Friday, November 20, 2009

Miracles of Modern Science

By Lauren Johnson

When one typically thinks of indie rock, the word “charming” may seem an unusual adjective. But when the indie rock band consists of a violin, cello, double bass, mandolin, and drums played by five graduates from Princeton University, one may change their mind. And when I saw the Miracles of Modern Science perform a few weeks ago, “charming” seemed a perfectly fitting word, especially since the performance took place amongst the artful grandeur of the Princeton Art Museum.

I heard about these guys only a few days before, after browsing the museum’s event calendar for interesting happenings. Having never been to the Princeton Art Museum, I was excited by the prospect of getting a double dose of art in one night. The band is comprised of Evan Younger (double bass/lead vocals), Josh Hirshfeld (mandolin, vocals); Kieran Ledwidge, (violin), and Geoff McDonald (cello). They met at Princeton, formed their band in 2004, and soon after became a quintet with the addition of their drummer, Tyler Pines, who joined them in 2005. They recently got a significant publicity boost by being written up in Spin Magazine as being one of 2009’s “25 Must-Hear Artists.” I knew seeing them would be a win-win.

I arrived in Princeton with my husband on a chilly night, and scampered through the campus in an effort to both keep warm and avoid being late. Upon arrival, two large glass doors gave way to a large open reception area. Straight ahead was a long table with a pancake stack of very homemade looking CD’s with the track titles hand-written with a note next to them that said “Sign up to be on our mailing list and take a CD.” (Charming marketing tactics to boot?)

We hurried up the steps and found a swarm of young college students surrounding a group of four equally young men (their drummer could not make it to the show). After a few last-minute tuning plucks on the double bass and mandolin, and with a fiery Peter Paul Rubens as their backdrop, the band opened with their first song, called “Luminol,” which begins with a trilling cricket-in-the-night high note on the violin, peppered with perfect little chirps from the mandolin. The sound is instantly unique, and the song quickly builds into a catchy, peppy, indie rock ballad (I should mention here that all the instruments are plugged into amps). Each piece they played thereafter was a creative, whimsical, experimental song that delighted both the eye and ear (have you ever seen someone play riffs on a cello?).

The song I loved the most (and subsequently had in my head for days after), was called “524,” a rumbling, Johnny-Cash-Western-saloon tune about a man who doesn’t fight, but whose only willful defense is out-whistling anyone who dares confront him.

The Miracles of Modern Science are a sight to be seen (and heard!), and after the show, we drove home, whistling the entire way.

Listen to MOMS and download their free EP at:

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