Rarely does a concert opening band have a larger audience than the headliner. But at this week’s Spot Night, Case Western Reserve University student and musician Henry Hershey drew a crowd at least three times as large as the headlining local Cleveland band, The Commonwealth.
However, a big part of the reason the crowd shrunk like it did was because of the original headliner’s no show. Humble Home was not able to make it to The Spot for undisclosed reasons and as a result, The Commonwealth took the stage as backup. With less than a day’s worth of notice about the change, very little of the audience knew. Hershey’s loyal following filtered out before The Commonwealth even played a song.
In contrast to Humble Home’s absence, Hershey’s solo performance was right on schedule. His delightful mix of covers were hilarious, spontaneous and fun. First, he created soulful remixes of popular songs like Britney Spear’s “Toxic,” Flo Rida’s “Get Low” and Fergie’s “Glamorous,” all with him slamming out oldie piano chords in the middle of The Spot’s stage.
Not everything Hershey played was a joke. Several songs were simple but powerful piano bits, providing a tinge of sincerity to his performance.
Even his more ridiculous covers, like “I’m on a Boat” or “What Does the Fox Say?” seemed to comment back on the originals. By isolating their superficial lyrics, Hershey showed how many popular songs truly contain no substance when you truly listen to them.
With a phone in hand, Hershey looked up several songs’ lyrics on his phone before playing them. Although it can sometimes be difficult to remember everything flawlessly, this aspect was a little tacky- to see him fiddling with his smart phone on stage was just a sign that he was underprepared.
Most of his audience didn’t mind, and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage, listening and clapping along like a group around a campfire. When he ended his last song, he was met with roaring applause.
Then, once it was announced that The Commonwealth was replacing Humble Home in the scheduled performance, much of the audience streamed out the doors.
It was sad to see The Commonwealth play to an audience that continued to dwindle in size, but the audience that remained was at least into their indie rock songs. During their first song, bassist Patrick Burke used a bow against his sideways bass to create a smoother transitioning between notes.
Their song “Supermoon” had a steady drum beat with wavy “ooh’s” and light singing hovering over the tapping. The Commonwealth had a chill sound that occasionally broke out into heavier beats, with singer Andrew Kuhar emotional yelling into the mic. This was the case with their cover of a song by The National, with the band all rocking out to the heavier style.
A few times, the singing was a little out of tune and the band acted a little awkward, but that may have been because they were playing to a tiny audience.
Expecting a bigger audience and being greeted by just a handful of music enthusiasts would be enough to break any performers’ self esteem.
And speaking of tiny audiences, the volume was cranked up way too loudly for a smaller crowd. It was impossible to hear anything without yelling into someone’s ear. It was completely unnecessary for the amount of people there.
That’s not the band’s fault, though. Creative, energetic and upbeat, The Commonwealth put on an pretty good show, distracting only because of the volume. Unfortunately there was a bigger crowd at the bar than there was in front of the stage, making this more of a bar concert than a student event.