On Oct. 25, singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman performed to a packed Horn Gallery filled with a medley of characters from around the Kenyon community. Playing with drummer Tommy Larkins, Richman performed a variety of songs from his new EP, Cold Pizza & Other Hot Stuff, as well as hit classics like “I Was Dancing in The Lesbian Bar.”
Richman filled the skies of Gambier with a sound more akin to music on the Spanish coast than the Ohio hinterlands, sharing a sound often not heard in this part of the country. His quiet, toned-down performance contrasted with the punk genre that he has been credited with contributing to. Richman was a founding member of the Modern Lovers, so his name carries some prestige within social circles entertained by classic punk bands such as The Velvet Underground, Joy Division and Death.
The show started out with flamenco renditions of songs from Richman’s new EP, Cold Pizza & Other Hot Stuff, and slowly transitioned to more energetic and soulful performances boosted by Larkins’ frenetic drum playing. Using his extensive linguistic knowledge, Richman effortlessly switched from singing in English, to Italian, to Spanish, to French, all the while embodying jovial caricatures of those who speak the languages. Although the linguistic acrobatics were impressive, crowd favorites “I Was Dancing in The Lesbian Bar” and “Cold Pizza” were the high points of the show. Richman and Larkins cultivated an amazing musical conversation between their respective instruments, resulting in a mini-moshpit that made the floor of the Horn tremble with the sound of Doc Martens on wood.
While Richman’s music is difficult to classify, he definitely brought a childish and playful energy to the Horn, connecting with the audience by composing poetry off the cuff, making friendly faces and floating around the stage to ensure all sections of the audience were able to appreciate the music. Intersplicing his songs with Phrygian guitar licks and dramatic flamenco rhythm, his style of playing fit well with the intimate vibe. It was evident that Richman enjoys these spaces to share his music, perching himself on a stool and crooning lyrics that can seem nonsensical at first glance.
A performer with an eclectic style, Richman elicited a wide range of reactions from concert attendees with his playful technique. Mia Snow ’24 said that she “couldn’t stop smiling; it was a show filled with great vibes.” Anna Sanders ’24 said that Richman “sounded like Derek Zoolander but in the best way possible.” If making Kenyon students feel like whimsical caricatures of themselves was his goal, then Richman most definitely succeeded. His style appealed to all, as even non-Kenyon-affiliated attendees joined in when he encouraged sing-alongs and call-and-response to his songs.
If there was anything that Richman could walk away with from this show, it is the fact that he was able to entertain a crowd of normally fickle Kenyon students so much that they brought the energy of a Friday night to the Horn, singing along to whimsical lyrics about pizza and demanding encore after encore.
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