Talented Geneseo students play intimate performance at Cricket’s Coffee Company

Pictured above is communication major senior Allison Leah, who performed alongside the band Straw Hat at Cricket’s Coffee Company on Thursday Feb. 1. Straw Hat includes vocalist senior Jennifer Bender, drummer sophomore Marty Bezinger and guitarist Noah Ellis, who is a student at Monroe Community College. (Mike Wall/Staff Photographer)

Geneseo is known for its strong and diverse music scene, and naturally, local establishments have given these acts support.

Cricket’s Coffee Company on Main Street hosted live performances from Geneseo based acts senior communication major Allison Altschiller—whose stage name is Allison Leah—and the band Straw Hat on Thursday Feb. 1. Students huddled around as they listened to their powerful sets.

After spending a semester abroad, Leah returned to give another performance at Cricket’s. Some highlights included a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” an original coincidentally titled “Coffee Cup,’ and one of the first songs she ever wrote, “Never Let You Go.”

Last year, Leah was the “new artist of the week” on Lightning 100, one of Nashville’s local radio stations. This January, she released her latest single, “Black and White,” which is a part of her upcoming EP and will be released in March. She gave a memorable performance of the original song at Cricket’s for her peers.

“I’ve been recording various tracks in New York City for about a year,” she said. “I’m lucky that my dad has a recording studio—the producer heard one of my songs, asked if we could do an EP, and I was like, ‘yes! Let’s do it.’”

Leah explained that she appreciates her roots in Geneseo and all the opportunities it has given her. 

“I definitely enjoy the small town feel [here at Geneseo] because then you have stuff like this where you can come and play and a lot of people come out to come support you,” she said. “I’m on WGSU with my first two singles and it’s really nice because someone in the Geneseo community will hear it and reach out to me.”

After Leah’s set, the local band Straw Hat took the stage. The group, which was formed in honor of fellow Geneseo student Samual Nichols who passed away in May 2017, is composed of vocalist senior Jennifer Bender, drummer sophomore Marty Benzinger, and guitarist Noah Elias, a student at Monroe Community College. 

The band performed original songs like “Little Boxes,” which is the first track on their self-titled EP. 

The trio also performed eccentric tracks such as “Parasite.” Their lyrics are notoriously witty, with one of their best being, “I should learn to chew my words before I spit them at you.” 

Bender was appreciative of the welcoming audience and ambience in the coffee shop during the band’s performance. 

“It was fun [performing at Cricket’s] because this is a place we were comfortable with,” said Bender. “We were surrounded with people that we know. It was a relaxed atmosphere and also we just have good chemistry between the three of us; I think people can see that.”

Elias also attributed their success to their close bond as a group. 

“We’re all just goofballs in our own respect and we’re very relaxed,” Elias said. “Even if we’re on stage with each other, we still laugh around. We know that it’s not high stress; it’s low tension when we play.”

Next in store for the group is releasing a full album. 

“We also have some shows lined up,” Bender said. “We’re always looking for venues in Geneseo that will let us play loud.”

Benzinger also commented on the band’s willingness to play wherever they’re welcome. 

“If there’s like a basement around and people are happy to host, we’re not terribly messy,” Benzinger jokingly added.

Allison Leah’s music can be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Music. In addition, Straw Hat’s music is available on Bandcamp (rawhat.bandcamp.com), Spotify, and Tidal. Be sure to keep up with both local acts as they continue to release new music and perform at various places around Geneseo.