Mod 37B had a special guest last Thursday evening-and no, it wasn’t BCPD. William Bolton, CSOM ’16, an unusual voice from Detroit, kicked off the Chorduroy Mod Series, appearing under the pseudonym Times New Roman. Something of a wild Thursday night crowd flooded the Mod, and it quickly became apparent what they were so manic about. Loud chatter grew into an anxious chant as the audience stood waiting, calling out what would become the mantra of the night: “Roman.”
Bolton rushed down the staircase of the Mod and pushed through the crowd as the band sounded off a quick jazz interlude, and bang. With the crash of cymbol, Bolton sprang into verse, swinging around the mic stand as opened the performance with “Bizarre,” a track off his Satisfaction demo.
“Homie, you should know that I’m from Motown / Yes, I’ve got that soul sound and I’ll never slow down,” he yelled, in a tone slightly more aggressive, and distinctly hip-hop, than the cool, level vocals delivered on his demo. Clad in his signature camo print pants, Bolton wasted little time entering into what proved a lively and energetic performance.
Bolton’s style is a unique blend of soul and hip-hop, and Thursday’s performance especially showed off his growing talent as an emcee. Bolton played guitar through most of the performance, and he was accompanied by Victor Araromiq, A&S ’17, on the drums and Daniel Lyle, A&S ’16, on the keys and controller. Together the three students were able to create layers of jazzy undertones and smooth beats. The group was remarkably capable of recreating the sounds of Bolton’s studio work and invigorating it in the closed space.
Chorduroy, the sponsor of the concert, produces music compilations featuring Boston College musicians, and he welcomed Bolton, Lyle, and Araromiq as three of BC’s rising artists. Bolton released his Satisfaction demo in October, aggressively promoting the CD by distributing it door-to-door. He has been featured in various performances throughout campus, including last spring’s BC Underground segment of Arts Fest.
Those in attendance on Thursday were able to get a taste of some of Bolton’s unreleased work, songs such as “Feel This Way,” “The Garden,” and “Let’s Stay Together,” the last of which is expected to be released Valentine’s Day. Bolton’s fusion of smooth rap verses and upbeat choruses showcased the versatility of his voice, and suggested some promising singles to be released in the future. He kept exceptional control of his voice in the loud, unconventional performance space, at moments overlaying more complex vocals over prerecorded voice parts to create rather elaborate textures to his songs.
Bolton had two dedicated “songs for the ladies,” as he called them, at Thurday’s show, “Passion” and “Let’s Stay Together.” During “Passion,” he slowed down his crooning lyrics and encouraged the audience to sing along-at one point, the crowd swayed to Roman’s softer, sensual flow on the track (“I like it in the moonlight / I like it when the stars shine”).
Before his performance of “Detroit 2 Boston,” Bolton addressed his audience in a moment of honesty: “I come from music. It’s in my blood.” Bolton hails from Detroit, and the song describes his transition from his hometown to Beantown. The song is one of Roman’s most relatable, telling the story of a college student who moves away from home-feeling some sense of loss, finding new friends, and realigning an identity.
Peeling back his boisterous stage persona, Bolton had moments of rare vulnerability laced within his performance. At face, he’s an ambitious young artist, eager to please crowds and put out his work, but Thursday’s performance showed off a more compelling dimension to Bolton’s work-what came out was the meticulous producer and music aficionado.
Few people in the Mod would have noticed if Bolton scaled back a few tracks from the demo, simplifying the performance for an already eager crowd, but Bolton seems to really believe in this music. He’s a perfectionist who lives for crisp execution, and while it’s clear he’s had most of his lyrics built well into his psyche, he presented them with a clear sense of newness, and at times, urgency.
The show ended with a showing of Bolton’s new music video, “Diamonds,” which was screened simultaneously with his performance of the song. The video features Bolton and his “darlin,'” with scenes of the couple walking the city streets, ice skating, and having a good time, despite her preoccupation with the glitz and glam of fame. It’s clear that Bolton had fun with the video-it was a charming yet relatively conservative portrayal of young love.
This and Bolton’s frequent appeals to Motown throughout the performance suggested one of the more interesting points of the Times New Roman persona-there’s something very old-fashioned about it all. Bolton, Lyle, and Araromiq started the Chorduroy Mod Series with classic zeal and experimental vibes, and while plenty of “experimental” things happen at the Mods, Bolton’s sense of class, and careful execution, made for a night at the Mods worth remembering.