by Alex Melnick
Arts & Life Editor
Duling Hall, home to most of Ardenland’s bookings, is a gem. The show venue is located in the same building as Fondren favorites Babalu and Saltine, meaning you can consume some of the famed offerings from either (or both!) restaurants before shows in order to party in true Jackson spirit. (I’m talking about oysters and guac obviously….) I love Duling Hall because it provide posting-up options. I tend to go to the shows without ever listening to the bands beforehand, so if it’s weird, I can always sit at the tables and if it’s awesome (it’s usually awesome), I can wander around and then later on in the night insistently dance near the stage. No one ever dances at Ardenland shows, but I’m trying to make it happen. Actually, hardly any Millsapians even attend Duling Hall shows. What’s up with that guys? Get into the community more.
This weekend, I had a presidential date with Student Body President Trey Vernaci, and after ducking his secret service, we made our way down to Duling Hall to check out the Valentine’s Time Day Show. While I may not have convinced him to fall in love with me, I have convinced him and several other students to attend more Ardenland shows. President Vernaci expressed his amazement that tickets were only $10, and IFC President Brooks Marion concurred, saying that the show was “a great deal,” and then warmed my heart immensely when he inquired if this sort of event happens every weekend. It does, and you too can be chilling with the big shots if you go to Duling Hall. Here’s the rundown.
Ole Dashing– For some reason this band declined to announce its name at any point in its set, so I had no idea what was happening and who was singing love songs to me. (This is pretty normal actually.) President Vernaci noted that the band sounded a lot like Mumford & Sons, but I felt they had more of a Sebadoh or ‘90s teen-movie soundtrack vibe. (That is an incredibly pretentious thing I just said, especially for someone who attended the show in children’s knee high socks and booty shorts.) Ole Dashing was pleasant and had great stage presence. The band makes alternative country that I would definitely fit into the soundtrack for my angsty movie about my life, and I don’t think I have ever done anything that remotely even calls for country. (I see the catfish that live in the Jackson airport a lot, that might count.) Ole Dashing makes me want to write a movie just so I can have a montage for their music. They know they’re good and they put on a show that’s good, and that’s some magic.
The Vibe Doctors Jazz Project– How has everyone seen Jason Mathena play like 500 times? This man is everywhere, and that makes no sense for someone who plays the vibraphone and timpani. Marion, when walking into the venue as The Vibe Doctors played, immediately squinted and whispered to us: “I think I saw that guy when I was in high school.” Earlier, Vernaci gave a 10 minute monologue about how he was certain he had seen Mathena play before, but had no idea where. Millsaps student Ashley Hewitt also said that she had seen him “solo on the timpani with a full band backing him.” Everyone has seen Jason Mathena play. No one is sure how. We just know there was a percussion solo and never ending vibraphone arrangements. The Vibe Doctors are a really neat act and I respect their skills and Mathena’s excitement, in addition to bassist Lucas Pettey’s bold decision to wear a silk shirt onstage, but they killed my romantic advances towards President Vernaci. He’s never going to make me first lady to the sounds of a timpani solo. Still, they did bring a vibe. It did happen. And I was undeniably vibing to it, even when I zoned out because the timpani vibe seeps down to even your subconscious levels.
Bone Jugs N Harmony – There is a paper to be written in all this about the synthesis and similarities between country personas and gangster rap of the late ‘90s, and their relation to whiteness, but I am not going to write that paper because Illinois band Bone Jugs is awesome. (Yes, it did cover Bone Thugs at the end.) Bone Jugs is, as its name states and as Bone Jug member Tim Berg says: “a jug band by both obligation and by choice.” The members play the bones and the jug. There is harmony. But there are also kazoos and xylophone solos complete with stunts and duels, and pipes with serious power. Bone Jugs started off kitschy, and to some extent will always be kitschy—that’s part of the charm. But don’t let their floppy hats and twee instruments fool you. They know what they’re doing, and they know they’re absurd and that what makes it so fun. They’re in on the joke, and their personas are a carefully curated construct that I think they’ve spent a lot of time making.
Buddy & the Squids– I didn’t ever think that I would be seeing a surf rock band late at night on Valentine’s Day in Jackson, Mississippi, but then again Jackson has a way of surprising me. I’m personally not a huge fan of surf rock, but I am aware that purely objectively, this is a very talented band that ripped through around 10 different genre variations in one set—so much respect to them. At one point, one of the Squids wanted to beat up a former P&W editorl so that was a very exciting facet of the show as well. Buddy & the Squids mainly let their music do the talking on stage, very much unlike the prior bands at this show and didn’t interact much with the audience. But, it works for them. They’re a great balance between no nonsense and kitsch, and I’m glad Jackson has them.