Yes, it is possible for a saxophone to produce a primal scream. Just ask the Michigan trio Awesome Color, which is slated to perform this Saturday at Friday Night Rock, with Dartmouth’s own Elks as openers.
Awesome Color grabs those who think the sax is only good for mellow jazz licks by their ears and shakes them hard. One song, “Hat Energy,” opens with a frenetic drumbeat, which is later joined by horn wailing. It’s intense, catchy, and loud — an id-driven blare that evokes rock’s raw power.
Awesome Color’s website describes the band as “ace players with punk rock flair” and “inspired citizens of a small, modernist nation of musical, visual and literary outrage on the outskirts of Brooklyn.”
Rolling Stone magazine said in 2006 that it loves the band’s “garagey, Guess Who-esque take on blues rock.”
After first meeting in Michigan, band members Michael Troutman, Allison Busch and Derek Stanton reconnected in New York in late 2004 to form Awesome Color.
Their music caught the attention of Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, who signed them to his label Ecstatic Peace.
With a sound that many compare to their Michigan brethren and rock behemoths The Stooges, Awesome Color’s music has a wide appeal.
Bassist Michael Troutman acknowledged cultural influences on Awesome Color, but downplayed the influence that established bands have had on their sound.
“Our biggest influence is our friends who play music,” Troutman said. “When we were younger we were influenced by a culture.”
Troutman is excited about the Dartmouth show, saying “it’s an invitation more to do with art.”
For those who aren’t tempted by Awesome Color’s retro-tinged yet forward-looking style, the Elks offer a different experience.
The Elks — a group of two current Dartmouth students, one alumnus and one community member — characterize their sound as predominantly metal-inspired.
Band member Devin McManus ’09 described how the Elks’ roots are based in bands like Black Sabbath, but they also incorporate psychedelic aspects into their sound. With “thrash” metal rounding out the Elks’ range of influences, McManus realizes that aficionados of Peter Paul and Mary and the like may not enjoy his band.
“We are really loud and that might turn some people off,” he said.
That’s not to say they won’t give a well-received performance. The Elks are FNR veterans and should provide a vibrant contrast to Awesome Color.
FNR spokesperson Hayley Kennedy ’08, a member of The Dartmouth staff, emphasized the broad appeal of Saturday’s lineup.
The slate carries on an FNR tradition of showcasing local talent along with up-and-coming national acts.
“It is really great because if you like metal, come for Elks and you can watch some Awesome Color,” Kennedy said. “But, if you like something more pop with guitar and sax and electric going on, come for Awesome Color.”
Awesome Color bills itself as the future of rock music, but the jury’s still out. Saturday’s concert offers students a chance to decide just how awesome Awesome Color really is.
Troutman emphasized that attendees can expect to be met with enthusiasm.
“We try to make the most of every show,” Troutman said. “The show should be fun, freewheeling.”
Elks and Awesome Color will perform Saturday, Feb. 2 in Fuel. Doors open at 9:30 p.m., and the music begins at 10 p.m.