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Inside Beat

Beats on the Banks takes indie turn with Young the Giant

 – Photo by Dustin Niles

Rutgers–New Brunswick faced some torrential rainfall on Friday, and the band Young the Giant certainly brought the thunder. This semester’s Beats on the Banks headliner dazzled its audience with its amalgamation of evocative alternative rock and indie pop music. Come April 26, the quintet took to the stage at the College Avenue Gymnasium, hosted by Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA) to perform songs off their latest album, “Mirror Master,” as well as their greatest hits, like the poignant “Cough Syrup.” 

Mithu Sankaranarayanan, the director of Concerts and Coffeehouses for RUPA, explained why and how this iteration of Beats on the Banks is different from previous years’ events. 

“This Beats on the Banks is actually the first year where RUPA picked a band to be our artist, which is really cool. We usually have rappers or DJs or EDM artists. My committee’s goal this year was to reach a different demographic than we usually do and I think we really managed to do that with Young the Giant. It’s definitely a different genre, so we’re hoping that different kinds of students come out,” she said.

Young the Giant formed in 2004 in Irvine, California. This eclectic five-member band – who originally called themselves The Jakes – is now composed of lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia, guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bassist Payam Doostzadeh and drummer Francois Comtois. They have released four albums thus far: “Young The Giant” (2010), “Mind over Matter” (2014), “Home of the Strange” (2016) and finally, “Mirror Master” (2018). 

My personal introduction to Young the Giant was, oddly enough, through a "Glee" cover of their nostalgic hit “Cough Syrup” by Darren Criss in 2012. Their music opened a door to the genres of alternative and indie music, and from then on, encouraged me to listen to and discover other great bands of the same genre, like Grouplove, Saint Motel and Walk The Moon.

The event started at 8 p.m. and the student opening act for the event was New Brunswick-based indie rock band, Sonoa. The charismatic group opened with their song “Johnny” and proceeded to wow students with their head-bobbing, scintillating sound. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Yoder Shenk, drummer Anthony Gallardo-Vega, bassist Chris Castano and guitarist Luis Pimentel. 

Despite the fact that much of the crowd had not heard of Sonoa before, their music made you feel at home in many ways, making the unfamiliar seem familiar. This group consists of Rutgers students – an English major for a lead vocalist, STEM majors for instrumentalists and a graduating senior in the mix – who have evolved from basement shows to big events like Beats on the Banks. 

After the opening act, Young the Giant took to the stage in a timely fashion at 9 p.m., opening with their song “Oblivion” off their latest album. From the moment they walked on, the band’s live performance was stellar, raw and energetic. RUPA’s disco ball left people radiantly smiling and taking videos of the venue. 

Young the Giant performed a balanced mix of old and new songs, from more mellow songs like “Apartment” and “Titus Was Born,” and upbeat numbers like “Tightrope” and “Silvertongue.” The concert’s climax was, of course, the vivacious “Cough Syrup,” which almost all of the audience passionately sang along to.

After the concert had ended at approximately 11 p.m., audiences were more than content with their experience. Hajra Haque, a School of Engineering first-year, went on to praise Young the Giant’s performance. 

“I enjoyed this event. This was definitely a good option after Aminé, which was rap. I’m glad they had this new genre. Young the Giant was great. I’ve been a fan since I was 13, so this was like a dream come true, coming to see them. I really like how they performed ‘Titus Was Born,’ the visual effects were amazing for that and the way everything for that song was tied together was great,” she said.

RUPA’s approach to this semi-annual event is to be constantly evolving. “Beats on the Banks just started as an idea. When we first started, the event was at the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center), but we realized that the College Ave Gym is just a better location. It’s intimate and we can make it a better venue for a concert. Every year, we make little changes and we’re always looking to improve,” Sankaranarayanan said.

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