Concerts for philanthropic causes might be as common as students listening to iPods in today’s era, but the second annual UCIndie: A Benefit Concert for Iraqi Children, organized by members of the Baghdad School Project in conjunction with the Social Science Dean’s Ambassadors Council, made for a fun-filled night of upbeat music and camaraderie as part of a large effort to provide educational supplies to schoolchildren in Baghdad.
Kicking things off was The Madams, a female trio that stuck to the basics of guitar, bass and drums. With a crunchy, bare-bones brand of old-school, bar-chord classic rock, it brought a simple, yet upbeat sound, proving that once in a while, less is more. Although The Madams’ sound might have been a bit too much meat-and-potatoes and occasionally monotonous as the drummer rarely deviated from the consistently mid-tempo feel, the lead singer’s sly vocal style with a punch of attitude and the bassist’s aggressive approach with neat fill-ins and slides made up for the drawbacks.
The 400-person capacity in Social Science Lecture Hall initially seemed too large for an event where only 25 to 30 individuals were present at the beginning when The Madams took the stage. However, by the time The Madams finished and Transit Sound started its set, the seemingly near-vacant room began to fill up more as people were slowly trickling in, reaching a height of around 60 to 70 attendees.
Despite the modest turnout, the vast nature of the lecture hall resulted in the feeling of a somewhat empty setting, a noticeable observation that a couple band members pointed out. They seemed to have expected a large crowd while joking at the fact that they were performing in a classroom.
Nevertheless, Transit Sound picked up the speed with a rousing set that commanded the audience’s attention. The result was a rock/post-punk style reminiscent of Taking Back Sunday as characterized by the tag-team vocals. Despite this obvious influence, the band constantly remained in full force, rounded out by the heavy bottom end and steadfast drums while the lead guitarist employed his guitar pedal arsenal to add complexity to the songs as high-pitched, electronic squeals screamed out of his guitar. Utilizing the stage space well through their herky-jerky movements and occasional head banging, Transit Sound remained visually captivating and stimulating. Despite the absence of a mosh pit or standing area, the sign of people rocking out in its chairs indicated that the band’s performance connected well with the audience.
Capulet followed with a similar, yet more streamlined sound that was unfortunately a bit outdated and behind the times. Channeling Yellowcard and New Found Glory, especially through their vocals, the band didn’t break much musical ground to make it a standout performance or demonstrate that it would be relevant in the long run. Regardless of this setback, Capulet delivered a high-powered performance complete with chunky, palm-muted guitar riffs and hard-hitting drums accentuated with yearning melody, demonstrating the band’s ability to write catchy songs that are listener-friendly.
For the two bands succeeding The Madams, the post-punk/melodic hardcore sound was clearly front and center. This common thread among each band resulted in a lack of variety that was a testament to the permeating effect of the genre, but the energy remained consistently high even as audience members began to leave toward the end.
Northern California’s Five Minutes To Freedom closed the show with an energetic, yet exploratory set of songs that gave the band an aura of originality not quite as present in the other bands. Having previously participated in the Vans Warped Tour, Five Minutes To Freedom justified its place as the headliner, mixing an alternative rock sound with borderline-progressive tendencies leaning in the direction of Coheed and Cambria. In addition to a solid, tight-knit rhythm section, the interplay between the two guitarists was intriguing as they traded off licks, using finger-tapping techniques along with digital delay and reverb to create a refreshing atmospheric ambiance and bright, rich textures to balance the band’s heaviness.
While there could have perhaps been a little more musical diversity among the bands, audience members were enjoying the music, and in the end, it was all for an excellent cause. Stressing the purpose and importance of the event, members of the Baghdad School Project took a moment to give a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the mission of the project, which has raised over $7,500 in donations. An indication that the project is aiming to have a more far-reaching effect, Kristal Lee, a second-year sociology major who is part of the Baghdad School Project, commented, “The goal is to provide educational supplies to 5,000 students this year, after we helped 2,000 students last year.”
Hopefully, with more events such as UCIndie that bring students and great music together for a beneficial cause, awareness can be raised about crucial global concerns within the scope of the UC Irvine community to have a more significant impact in other parts of the world.