Keeping the Music Alive:

BettyJo Roby

Saratoga Springs-based indie-folk singer-songwriter Luke Shanty performed at the Barge Canal Coffee Shop on Friday. However, this performance, sponsored by the Student Commitee on Providing Entertainment (SCOPE), was hardly a typical solo performance.

Shanty did not stick to perching on a stool with a guitar and a microphone like many indie-folk guitarists. Playing a variety of styles, from simple acoustic pieces to intricately layered instrumentals and vocals, Shanty’s performance was hardly monotonous. After opening on the accordion, Shanty switched between two guitars, the accordion, a snare drum and the piano for the rest of the show.

Although his first song fit the genre well enough, the second song was much louder and more emotional. Shanty apologized after this song for the deviation from the advertised indie-folk genre, but continued to mix his sound up throughout the rest of the performance.

He interacted casually with the audience, changing his presentation from song to song along with his sound. He performed one song standing on a piano bench in order to project his vocals and acoustic guitar across the room without the aid of a microphone or other amplification. During another song, his voice echoed eerily through the room in wordless vocals put through a filter.

Shanty played only two pieces from his previously recorded albums, including a song he wrote several years ago in high school which he judged as “the best song I ever wrote.” These were the simplest of the songs he played. The rest of the performance focused on his most recent project: a concept album based on his recent visit to China, which exemplified a definite shift from the acoustic to a more intense, layered style of music.

As an introduction to several of these songs, Shanty shared anecdotes about this trip with the audience, including a detailed account of his growing fascination with the story of the Hindu deity Krishna, upon which one of his pieces was based.

This and several other pieces were based around looping tracks. Shanty would play part of the song on one instrument, then the sound system would loop that track while he added another layer with another instrument. Shanty used this technique to layer vocals as well as instrumentals, creating music that was constantly building in intensity and complexity. This looping technique allowed him to transition smoothly between songs, as well. As a solo artist switching instruments could result in a lot of silence between songs, looping the tracks at the end of a song allowed him to avoid this awkward issue and proceed smoothly.

On one of the last songs, Shanty handed out tin lids and small percussion instruments to audience members, encouraging their participation in building intensity during the last part of the song.

In keeping with the casual nature of his performance, Shanty forgot to bring his merchandise, including t-shirts and many of his albums, to the performance. However, he handed out copies of his album Patience to those who stayed to the end of the show, showing his desire to share his music over making money.