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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Twin Shadow and Silent Drape Runners electrify Chums

Published: October 5, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

Chums hosted a concert last Saturday following the Santigold and Theophilus London show put on by Student Events. Serving as a type of after party, the concert was attended by a sizeable crowd and tickets were free but had to be acquired at the WBRS station in the campus center. Anticipating a large crowd, the event’s organizers were careful to ensure that Chums did not fill over capacity, giving ticket holders priority access before opening the concert to the general public.

Silent Drape Runners took on the double duty of performing as both openers and DJs for the concert. The band consists of Russ Marshalek and Sophie Weiner, who have a highly unlikely story of how they met. Marshalek had a monthly DJ night at Veronica People’s Club in Brooklyn. Deciding to do something odd for Halloween night, he played “Twin Peaks.” Marshalek also wanted someone to sing during the event and conscripted Weiner during a karaoke session. Their performance was so well-received by the audience that they asked the pair to perform again, and Silent Drape Runners was born. Weiner jokingly describes the band as “like The Postal Service but creepy.” The pair have no qualms against sharing some good-natured jabs at certain sections of music; their tumblr “pseudoprofoundelectrnicartists” pokes fun at electronic musicians that they believe take themselves way too seriously.

Their music on Saturday night reflected that sense of irony. Marshalek and Weiner opened with a sample from their unorthodox remastering of “Twin Peaks” and continued their set with  Weiner’s strange loops and simplistic vocals: One song simply had her repeat the words “fake yoga” over and over again in a parody of exercise routines. During the performance, a single Furby sat on the table where they were set up. This pervasive irony, however, failed to draw much of a reaction. Weiner occasionally spoke to the crowd about casual topics: her experiences at Brandeis, how it is to live on campus and whether or not the audience was excited for the next band. Yet, the effect was still one of a lounge outfit: there to provide ambience while the crowd mingled around Chum’s. After the pair finished playing their original content, they played various contemporary hip-hop tracks until Twin Shadow was ready to perform.

Twin Shadow is the stage name of musician George Lewis Jr. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Florida, Lewis moved to Boston sometime around 2000 to start the band Mad Man Films with two of his friends. The band released two albums before Lewis moved to Brooklyn and took the alias Twin Shadow. Lewis’ debut album “Forget” was released in 2010, produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and placed on Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums list for that year. Critics described it as being “steeped in 80s new wave.” His next album, “Confess,” was released this July, inspired by a motorcycle accident in Boston.

By the time Lewis and his compatriots took the stage, the coffeehouse had become packed to the rafters. Thanks to both a major publicity campaign through WBRS and to Twin Shadow’s popularity, Chums became incredibly crowded very quickly. The stage reflected the venue’s cramped quarters. Despite boasting only four performers, their instruments took up a lot of space. Light touches were added to brighten the stage itself, light bulbs hung from microphone stands, a smoke machine was turned on, and a couple of monitors displayed psychedelic images throughout the show.

Lewis began with “Five Seconds,” which builds from driving drums and bass into a quintessential 80s new wave song that translates extremely well into a passionate live performance. The band manages to cram a surprising amount of energy into otherwise simple tracks; what seems average on record turns into a powerful experience on stage. Before long, the entire crowd was dancing with incredible fervor and it was clear that Lewis was playing to a captivated audience. When he learned that it was an audience member’s birthday, the band started singing “Happy Birthday” to the tune of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and the man was promptly carried around Chums by his peers.

When it came time to close out the show with “Golden Light,” Lewis cashed in a favor: the audience, after the second song, promised to take off their shirts and wave them around—sure enough, the request was met by over half the crowd.

Twin Shadow is a complete package: a band made up of great musicians who know how to get the crowd excited. Last Saturday was one show that Chums will not likely forget anytime soon.