I heard about the University Program Board’s (UPB) UPBeats: Indie Pop Night on a rather last minute basis, but I was intrigued, as a fan of independently-produced music and local record labels. I had not heard much about either of the night’s artists, Surfdeer and flor, and neither was reviewed by Pitchfork, which is my go to source and de-facto scripture for music selection. Thus I was a bit skeptical. However I have no regrets that I attended the event on Nov. 11. It was fantastically organized and the acts were both highly aurally pleasing.
I walked into The Jolly Scholar around 8 p.m., when the event had been scheduled to start. Before I sat at my table, a very cheerful UPB member handed me a very interesting favor: a keychain embossed with UPBeats signature logo with a fob which functions both as a bottle opener and a flashlight—the two things a college student would be remiss to lack.
At around 8:45 p.m., the music started. Surfdeer performed first. Their sound was interesting; it was not truly pop. Although Surfdeer is definitely some sort of punk, they came off more as a highly revised Lake Erie equivalent of the Beach Boys, reimagining and reinventing some of their themes, as well as addressing others through their art. Throughout their performance, classical notes and plural, almost acapella-esque vocals gave way to bassy riffs and the pure might of the electric guitar. The band’s aesthetic was very casual, and they read the crowd and interacted with them fantastically. I was quite impressed with their live performance, in spite of decreased expectations based on recordings of live shows online. They have clearly grown as a band and were, although my standards are high, top-tier for a local band of their notoriety.
After Surfdeer finished a song, which they had not yet named (this was incredibly casual in the best possible way, in my opinion), flor took to the stage. Although flor describes their sound as “floral synth,” it is a combination of synth pop, baroque pop and dream pop with a persistently independent sound. The female vocalist’s voice was very versatile and ingenious, transferring from raspy notes to an almost blues-like soulfulness. Though stylistically significantly different, the ingenuity of her singing reminded me of Lana Del Rey. The instrumentals were also of solid quality, but they were a bit overshadowed by the vocals.
Altogether, Indie Pop Night made for a casual, enjoyable evening of local music that one does not often get the opportunity to hear and that was, admittedly, rather obscure. The event was adequately staffed, and UPB must be praised for this success. Everything went smoothly and it appeared that the night of interesting music was enjoyed universally by attendees.