by Joshua Unikel '07
Play: When most people think about the height of music at Hobart and William Smith, it peaks before CD’s replaced cassette tapes. And for many, the “good old days” play back in mind like the warm, complex sounds of a 33. But the truth is, since the Colleges started kicking out the jams in the Sixties, the show hasn’t stopped. Instead, student bands and outside acts just keep coming to Geneva, including some of the biggest names in music throughout the decades. And as the Colleges press on into the 21st century with a newly awarded New York State Music Fund, the show won’t stop anytime soon.
Rewind: Cue the needle, rewind the cassette and spin the iPod back to the tunes of the Sixties, a time when the names Dylan, Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who and Sly and the Family Stone were all used for the first time as they released their debut albums. “The first time I heard Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller, The Mothers, The Moody Blues and The Youngbloods was on records in dorm rooms,” recalls William Ryder ’71, P’07. “I remember arriving on campus in my parents’ car at Sherrill Hall in the fall of 1967 and watching the Lost and Found play in front of Medbery for fun. Manny Bloom – later Eric Bloom ’66 of Blue Oyster Cult – was a major showman even then.” Along with Bloom’s Lost and Found, other well-known campus bands of the late 60s/early 70s era were White Trash, T Rocket, Blind Orange Julius, Peter and the Prophets and Room Service.
As for national acts, the era brought many up-and-coming artists to campus. With concerts still held in Bristol Gym, students sat in the bleachers or looked on from the tarped floor for shows by The Youngbloods, Richie Havens, B.B. King, Iron Butterfly and Leon Russell and the Shelter People. “I remember seeing The Turtles play in Bristol when the cheap PA went out,” said Ryder. “And I’ll never forget seeing Chuck Berry play with a backing band of Hobart guys; he’d prepared them by simply telling them that they were going to play some Chuck Berry tunes.” Like Ryder, anyone who still has memories from the Sixties, feels that “choosing one favorite is impossible!”
Choosing a favorite was also impossible in the Seventies. “We were all very fortunate at HWS in the late Seventies as the bands that toured the upstate NY college circuit were either well-established or up-andcoming,” says Ruth Teague ’77, P’02, P’04, P’07, now associate director of Admissions. “To see the likes of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Livingston Taylor as well as Frank Zappa was simply amazing.” During the decade that gave life to disco and prominence to many soft rock and R&B artists, two musicians always stand out: Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.
“I was a freshman in 1973, and we had the opportunity to hear Billy Joel in the winter,” Hal Whitehouse ’77 says. “The concert was in Albright Auditorium…8 p.m. for Billy Joel and 9 p.m. for Livingston Taylor.”
Like Whitehouse, Katie Coleman Nicoll ’74 was at the show. “I remember when Billy Joel played at Hobart and William Smith,” says Nicoll. “It was the first time I had been to a concert. I was hooked. What a memory – just like it was yesterday.”
“The cost of the show was $2.50 if you bought your ticket at the door and $1.50 if you paid in advance!” Whitehouse explains with a laugh. “Though we didn’t know what a star Billy Joel would become at the time, he put on a fabulous solo concert and blew away the ‘headliner’ Livingston Taylor.”
Teague, who sat in the second row during the show, says, “What an amazing concert. I still can’t bring myself to see him perform in a mass market medium like Madison Square Garden. Instead, I’ll savor the memory.”
“We saw great concerts during this period, including three shows of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the Geneva Theatre (Smith Opera House),” Whitehouse says. Springsteen played the theatre in the fall of ’73, the winter of ’74 and mid-summer of ’75. Bruce Eaton ’74 booked Springsteen’s first visit to Geneva and remembers from backstage that, “by the fourth or fifth song, the entire place was going bonkers.”
But the show didn’t stop with Springsteen. “Music helped define life on campus in the Eighties, whether it was speakers out the windows blaring Little Feat and Grateful Dead during softball games and Frisbee on the Quad, the live bluegrass during Folkfest, Duke Jupiter at Slattery’s, Thetes band parties featuring Lynard Skynard cover bands or the student Jazz Lab playing from the steps of Coxe,” explains Pete Buck ’81, P’12.
“Some of my great music memories at the Colleges were seeing 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman and Midori,” Sara Lacombe ’89 says.
During the Nineties, the Colleges added many leading names to its list of artists, including Blues Traveler, Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, Phish, the Spin Doctors and a return performance from Billy Joel, to name a few.
“Blues Traveler played during a Thetes party our junior year,” recalls Gary Otten ’91. “We just thought they were another great band. Who knew they were on the verge of becoming a world renowned act. And the Spin Doctors—they played on the Quad with an extended stage coming off the steps of Coxe Hall and a tent above them. What a great show that was—especially the lead singer.”
When students weren’t watching Blues Traveler or seeing Eddie Money at the Smith, they were checking out student bands, like Gooseberry Jam, Relic, The Racket and Acoustic Mayhem. “Relic always drew a large and motivated crowd to the Holiday Bar,” says Otten. “They had a lot of great stuff and a really good original song called ‘Flip It to the Cold Side.’” Acoustic Mayhem also became a Geneva staple, playing Copperfield’s and other area venues.
As the second millennia came around at HWS, so did an eclectic list of artists. In the Spring of 2004, the Black Eyed Peas brought their dance-infused hip-hop to the Smith Opera House. Soon after, jangle pop band Guster played the Opera House, sending the packed crowd into a frenzy with their catchy singles and infamous on-stage antics. “It was an awesome show – I loved it!” says Allie Art ’09.
“I was really impressed by Guster,” Teddy Desloge ’10 says. “Their music was great, and they put on a fantastic show.”
In 2007, music at the Colleges and in Geneva rose to a whole new level when HWS was awarded a $200,000 New York State Music Fund grant, which sponsored the Live from Geneva concert series. The series has already brought several nationally and internationally acclaimed acts, including The Wailers, Gym Class Heroes and Talib Kweli, to Geneva. “The Wailers put on a truly great show,” says Frank Leach ’11, one of hundreds of HWS community members who attended the fall reggae performance.
“It was old school and brought me back to my parents’ day.”
During the fall semester, Geneva’s own alternative hip hop band, Gym Class Heroes, played a sold-out show at the Smith Opera House. “I’m glad that HWS got the Gym Class Heroes to play here,” says Sarah Caffrey ’10. “It was good timing in terms of their career. It was also nice to see the HWS and Geneva communities come together at this one event, because of this performance.”
The two communities also filled the Smith in record numbers for Talib Kweli, an innovative MC and hip hop artist known for his intricate lyrics and rhythmic dexterity. “With great music, Talib put on an awesome show,” says John Shaker ’10.
While they have attended shows, today’s HWS students have also been making music of their own. “My favorite music memories are from the student performances that CAB hosts,” says Campus Activities Board Executive Chair and Live from Geneva Committee member Amanda Townsend ’09. “These include Open Mics, Battle of the Bands and Family Weekend Cabaret. They are all chances for students to show everyone their talent.” Names like Annie in the Water, Kaleidoscope, The Tyger Tyger Burning Bright Inside Your Head Show, and Red Rush Morning have made their way into the HWS vocabulary and performance circuit.
From the jam-band style of Kaleidoscope to the rockabilly harmonies of Tyger Tyger, the music HWS students make is as eclectic as they are.
Fast-forward: Jump the needle, flip the cassette and advance the iPod to today’s top 40 and mix your playlist with today’s up-andcoming— that’s exactly what you’ll hear as Geneva makes its way into the second decade of the 21st century. What big name artist or ambitious band will show up next? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the show at HWS isn’t going to stop anytime soon.