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Irishpalooza ends AnTostal week with a bang

Bob Costa | Monday, April 25, 2005

Notre Dame’s AnTostal celebration came to a loud, but unusually cold conclusion this past Saturday at Legends. Although the Student Union Board’s free hamburgers and hot dogs may have been a bit soggy and the outdoor tents were filled with snowflakes instead of students, the five artists that performed put on energetic performances that culminated a busy day at Notre Dame. With stragglers from the local “PigTostal” celebration and holdovers from the Blue and Gold game still around, Irishpalooza was able to bring in an audience that was still in the mood to revel come 9 p.m. Although the concert was mostly restricted to indoors, the audience seemed to not mind too much. ND-TV, led by sophomore Adam Fairholm, provided a three-camera multimedia and video live recording that played on the Legends televisions simultaneously, which gave the campus bar a professional venue ambience.Before the three headliners of Michael Tolcher, Ambulance LTD and The Walkmen performed, the student contemporary brass group M.O.B.B. played a 45-minute set. The fourteen members of this popular campus band played a wide variety of hip-hop, rap, rock and pop tunes with swagger and unusually sophisticated musicianship. Their highest moment came when they played a bluesy cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On,” which was met with a massive crowd sing-a-long.After building up their fan base this year playing at the Collegiate Jazz Festival, K’s Grill and Reckers, M.O.B.B. let the near-capacity crowd inside Legends dance to the beats provided by a montage of trombones, sax and trumpet. At times, M.O.B.B. had so many complex and syncopated rhythms occurring at the same time that they seemed more jam-band than brass ensemble.At a little after 9 p.m., singer-songwriter Michael Tolcher strolled onstage with his fellow three band members to play an hour-long set. Even though many students were unfamiliar with his music when he walked on stage, by the end of the performance, numerous audience members were dancing right in step with Tolcher.”Sometimes, you just have to keep striking the match, and eventually there’s fire,” said Tolcher after his performance.Tolcher and his band played two new songs at the show that did not appear on his 2004 debut album “I Am.” From the lithesome “Mother’s Garden” to the soul-infused “Please,” Tolcher used his Legends gig as both a chance to experiment on some fresh material and engage his newfound listeners with staples from his album.One of the highlights for Michael Tolcher came at the end of his show, when he played his single “Mission Responsible.” Instead of just playing the studio orchestration of the song, Tolcher improvised lyrics and added verse that he was feeling in the room as the vibe became unified. He riffed on politics, inspiration, spirituality and peace before ending with a bombastic guitar jam with his lead guitarist William Duvall. Before going backstage, Tolcher, along with his band, danced in synchronization on stage, which provided numerous laughs since his bassist Michael “Big Tiny” Lindsey is 6 feet 7 inches tall and about 300 pounds. After Tolcher performed, Notre Dame student rapper Da Natural performed a short act with both original and cover rap songs – including one where his backing track was a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Da Natural was a fitting performer to come after Tolcher, who himself often blends hip-hop influences into his songs.Ambulance LTD, an atmospheric indie rock band from Brooklyn, took the stage next. While playing numerous tunes off their two releases “EP” and “LP,” Ambulance LTD was able to bring Irishpalooza in an entirely different direction than the nights previous three performers.Lead singer Marcus Congelton of Ambulance LTD was in jovial sprits for his band’s show, at times looking like both David Bowie and Jeff Buckley. His vocals on “Stay Where You Are” were superb, soaring right along with the heavy electric guitar riffs. The sound of Ambulance LTD was both vintage and new – a sound that the Rolling Stones would have been proud of 30 years ago during their psychedelic periods.The band played many of the songs off “LP,” including a brooding version of “Yoga Means Union,” an instrumental track that grooved along with frazzled chords. Bassist Matt Dublin was immersed in the music the entire show, providing Ambulance with a solid back rhythm that let the band create a wall of sound that pushed and prodded the Legends crowd huddled up against the stage’s shallow steps.Dublin himself was in an odd mood for the show, since he believed that his band almost didn’t make it to Legends. He had a wild look in his eyes from the set’s inception, constantly moving around with the melody that lead guitarist Benji Lysaght provided. “We were on the same flight from Chicago as [The Walkmen] and the entire time we were in the air, the plane was getting kicked around in the wind, and man, for a second I thought we were going to have an indie rock tragedy,” Dublin said, jokingly.Of course, both Ambulance LTD and The Walkmen both made it to the venue on time, although Dublin wouldn’t confirm whether he was going to take a train or plane back to New York.After Ambulance LTD ended their Irishpalooza performance, a brief intermission was held as some brave audience members trudged around the set-up and grabbed free soda or a $2 beer. By the time The Walkmen were getting on stage, most of the doors had to be shut at Legends due to severe wind chill factors.However, you wouldn’t have even knew it was snowing outside once the members of The Walkmen came onstage to a crowd that seemed to double in size since Ambulance LTD and Tolcher played. Numerous female fans in the crowd screamed their approval of the lanky NYC lads who just played on Fox’s “The O.C.” a few weeks ago.During the course of their 1 hour and 15 minute performance, which stretched into the early hours of Sunday, The Walkmen made Legends seem like a swanky club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan instead of a near-frozen student bar and club in northern Indiana.From pulsating rock tunes like “The Rat” off their new album “Bows and Arrows” to “We’ve Been Had,” The Walkmen never ceased to have high intensity and fun during their show. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser evoked images of both Bono and Napoleon Dynamite on stage, as he hopped around with his classic guitar right out of ’60s. As both the student bands and headlining bands packed up for the night, they all agreed that Irishpalooza was a great opportunity for some bands to meet each other and for Notre Dame students to meet their music. If you wanted jazz, rock, hip-hop, free food or freak weather, Irishpalooza was the place to be on Saturday.