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The Scarlet & Black

Psych-pop sounds chill Gardner out

Those not at Gardner Lounge on Tuesday night missed out on two fantastic performances from opening group Dead Gaze and psychedelic-pop band Dent May. A spell was cast on the group of Grinnellians present, weaving and bobbing around the vividly-colored stage. A soothing mix of powerful synth tones and upbeat lyrics from both bands washed away stresses and worries, making awkward bystanders fast friends by putting their uneasiness aside.

The bands seemed to fit perfectly into the niche that is the Grinnellian musical community, receiving hoots of approval and delivering confident, high energy performances.

“It was a great indie-pop blend, that had pretty wide appeal for everyone,” said Dylan Bondy ’16. “I was skeptical at first, but I really enjoyed it.”

The Concerts Committee felt confident in bringing the two groups to Gardner.

“Unlike Bob’s Underground, where people are sitting down and drinking coffee, Gardner is really different for people who want to stand up and dance,” said Concerts Chair Moira Donovan ’14. “[Dent May’s] stuff is pretty danceable, and Grinnellians love to dance.”

The night began with electrifying, head-bobbing anthems delivered courtesy of the self-described weirdo pop group Dead Gaze, a five-piece band that morphed out of founder Cole Furlow’s creative efforts. Furlow gains most of his inspiration from his home state of Mississippi and prefers writing lyrics “in the bliss of solitude,” according to the band’s website. Their songs heavily incorporate over-compression, with an emphasis on production as another instrument, not just a process.

“I think texture is something that is just as important as writing nice melodies and recording big songs,” Furlow wrote on Dead Gaze’s SoundCloud.

Mixed with 90’s-influenced indie rock and pop, Dead Gaze’s lyrics capture youthful angst and tender moments, blanketed in warm melodies. Dead Gaze creates a hazy synth feel through persistent usage of low fidelity, or low-fi, effects, such as hum, background noise and distortion. The resulting effect derives from the technical flaws that compose a sound different from the one you would hear live, so Grinnellians who were at Gardner on Tuesday may have felt that the songs they heard on Spotify differs significantly from the live performance they witnessed.

In parallel, Dent May’s music spins stories and tells tales with a ukelele and a pop-anthem feel. This is a band that does not take itself too seriously, an attitude discernible from the cover of their album, “Warm Blanket,” which features the singer immersed in a frothy covering of bubbles, and the name of their production company, Cats Purring Dude Ranch.

With strong influences derived from power-pop groups such as The Cars, Dent first published a soothing track of ukulele tunes under the moniker “Dent Sweat.” Eventually, the ukelele was swapped for guitar riffs and drum machines, with an emphasis on delivering a message.

“I prefer good storytelling, and a lot of his songs tell funny stories,” said Jenny Samuels ’16. “Not all his songs are bubbly; he sings a lot of personal songs about sad topics, as well.”

Dent has a way with words, lyrics that speak of sincerity and soul without the bitter outlash that similar pop songs contain. Their newest album, “Do Things,” contains many happy melodies but also tells the story of dark turns and inner struggles in a very personal way.

After Dead Gaze’s pounding drums and room-shaking guitar riffs, Dent May gently cleansed the aural palate. The unlikely pop star (how many artists wear giant spectacles?) crooned his ever-popular “Born Too Late” to the swaying crowd, as Grinnellians hummed along. Dent’s songs are the syrup-sweet blend guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Dent May crooning to the Gardner crowd. Photo by Jacob Salzman.
Dent May crooning to the Gardner crowd. Photo by Jacob Salzman.
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