Mar 9, 2020
Music, Student Groups

The University Programs Council hosted the third Tiny Desk Concert Friday, Feb. 28, held for the first time at Grit Coffee on the Corner. The concert series is modeled after NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, where artists sit in a small room behind a tiny desk and perform a live show. The series began at NPR in 2008 and has since attracted smaller artists and bigger acts like Taylor SwiftLizzoAdele and Tyler, the Creator.

The novelty of the tiny desk inspired the PKG Concerts Committee, a part of UPC, to hold this event.

“We … love working on more lowkey concerts like Tiny Desk,” said Tim Mirnyi, a third-year Commerce student and PKG concerts director. “We saw the event as an opportunity to showcase some of the very talented musicians at U.Va., and give students a nice break in the middle of finals season on a Friday evening.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University becoming a co-ed school, three female-led bands and one female solo artist performed. The Shrugs, Silver Retriever, Scarlett Horizon and Liya Abseno each performed on the second floor of Grit Coffee to a tightly-packed room of  enthusiastic audience members. The location gave the performances a sense of warmth and intimacy the NPR Tiny Desk videos also possess.

The Shrugs were the first group to perform. Lead singers Abbey Potter and Rob DiCicco, who are both fourth-years in the College, performed their songs “Saturday Town,” “Virginia,” “The Fish Song” and “Parking,” as well as a cover of “Caroline” by Cbdb. Potter played the acoustic guitar and DiCicco played the electric guitar. Their well-matched singing voices started the series of performances off on a pleasing note.

Silver Retriever performed next. The band is comprised of main singer third-year Engineering student Courtney Jacobs, fourth-year College student Ian Fraser on acoustic guitar, fourth-year Batten student Gabriel Aguto and fourth-year Commerce student Henry Cohen on electric guitar, fourth-year College student Tom Shaw on piano and fourth-year Engineering student Matthew McDonnell on drums. To warm up, the band did a guitar, piano and drum riff, before performing their songs “Birds,” “Bad Mood,” “Untitled” and a cover of “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5.

“We make rock music with funk and pop influences,” Jacobs said in an email to The Cavalier Daily, when asked about the band’s preferred genre and musical inspirations. “We love playing a balanced mix of upbeat, danceable tunes and powerful jams … we’re inspired by a wide spread of influences, including Vulfpeck, Maroon 5, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Jacobs is a beautiful singer and the vibe the band members have between each other is captivating. When they perform it seems to come off very easy and natural, but the audience can still intuit the practical skill of the band members because of how sonically pleasing their music is. They have a natural comradery between each other, making it appear as if they have been performing with each other for several years.

The highlight of their performance was their cover of  “Sunday Morning,” originally performed by one of their biggest inspirations — Maroon 5. The band brought a sense of sincerity and innocence audiences haven’t seen from the actual Maroon 5 in almost fifteen years. But Silver Retriever’s self-written songs highlighted their own storytelling abilities, which should be on display in their upcoming EP, to be called “Valley Days.”

Scarlet Horizon performed next. The group comprised of lead-singer Sonja Kapadia, a third-year in the College, singer and guitar player Brian Justice, upright bassist Tom Schwenk and lead guitarist Galen Warren. The band performed a combination of bluegrass and country music. They performed the songs “Fortune Teller,” “Tear My Stillhouse Down,” a cover of “Gold Rush Goddess” by Front Country and other instrumentations. The set was highlighted by the band’s powerful lead vocalist, whose voice reverberated across the room. The band stood out from the other performers because of their different genre of music, providing a more folksy take on the series.

To end the night, solo artist Liya Abseno, a fourth year in the College, took to the intimate stage. She was accompanied by her two friends, third-year College student Maya Kim on bass and fourth-year College student Gigi Aridi on the drums. Liya herself played a beautiful blue electric guitar. She performed the songs “Rim Shot” by Erykah Badu, “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse, “Where Did I Go” by Jorja Smith and her two self-written songs, entitled “Begins Again” and “Reasons.” Her range of talent and inspiration was clear from her song selection.

“It’s hard to categorize my music because I just make what I feel,” Abseno said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.

Abseno’s immaculate performance masterfully blended the sounds of R&B and neo-soul, building on a thirty-year history of experimentation in the genres. Her vocals paired well with the instrumentals of Kim and Aridi. In a memorable moment during “Back to Black,” Abseno slowed and quieted her singing and instrumentals, and right before she went completely silent, she crescendoed with a bountiful, entrancing endnote.

UPC’s third Tiny Desk Concert provided an entertaining series of musical acts to students. The event was an interesting opportunity to give local bands the chance to perform in an intimate setting, which can be a special experience for audiences and performers alike.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the title of the upcoming EP of the band Silver Retriever. A change has been made to indicate the correct title, “Valley Days.”

By Omari John
Original Publication: The Cavalier Daily