Before the inception of Columbia Records’ new gem, MGMT (The Management), many bloggers and self-endowed A&R’s never took a second glance at the talent spewing from the many liberal-arts institutions that glitter in the shadows of New York City. Truthfully, most people still do not. Yet these same institutions have nurtured scores of talent and brought them together, before pushing them out of the nest and into your favorite local venue.
MGMT’s Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser were schooled at Wesleyan University; a place that has since shared its music scene with Skidmore College (home of Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser, acclaimed poet of witness Carolyn Forché, the Tang Museum and an April 20th not to be missed). It’s about three hours in an equipment-cramped hatchback between schools, but it’s all worth it when walking into the mansion sized madhouse of Eclectic – a Wesleyan University venue and their twisted version of a frat house. As you maneuver through freaks, band geeks, hippies, scags, intellectuals and whatever else you might find crawling through the basement, you realize the type of atmosphere necessary to produce people like the once dubbed “psychic pilgrims” of MGMT. Skidmore and Wesleyan often combine their respective talents to create shows that would make your average indie label intern wet himself. Most recently, Wesleyan has also pushed out groups like the Spirit Marines (no longer together), Bear Hands, Babewatch and the Darlings.
Now, the Darlings are part of Skidmore’s Famous Class Records, a label currently based in Brooklyn that manufactures silk screened merchandise like the CD/DVD/Comic books they’ve already created for Snakes Say Hisss!, the Huxtables and Boogie Boarder. If that’s not enough, Skidmore also housed the drummer for the Muggabears; a chest-thumping Sonic Youth with a little more balls. If your friends plan on keeping the car and sleeping on floors for the next week at Wesleyan, you might have to throw on those high school volleyball booty shorts with the “Spike This!” across the ass. Then you’ll have to hitchhike if you want to head south to another college and band breeding ground, SUNY Purchase.
SUNY Purchase (near White Plains, NY) cradles its own small scene with promising groups like Data Dog and Le Rug playing at its versatile Performing Arts Center. Le Rug has played with Snakes Say Hisss! at the Silent Barn–an often packed and often sweaty Brooklyn venue. But before they hit the city, the chances of these groups getting together are getting stronger. Those are the shows to see, and they’re happening more and more because finding each other is becoming easier and easier. Hopefully you’ll have the drive to drive out to some of these places.
Everybody’s favorite group came from somewhere, but with every studio quality album now being recorded in the bathroom over the cafeteria, sometimes you can’t wait until they leave school to see if they would, for example, be right for the soundtrack to that video you made of your friend’s mom getting hit in the face by a football. Maybe you think there are too many bands out there. Maybe the brightest ones are still too hard to see beneath those New York City shadows. As far as listening, BTR brings you brand new, quality groups every day.