Liz Beson, Illustrator

On Friday, Feb. 28, the student-run rock music ensemble “No Jackets Required” held its “School of Rock” themed concert at Wilson Commons. NJR plays an important function here at UR. If it weren’t for the group, the school’s musical landscape would be one of extremes – sure, you can learn to rip through every function of the altered dominant scale at Eastman, but those seeking a lower pressure musical environment might not find solace in UR’s hyper-sacharinne a capella culture. NJR, with each goofy concert theme it devises, brings the people’s music to the people. Whether this comes in the form of a “One Hit Wonders” tribute or a celebration of “American Legends” (yes, the band played ‘Free Bird’ at this one), NJR is the voice for the legitimization of block chords and 4/4 rock beats. I can get behind that.
Understandably, no one quite embodies NJR’s mission like Jack Black in “School of Rock”. As the freeloader who endowed us with such classic lines as “Cello, you’ve got a bass,” he’s remarkably fitting as a secondhand rock icon for the collegiate setting (Wild Cherry and Lynyrd Skynyrd have yet to be declared by the music department as non-frivolous subjects for academic analysis – time will change that.) Thus, NJR’s “School of Rock” show just made sense.
At the School of Rock concert, NJR group members paid homage to classic rock. In fact, performances covered just about every classic rock staple Spotify’s taste-determining algorithm could spit out if you also like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Aerosmith.

Throughout the night, NJR members conjured both the rage of Sid Vicious and the uptight esotericism of David Byrne. Even when members offered interpretations of Jim Morrison that straddled the boundary between the Lizard King and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, celebrating the legacy of rock music’s icons offered a vibrant and lively means for UR students to bond through tunes ingrained in our musical memory. In a nutshell: way more kick-ass than karaoke.

As would be expected from a group open to all the student body, levels of musicianship within NJR run a spectrum. However, through and through NJR’s various sub-bands put on respectably tight cover performances that did justice to the songs’ energy, structure and dynamic shifts. On the group’s performance of Pink Floyd’s “Money”, NJR handled the 7/4 meter with aplomb and switched to the chromatic bass line in 4/4 when appropriate. Props. Even on the group’s cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”, NJR tackled the bridge’s key change despite the likelihood that an A minor vamp would have pleased the crowd amply. In short, the bands displayed an impressive attention to detail, considering the effort that goes into organizing a group as large in scale as NJR.

NJR’s “School of Rock” performance highlighted the student group doing what it does best: offering a creative musical outlet for students and showcasing the University’s impressive hidden talent. The “School of Rock” theme aptly suited the group’s affinity for driving power chords, pummeling bass lines, and tom-heavy sixteenth-note drum fills. While Eastman jazzers may scoff at the face of rock n’ roll, NJR makes a case for its power to bring people together. In the words of AC/DC, “For those about to rock, we salute you.”

Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.

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