“All I wanted was to capture my vision.” Claire Little’s (23Ox) voice spread through the dense drum beats and sharp electric guitar and bass. The music clung to the audience, creating a heartbeat that resonated from the stage and resonated within the crowds. Then, silence.
Stars lit up the darkening sky as sunset approached, sketching the sharp and clear outline of the band Hand Me Downs, formed by four students from Oxford College: Alexander Szymanski (23Ox), Ashton Fox (23Ox), Michael Dehn (23Ox) and Little. Students gathered on the Quad on the evening of April 11 to watch the band and opening acts by John Kim (24Ox) and Tea-Mone Bechthold (23Ox).
“Get ready to rock-and-roll,” drummer Dehn yelled out to the audience. It was not the first time that the four performed as a band, but each performance captured something new from them. From indoor livehouse venues like Smith’s Olde Bar, to upcoming outdoor music festival Couchella at Atlanta campus, Hand Me Downs are spreading their music to more people who share the same energy.
As the band performed their second original song “Jumper Cables,” the electric guitar intro from Fox broke the quietness in the crowd, and Little’s steadily powerful voice grabbed the audience into the song. The lyrics used metaphors like, “Battery acids melting my dreams,” to convey the machine-like rotations of days and nights. Another line, “Can you jump me off,” sets off their yearning to escape repetitive routines. The frequent alternation of vocal and instrument in the song seems to challenge the mundane. In the noisy punk rock, we sunk into our deepest silent thoughts.
Hand Me Downs played songs ranging from the ’70s to the present day, paying tribute to The B-52s, The Stooges and Jack White. To better restore the pieces, they experimented with sound on keyboard and drum beats when covering songs like “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (1969) by The Stooges.
The members of the band carry out different roles — you can find any one of them as the vocalist at different shows, and sometimes it is Szymanski or Dehn playing the bass.
Each member played their different personalities, which sets infinite possibilities for the band.
In the band’s cover of “Sunburn” (2017) by the Paranoyds, they hit every beat and maintained the pace despite the song’s many pauses requiring them to stop and start multiple times.
In between two songs, Little invited the audience to interact with the music.
“Feel free to dance or nod with our song,” Little said.
The band covered two songs by indie rock band Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue” (2022) and “Wet Dream” (2022). The songs expressed women’s desire to love and their unfiltered thoughts about relationships, a perfect example of how rock tells stories on the stage, making the bold something free and well-accepted.
Like in past Quad performances, the stage was only several meters away from the seating area, making the concert interactive. Opening act Bechthold sang songs from Mariah the Scientist, Summer Walker, Jhené Aiko and Rihanna. Her voice gently depicted themes of love and relationship, and in between songs she told the audience inspiring stories. The layback in the song “2 you” (2021) by Mariah the Scientist lingered in the crowd, which seemed united by the music’s emotions.
The performance from Kim shared this same value of audience interaction. Playing two songs from Ed Sheeran’s “+” album (2011) with his guitar and another vocalist, Kim minimized the spectacle and turned instead to folk music.
As the end of the show neared, the music faded with the light in the sky. Little introduced Hand Me Downs’ final performance of the night and thanked everyone for attending. The song, called “B-Roll,” seemed to grow up to the very last minute. The vocals came in straight-away after an instrumental bar.
“Did you let the credits roll? Can you fetch me another reel?” The artists revealed their insights unreservedly to the audience. Hand Me Downs seem to thrive in what is intrinsic in their music — they’d rather “jump like Friedken” and “capture their vision.”