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Penn State? Good Music? Since When?

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Man, I picked a bad time to go out of the country.

In the years that I’ve been there, Penn State’s music scene has been pretty terrible.  While we have some decently talented local musicians (with British Phil being the best local talent by far–check them out), bringing in larger bands has always been a weak point.  Freshman year, we brought in The Clarks, though that’s to be expected since we’re so close to Pittsburgh.  And last year, we had Amos Lee and Josh Ritter (one of the best concerts I’ve been to).

We Are Scientists, courtesy of OnwardState.com

This year, though, the Penn State music program has really amped up.  (Lena told me that they recently got a new director, but I haven’t looked into that info myself).  Last semester I saw The Fray for $20 and Jack’s Mannequin for $5.  And before I left for New Zealand, I was able to catch free shows of both We Are Scientists and Motion City Soundtrack.

Ok, I’m going to get lazy with the links.  There’s a lot of bands.

And since I’ve been gone, it’s picked up even more.  The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Ingrid Michaelson, Pete Francis (lead singer of Dispatch), and Los Campesinos have all played or are playing soon for free.  Less Than Jake headlined for the big Movin On spring music festival.  (To be fair, Movin On has always been impressive, with The White Tie Affair and Say Anything the past two years, and Ben Fold, Reel Big Fish, and other big names in the past.)  Even the other music festival (now called Last Stop), has Matt and Kim headlining this year.  The amount of great music is almost obnoxious.

XPoNential Music Festival-18

'The East Hundred' playing at the 2009 XPoNential Music Festival

Beyond Penn State and into the rest of the PA, Colin Hay, Hot Chip, Ben Folds, John Mayer, Ingrid Michaelson, David Grey, Freelance Whales, Yeasayer, Josh Ritter, Carolina Liar, Of Montreal…you get the picture…have/are all playing within a 3-hour drive of State College in the 5 months that I’m gone.  And there was almost literally nothing the entirety of last semester.  Owl City was a complete waste of time (we walked out).  Even The Mountain Goats, despite being my favorite band and having an amazing concert, had some not-so-pleasant memories to go along with the concert.

I will say, though, that I am not completely out of the loop here in Wellington.  I was able to see The Mountain Goats how they should be seen: from 6 feet away and in great company.  It was, by far, the best concert I’ve been to.  And coming up in early May, I have 4th-row tickets to see Regina Spektor.

And the end of July, I’m looking forward to the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, NJ.  The lineup for this year has not been announced yet, but if it’s anything like last year, the $40 for 3 full days of music will be money well spent.

I realize I’ve thrown a lot at you in this post, especially if you’ve never heard of most of the bands.  If you take anything from it, I would recommend checking out your local music scene.  Any of the bands I’ve mentioned would be great to see in concert, and would usually be relatively inexpensive as well.

ps: My favorite bands are The Mountain Goats and The Format.  Both have pretty unique sounds (especially in the voices) that can be a bit difficult to listen to the first time.  If you can get around that, I guarantee it’s worth it.

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