If there’s fifty kids crammed into a small place who all look like they’re having a blast, then it’s probably worth poking your head in to see what might warrant the hubbub, even if the event is called “Jammin’ with Grandma.” The Ike Box has had its history with shows in the past, and might have once carried a waft of un-cool as an all-ages joint. Several people commented, “Wait, they still put on shows?”
But none of the kids there Thursday were worried about any of that, or even that it was a Thursday night. The entire place was wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket of ‘90’s fashion and accessories, though these kids have no first-hand experience of the era. Still, they danced in a way that evoked a popular meme that escapes this author’s generation at the moment.
DoggyDogWorld, as if part of the trope, pumped out a mélange of mellow and somewhat tame rap rock between cover songs and checking their phones. Their frontman – a younger and less stoned looking Zach Galifianakis – rhymed his way through the set charismatically, while their bass player seemed to be borrowing equally form Jane’s Addiction’s basslines and wardrobe.
Even still, the crowd was energetic, both on and off the stage, and while this was certainly some awkward dancing at times, you could never say that they weren’t having fun. Every ounce of hipster pretension and too-cool-for-school nonsense was sucked out of the room. This was clearly a release for these kids – almost on break, encouraging permanent and impromptu entanglements to act themselves out in the various corners of The Box. You can sense the joy at just putting on a show, hanging out with their friends, and getting jacked up on coffee after dinner.
The centerpiece of the show was Percy Lounge (facebook.com/percylounge), who further mined the past with an updated Jazz/Rock fusion that brings Steely Dan into the 21st Century. Reed Betran – their singer and hyperactive visual component – strikes a Tomata du Plenty meets David Bowie persona, bouncing around among the band members, the equipment, the audience, and anything that might impede his lanky body. The guitar jams enter Floyd and CAN territory, and the keys almost bring to mind Traffic, but these kids are most likely absorbing those references through MGMT and The Flaming Lips. Fortunately, what comes through on stage is the skill and the energy.
Were we ever so young? Even from the crowd we were all exhausted for them, and as Funk Band took the stage to close the show – a mixture of the folks from the other groups – you could already feel that the night had peaked, and that these kids were headed back to the dorms soon. People were texting, watching each other, conferring. The show was ending, but the night never would. These kids had lifetimes ahead of them, careers and opportunities and heartbreak and misery and wonder, all waiting in the future.
Tonight, they danced.