My favorite movie growing up was “Muppets from Space.” It was a messy, psychedelic trip of a film my parents had on VHS. The main song on the groovy soundtrack was Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shooting Star.”
When I heard No Jackets Required (NJR) was putting on a space-themed show this weekend, I crossed my fingers in the hopes they’d cover this groovy tune. And they did.
“Man,” my roommate said, “this is groovy.”
My roommate and I like going to NJR shows and dancing around like a couple of maniacs. We’ve seen all of the ensembles, from the rock band concerts in the May Room to the acoustic jam sessions in the tunnels.
On Saturday, the Drama House was decked out for the house show called the “Final Frontier,” featuring all songs about the sun, moon, and stars. A ragtag group of musicians carrying various instruments milled around in space gear. In line for the bathroom, I talked to a bass player wearing a dress with tentacles trailing down the skirt. I thought she looked cool.
“Thanks,” she said. “Do you think I look like an alien?”
She did. Other kids looked like aliens, too. There were galaxy tights, glow-in-the-dark glitter face paint, and yellow stars plastered onto cheeks. One kid was wearing an actual alien costume, peering through black slits in a green morph suit. We sang along to songs we knew, like CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” And we swayed gently to songs we didn’t, like “Stars and Planets” by Liz Phair and “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden.
The concert was packed. But it was also more lowkey, as my roommate said, than the rest of the shows we’ve been to. As a big NJR supporter, I can tell you that I’ve rarely seen anyone sitting down during a show. But last night, my roommate and I found ourselves seated on the floor, rocking band and forth to the gentle harmonies of “Here Comes the Sun.”
It wasn’t that we were bored. We were just … vibing.
There was a range of music for everyone, and a lot of the songs involved the majority of the NJR group. Members were crammed onstage for both Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and more swanky, jazzy bits like “Fly Me to the Moon.”
There were songs featuring saxophones, trumpets, cellos, a French horn, and a piano. Some of them were out of tune, and it took some of the players until mid-song to notice. Once they did, they fixed it quickly with overlapping vocals and quick instrument swaps.
But that’s how it goes in the NJR house shows. While the rock band ensemble is smaller and tighter, the house shows feel more like a giant jam session for all kinds of musicians. The auditions to join the group are casual, and everybody gets a chance to play in the performances. Three girls bopped in front of microphones for “Walking on Sunshine” while three boys sang Blink-182’s “Aliens Exist.” The two highlights, in my opinion, were “The Sky is a Neighborhood” by the Foo Fighters and “Gravity” by John Mayer, two songs totally transformed from their original sound into fervent covers.
Later, walking down the drama house steps into the snow, my roommate said the show was more mellow than any other she’s seen. “A kickass time, though,” she said, right before she caught me as I slipped on the last step. “Kickass music, too.”