Last Saturday, Geneseo students and many visitors were treated to a blazing spectacle of energy, emotion and rock as Kuhl Gym hosted Treaty of Paris, Augustana and Jack's Mannequin.
As testament of the tremendous popularity of the headliners, a huge crowd gathered outside the doors of the gym almost two hours before the show was scheduled to begin. Concert organizers then opened a second line in a beleaguered attempt to keep fans from overcrowding the street and parking lots. While the doors opened at 8 p.m. almost 35 minutes late and, much to the chagrin of many of the concert-goers, all was forgiven as Treaty of Paris quickly took the stage.
Relatively unknown outside of their native Chicago, the band nevertheless delivered a compelling set which shifted eclectically from melodic pop shuffle to blistering rock anthem. A small contingent of Paris fans even drove from Chicago to see their beloved band, and managed to set up shop right in front of center stage where they danced and sang wildly.
Meanwhile, Paris frontman Mike Chorvat cavorted across the stage throughout his songs, shaking, strutting and posing in Mick Jagger-esque style. Unfortunately, due to his small stature, long brown hair and erstwhile tambourine-playing, Chorvat ended up looking more like The Monkees' Davy Jones than anyone else. Despite this fact and a lack of familiar songs, the crowd seemed to enjoy the performance and managed to give Paris a rousing send-off after their set ended.
In terms of sheer musical ability, Augustana was clearly the standout performance of the night, with the superb mandolin-playing of Chris Sachtleben and haunting vocals of Dan Layus bringing out the best of this quintet from California. In contrast to the frenetic stomp of Treaty of Paris, Layus and his crew were all poise and cool. Most of Augustana's songs were very melodic and low-key, and Layus himself spoke little during the show, except for memorable quote, "You may have heard of this CD we have got called All the Stars and Boulevards." Layus then bashfully laughed to himself, "Well, s***…I guess you can buy it if you want."
Despite the beautiful nature of Augustana's performance, in many ways, they shared the same problem as Treaty of Paris: much of the crowd was unfamiliar with their songs. The crowd's interest began to wane, until they struck up their hugely successful single "Boston" at the conclusion of their set. Hundreds of cell phone lights dotted the crowd as the whole house joined in singing along with the hit single.
Augustana showed the crowd one side of California: the laid-back surf sway. But as Jack's Mannequin tuned their instruments, it was clear from the look in lead singer Andrew McMahon's eyes that here was an entirely different side to the west coast: the electric pulse of Los Angeles.
McMahon's crew started fast and just got quicker, louder and better as the concert progressed. The crowd had finally hit their speed - on every song, it was clear that Jack's Mannequin was the band people had really come to see. Each number was a sing-along, though McMahon was able to deliberately trip up the crowd a few times by devising unfamiliar intros, most notably on "Dark Blue" and "Into the Airwaves."
While both guitarist Bobby "Raw" Anderson and bassist Jon Sullivan showcased their fair share of personality and onstage antics, it was clear that McMahon was the spirit of the show. A dancing, singing, screaming whirlwind of blonde faux-hawk and brown slacks, McMahon stood and stomped on his piano, encouraged crowd-surfing and then jumped into the crowd himself. He told everyone to download his music illegally if necessary, and reached out to speak to fans in the "the abyss," his nickname for the bleachers in the back of the gym.
Ultimately, the show ended on a ultra-long version of "Made For Each Other/You Can Breathe" which featured rollicking solos from each of the band members, of which bassist Jon Sullivan's was by far the most skillful.