The Brighton Music Hall is always a funny place to be. If you stand back from the crowd for a few moments and people-watch a bit, you’re sure to see some underage hooligans vainly scraping away at the black “X” on their hands signaling to the venue’s staff that they are definitely not supposed to be holding that Mai Tai. Some girl is most assuredly nodding to her friends across the bar, hoping that they’ll realize she needs to be relieved of the pesky, boring guy talking her up, while the bartender lets out an aching sigh as he notices that some guy just tripped and knocked over his buddy in the process. It’s only when the epic ensemble that is Juice graces the stage that your attention is ripped away from the stupid shenanigans of the evening’s audience and settles on the soulful, funky essence that Juice exudes in all its performances.
Flanked by four of his bandmates, two on each side of him, lead vocalist Ben Stevens, MCAS ’17, looks like he’s heading a team of Power Rangers about to morph into their suits. While this sounds like a comical image, it actually encapsulates a dynamic that makes Juice both unique and so variable. Juice is, obviously, a large group. With eight musicians, there’s most certainly a lot at play technically in each song the group performs or creates. One of the main reasons why Juice has always been such a popular band here at Boston College during its three-year existence has been the complex cohesiveness that characterizes most of the group’s songs. It’s more obvious than ever, seeing the camaraderie and literal, spatial unity of the group, that Juice has honed this musical and aesthetic cohesiveness to a professional point.
That isn’t to say that the individual band members’ talents and specialties aren’t readily apparent or highlighted to those in attendance at one of their concerts. Especially this last Friday, standout solos and duets could be found in every song that rang through the venue. Whether you’re looking at bassist Rami El-Abidin’s, MCAS ’15, solo in “Shoot Me Down” or violinist Christian Rougeau, MCAS ’17, gliding into the middle of “Workin’ on Lovin’” with an epic rap, Juice’s variability and stunning individual components were on display throughout the entirety of the show.
While it is evident that Juice, in several respects, has mastered its craft both collectively and as individual musicians, there is always room for improvement. For starters, members of the band shouldn’t be so assuming about which of their songs is the most popular or the biggest crowd-pleasers. Just before starting “Gold,” one of Juice’s hits, Stevens told the crowd, “We’re sure you guys are gonna like this one.” Once the opening notes echoed across the room, the audience whirled up in applause and excitement, but as the song went on, it grew less and less overwhelmed by the song. Stevens seemed to aggressively pine the audience to keep up its energy throughout the song, but it just didn’t seem to be there with the audience. This was a bit off-putting. Other songs in the setlist, like “Shock” and “Shoot Me Down,” seemed to hype the crowd more than “Gold” did. While having the firmest grasp on which songs get a crowd going isn’t at all the most pressing component of being a great live performer, it could help the band maintain better pacing throughout a show. Juice does, however, keep its stage presence lively for the entirety of its setlist.
One moment of particular note was the seamlessly executed transition between “Shoot Me Down” and “Thrones.” Reminiscent of the epic transition between “Us and Them” and “Any Colour You Like” on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, the smooth interlude between the two ballads was awesome to behold. There was a moment, however, when the transition felt too smooth—like it was too similar of a sound to the previous song. But, again exemplifying Juice’s tonal and sonic spectrum, the band picked up its pace and turned the morose and soulful “Shoot Me Down” into the epic, multi-faceted rap that is “Thrones.” While both songs were obviously crowd favorites, they garnered very different emotions and expressions from the audience. The complex, polar relationship found in the small medley is emblematic of Juice’s fascinating musical composition and the group’s masterful execution of some of its more lofty technical endeavors.
For those who have been avid Juicers for the last couple years, it might be weird seeing the group this year. Seven of Juice’s eight members are seniors, and the one who left graduated in 2015. What lies ahead in the talented group’s future is unforeseeable to most, if not all. At its first concert of the year, however, looming possibilities do not appear to be on the group’s collective mind. Juice is the same old Juice, thankfully. Juicers and newcomers alike, on the other hand, will get to see how the rest of the school year shapes Juice’s performances and interpersonal dynamic.
It’s morphin’ time, Juice. Good luck and Godspeed, gentlemen.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor