Posted by Stephen Smith on 02/02 at 12:03 PM
Ted McCloskey and the Hi-Fi’s slipped into their usual Friday set like a glove. Equipment was set up with experienced precision. Drinks from the bar sweated onto their amplifiers. Ted, looking dapper in his black vest and fedora, joked casually with the bartenders. And once the mics were checked, Ted rolled up his sleeves, took the stage, and melded into the crowd’s relaxed vibe.
They started their set with blues-based originals that drew the crowd in with familiar chord progressions, even if the lyrics were foreign. It wasn’t long before heads in the audience began to bob to the rhythm. I found it hard to keep my foot from tapping to the beat throughout the night.
One could credit the low ceiling of the Phyrst for the steady amplification of the buzz within the bar. However, the real credit must be given to the band and their ability to magnify that buzz into a full whirr. Fist-pumping and sloppy dancing quickly became rampant. Applauses grew more robust. Ted kept the banter to a minimum, only pausing to take a sip of his drink and encourage the audience to do the same. He had just enough talking to enforce the jovial feeling of communion, while also understanding that they had come to hear music. McCloskey’s experience with the State College scene was demonstrated through his expert management of the energy levels throughout the evening.
Along with controlling the atmosphere, the band showed diversity and complexity within its own material. “Wait Wait,” off their most recent album One Night Bland is a purely rock and roll song, complete with fiery guitar solos and the lyrical hook, “Did you ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?” Meanwhile, other originals, like “Tilt a Whirl,” displayed the more insightful and postmodern side of Ted’s music. Having the ability to shift into different genres without losing one’s appeal or conflicting with the mood is rare. Ted McCloskey demonstrated that he has that ability.
What’s more, their combination of original material and popular covers kept the playlist both unique and familiar. What I appreciated was that they did not merely sandwich original songs in between popular covers. “Wait Wait” fed off of the drive provided by the Kinks’ “All Day & All of the Night” and led perfectly into Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues.”
In addition to playing the usual covers of “How You Like Me Now?” by the Heavy, “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand, and “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes, they mixed in other popular favorites. “My Generation” by Hawk Nelson and “Bad Things” by Jace Everett fit Ted’s voice great. Both songs went over very well with the crowd.
They also put some of their own personal flavor into covers of “Come Together” by the Beatles and “Sex Machine” by James Brown. Rather than just ride on the universality of these songs, Ted and the Hi-Fi’s added a heavier bass-line, increased the tempo, and included one of his patented solos to spice up “Come Together.” Daryl Branford created a steady, forceful beat from his snare and bass drum, as opposed to the more delicate, tom-based rolls in the Beatles’ version.
Branford’s skills were also on display during his drum solo for “Sex Machine,” which was by far their greatest song of the night. It is hard to match James Brown’s energy if you’re not James Brown, but the three-piece band rose to the challenge. The band varied the speed of the song throughout, going from burning hot to a glowing sizzle. After Branson’s solo, they ended the song by gradually increasing the tempo, faster and faster, until the wall of sound finally came crashing down to the jubilant applause from the crowd. This song made everyone in the bar stop and take notice—if they weren’t paying attention already.
Last Friday night, Ted McCloskey and the Hi-Fi’s put on a very good performance that got the crowd pumped. Ted demonstrated why he has been able to make a living out of this for so long. Their rock is very accessible and fun to listen to, whether you’re there to be entertained or to listen intently.
If you missed seeing them last week, Ted McCloskey and the Hi-Fi’s play at 10:30 every Friday night at the Phyrst. They are definitely worth the trip.
Author: Stephen Smith
Bio: Stephen Smith is currently a senior English major at Penn State. In his free time, he enjoys playing Xbox, drumming, playing his guitar, and writing fiction. His favorite genres include alternative rock, emo, indie, metal, and most anything played acoustically. His favorite bands include Say Anything, Counting Crows, City and Colour, and Daphne Loves Derby.
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