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College @ The Empty Bottle : A Real Deal

Wednesday December 3rd. It was a brisk night that served as a reminder that the worst was yet to come. I trekked over to West Town to catch a show at The Empty Bottle, positioned quaintly on the corner of Western and Cortez street. At first glance there really wasn’t much to see, in fact I actually had difficulty finding the door to get in. I posed the question to what could only be described as the most casual hipster, who took a drag on his cigarette and motioned to the door almost hidden behind him. I nodded and strode in, and as I did, fell into the void of dark walls, graffitied with names and posters of shows past.

The venue makes a clear distinction between cramped and cozy, which became more and more evident as the place filled up. The diagonal positioning of the stage makes for easy viewing from any spot, so no one was pushing or shoving to get some air. I sat against the wall pondering a canvas lined with the heads of many plastic dolls, as the fog machine monotonously gushed a purple haze into the room.

The first act was Replicant, drawing their name from the dystopian sci-fi Bladerunner, and had a sound that wouldn’t be out-of-place in the film either. Red lights synced with a heaving synth began to fill the room, as heads began bobbing to infectious drums that had a zip and a pop sampled straight from the 80’s. They did a swell job at opening the floor to My Gold Mask, an art pop group that had a considerably lighter sound, but a good one nonetheless. Their synth laden tracks sounded like a less brooding sibling to that of Replicant’s.

The clock spun to 11:00, and David Grellier, known to many as College, nonchalantly stepped onstage out of nowhere, as if a member of the audience. He was on the cusp of balding, wearing a Dartmouth sweater, and had eyes adorned with horn rimmed glasses. His setup consisted of two laptops and a mixer in between, a contrast to the bands before which featured at least a few instruments. This was soon forgotten and the crowd was captivated, for in that moment it didn’t really matter what the textbook definition of a musician was. Images that sometimes looked made on Microsoft Power Point were projected on a sheet behind him, featuring the face of a woman gradually morphing, or a cityscape with an infinite checkered floor, making for something truly atmospheric. Standing in the front row, I was almost crushed by the sound blasting from the speakers overhead. The multilayered synth tracks were easy to get lost in as they looped on throughout the night.

Hailing from France, it was interesting to see how David had made his way to such a small venue. His song “A Real Hero,” was featured in the 2011 film Drive, both of which have since gained cult followings. It’s sometimes a shame to see an artist applauded for only one song, and it became evident what song it was when everyone in unison stopped to pull out their phones and film it. A guy wearing the trademark scorpion jacket from Drive even managed to climb onstage, but not before being pulled off, as this was the second time he had done it that night. I looked over at David who stood grinning as he mixed his tracks, well aware of the effect “A Real Hero” had made in pop culture. Although I couldn’t say that I wasn’t also there to see that song performed, it’s always a moving experience to see an artist in their element, and for only $10, it was well worth it.

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