A band of raucous Knox students shook and stirred in a line across the Rog Lodge stage on Friday, forming an unstoppable wall of sound to open a most memorable night of music.
The nine-piece opening group, Poets and Peasants, was skilled in moving the audience, literally. Throughout the set, the audience swayed, twirled and shuffled along with the band’s changing rhythms and styles. With multiple vocalists and instruments, including an upright bass, violin and trumpets, Poets and Peasants had a rich and full sound to their songs.
A new song, “The Violet Hour,” began with upbeat acoustic guitar notes from senior Sam Brownson and soon the drums joined in. Brownson and senior Annie Pittman’s voices mirrored the lyrics depicting “cascading,” as their voices layered and blended beautifully together. In the middle of song, instruments paused in between notes, cutting in and out, which produced an effective and varied rhythm, slowing down in tempo and then speeding up.
The especially rhythmic song “Ghost” proved to be a mover and shaker featuring a bouncy rhythm. The energy and vibrations from the band transferred, electrifying the floor to get the crowd moving, with audience members dancing hand in hand and shuffling their feet. The anthem-like song “We Rise” began with clapping right away as the crowd moved side to side. The audience joined in clapping the song’s unique rhythm, ending the song with a build and an abrupt stop, followed by cheers from the audience.
Next came Bella Ruse, with Kay Gillette as vocalist and Joseph Barker as guitarist. Bella Ruse was interactive with the audience not only with their music, but also with their personal lives, sharing stories about their vegetable oil van breaking down and experiences in college in between songs. The first few songs showcased the duo’s self-described genre of “cute rock.”
Gillette’s voice had chameleon-like qualities, singing songs with a unique inflection and matching her tone to the mood of the song. For “An Animal, A Natural,” Gillette managed to teach the audience how to coordinate rhythm and clapping and promised to award a temporary tattoo to “whoever claps the most enthusiastically.” Gillette’s short-term tattoo placement of choice? “The forehead is what I recommend,” she said. The catchy rhythm of “An Animal, A Natural” was made for stomping and clapping as Barker strummed and Gillette danced behind her keyboard.
Happy-go-lucky Gillette sung “Complicated Rhythm” with a smile so infectious, the audience smiled with her. Shifting in mood, “Hold Me Close” featured gentle strumming and showed Kay’s vulnerable side with lyrics like, “Hold me close and closer still.”
Her voice was soft and fragile, like it could be broken easily, while playing the role of a pleading lover, repeating the lyrics “Oh, my darling.” The next song “Sea Love” sustained a slightly heavier mood, imagining a world where fish still roam the sea after “we are dead and gone.”
“Dark Horse,” a story of loving a man who is a “dark horse,” was the strongest song lyrically with lines like “God has chosen all but me and I have chosen you/Yes, I have chosen you/That’s love, that’s love.” Often, it was just Barker’s guitar and Gillette’s voice, with sound stripped down to their advantage.
Senior Amy Miller described Bella Ruse as “very personable” and this was true as Gillette told the audience of her own experiences in college, studying opera before introducing a song as “the $20,000 French fund.” At one point she gave a shout out to Galesburg, which resulted in cheers. Including teaching rhythms, Gillette taught the audience vocals for the laughter-inducing song “Satan Served Me Sandwiches.”
With deliberate pauses and skilled comedic timing, Gillette’s lyrics describing the sandwich and Satan brought out chuckles from the audience. In the song, she unveiled the story of why Satan served sandwiches — he was a vegan — and in retaliation, proclaimed her love of meat and bacon. After the audience shouted for another song, Bella Ruse played “Push On,” a slower song, for the finale.
Amy Miller was happy with both the fun and educational performances of both bands. “I hadn’t seen Poets and Peasants before and I thought that was a lot of fun,” she said, “and Bella Ruse was very nice … I learned something about hell and they follow vegan dietary laws and that might conflict with some people’s preferences.”