Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Fell Runner performed a casual yet musically powerful show

Andy Kilbride
Contributing Writer

On April 13, the Los Angeles-based experimental rock band Fell Runner played a passionate and lively show in the Lowry pit hosted by the Wooster Activities Crew. Anyone who’s been in the pit knows it’s far from your typical concert space, but with a creative assortment of the space’s couches and chairs, they were able to play to roughly 30 people in a way that felt unusually personal and intimate. When singer Steven van Betten spoke away from his microphone he could be heard fine, just to give you an idea of how low-key the pit show was. This easily added to the charm of the concert.

Like any band worth talking about, it’s mind-numbingly difficult to discuss what Fell Runner actually sounds like. Sure, I can say that they perform a particularly eclectic brand of pop-rock with strong Afrobeat and post-rock influences, but even though this genre-labeling is easy, it feels generalizing and ultimately tiresome. What I can say more confidently is that in this sonic smorgasbord, there’s sometimes cohesion and sometimes an admirable unpredictability.

The band is, put simply, a musical powerhouse. Guitarists and vocalists Steven van Betten and Gregory Uhlmann alternate between complex, intricately rhythmic instrumentation influenced by West African music — something the two are absurdly good at even while singing — and more effects-heavy atmospheric noodling that harkens back to bands like Slowdive and Mogwai.

No mention of the band’s gripping musicianship, however, would be complete without praising the tight rhythm section of bassist Marcus Hogsta and drummer and backup vocalist Tim Carr. Hogsta’s playing is far less flashy compared to the two guitarists’ but no less creative, something that fittingly grounds the sprawling instrumentation. The band’s secret weapon though, is arguably Carr, who shifts between rhythmic shuffling — I’m not a drummer so if I sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s because I don’t — classic rock bombast and airy, atmospheric ride cymbal usage.

The band played several songs from their 2015 self-titled album, including the Afrobeat-influenced “Rain Room” and “Song of the Sun,” but they also went out their way to play miscellaneous singles and unreleased material — possibly for a new album the group was hinting about. Personal favorites include “Supermarket” and “Jeffery,” with the former being about the all-too relatable experience of seeing someone you know at the supermarket while being too socially awkward to actually talk to them, and the latter is a heartfelt ode to a man who wants to become an astronaut to escape the mundanities of terrestrial suburban life. The best song of the night, however, was the musically sparse and mostly acoustic “Fall Back,” which starts as a soft folk-rock ballad before expanding into an atmospheric, shoegaze-esque finale.

It would be unfair to leave out Ted Murray ’21, who opened the show with a similarly intimate seven-song acoustic set consisting entirely of his original material, with some lyrics being written by him and others by friends of his. Fittingly, Murray clearly knows how to channel his innermost thoughts and emotions into his music and communicates the words of his friends as if they were his own, as if he has a vivid understanding of their emotional weight.

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