,” she said in a knowing voice after her first song, and al...

Dirty Projectors Double Bassist Nat Baldwin Proves Awkward but Engrossing in Solo Performance

Willa Rubin

October 4, 2013

Nat Baldwin, bassist in Dirty Projectors, used a double bass and a bow to share his reflections on some important themes last Wednesday at the Cat in the Cream. Baldwin, on tour in support of his upcoming album People Changes, reflected on growing up, feeling empty inside, finding oneself and discovering how to connect to others during his sparse, mellifluous set. If you know Baldwin, it’s probably because of his work with his main act, whose most recent full-length effort, Swing Lo Magellan, landed on several year-end best-of charts in 2012. If not, you’ve likely heard him before: He has contributed songwriting and bass playing to other bands in the alternative and folk scenes, including Vampire Weekend and ...

International Blues Express Unites Creole and Malian Blues

Anne Pride-Wilt, Staff Writer

September 27, 2013

“This is my first job as a translator,” Cedric Watson told the crowd in a quiet moment during his performance at the Cat and the Cream last Friday, which was one of his first collaborations with Sidi Touré as International Blues Express. Touré, a Malian singer-songwriter, admitted early in the show that his English was shaky, and afterward spoke to the audience exclusively in French, leaving the Texas-born Watson to translate. According to French speakers in the audience, Watson’s translations were haphazard and general, as acknowledged by the inexperienced translator, who often mangled Touré’s elegant phrasing or missed his gist entirely. Fortunately, however, the musical translation — between Watson’s...

Trio Globo, Students Unite for Memorable Performance

Matthew Sprung

September 27, 2013

It’s not every day that Conservatory students get to perform with Grammy award-winners. However, last Saturday was one of those special days. The Performance and Improvisation Ensemble class played alongside the internationally acclaimed jazz band Trio Globo for the first half of their show at the Cat in the Cream. Commonly known as PI Ensembles, the student musicians were prepared for this performance by their coaches, Professor of Advanced Improvisation and Percussion Jamey Haddad and Associate Professor of Jazz Arranging Jay Ashby. Distinctions between students and international artists broke down into a ever-shifting synthesis of a variety of genres. In one song, Grammy-winning cellist Eugene Friesen smiled and...

Calvin Johnson Eschews Conventions at Cat Show

Anne Buckwalter

September 27, 2013

Calvin Johnson is many things: guitarist, singer, producer, disc jockey, and founder of K Records. But during his show on Thursday, Sept. 12, he tried to make it feel like he was just another person at the Cat in the Cream. Eschewing performance conventions in favor of a cultivated intimacy with his audience, Johnson played a set that, by its end, simultaneously puzzled and enraptured those in attendance. Johnson is often noted as a major influence on the modern independent music movement. He established K Records in 1982, according to the label’s website, and founded the Dub Narcotic Studio in 1993. That facility still exists, and in the spirit of DIY music-making, has helped many artists record, particularly those...

Kid Business Packs Hilarity and Physical Comedy into Cat Performance

Lydia Rice

September 13, 2013

Kid Business, the short-form improv group formally known as Obehave, entertained a large crowd at the Cat in the Cream last Friday, Sept. 6. Dressed in an impeccable combination of loud ties and t-shirts, the gang juggled mythological references and phallic jokes with ease, appealing to the intellectually immature and the immature intellectuals in the crowd. Starting fashionably late, the performers, consisting of College seniors Peter D’Auria and Ben Garfinkel, College sophomores Ben Hyams and James Koblenzer, and Conservatory senior Rachel Iba managed to (mostly) succeed in keeping straight faces throughout the absurd situations that their sketches, presented as “games,” placed them in, with the assistance...

Peter and the Wolf’s Performance Lacked Needed Stage Presence

Alice McAdams, Editor-in-Chief

March 1, 2013

Peter and the Wolf’s performance at the Cat in the Cream on Saturday night was set up with everything a cozy, folksy Cat show needs to succeed: the cookies were warm, every seat in the room was filled and the band was squeezed together on an onstage couch to perform. Despite the group’s talented command of acoustic guitar and vocals, the show was tinged with the awkwardness of the band members’ overly self-deprecating attitude and sarcastic jokes between songs. Redding Hunter, the band’s frontman, dominated most songs, while his two female accompanists, Dana Falconberry and a guest artist, introduced solely as “Zoe,” either sang backup, picked a little guitar or just sat onstage. Their range of vocal abilities,...

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