By Carl Sessions
As the snow flurried and the winds whipped, The Olympics and Free Energy warmed up Gardner with their high-energy performances on Tuesday night.
The Olympics, an indie-pop quintet from Iowa City, started off the night. After the opening track, marked by Noel Nissen’s pounding drums and Trever Polk’s piercing synth, singer Jeff Roalson cajoled the Grinnell crowd of 40 to move closer to the stage. “We all got beers here! We’re bros!” Roalson said.
The Olympics’ second song illustrated their instrumental talent. The melody, built up from the synth, drums and bass, was elevated by Lucas Adolphson’s shredding on the guitar. The song ended with a catastrophic yet contained two minute instrumental.
Between songs, Jeff Roalson joked with the crowd, demonstrating why The Olympics are one of the nicest bands that hail from Iowa.
“If you understand the Jiggle, just do it. Let’s get the Jiggle going!” Roalson said.
Grinnell followed his advice on the fourth song of the set, “Barefoot Blondes.” This summer tune—characterized by upbeat synth (which Polk performed with enraptured ecstasy) and deep guitar hooks—rapped Grinnellians on the back of their knees and got them dippin’, slidin’ and playin’ in the sand.
Perhaps more impressive than The Olympics’ energy-propelled show, catchy hooks and down-to-earth demeanor is the fact that Jeff Roalson, Dan Roalson (bass) and Polk are full-time college students at Coe College and the University of Iowa.
“Tonight I still have Econ homework to do,” Dan Roalson laughed after the show.
Despite being in college, The Olympics have had an eventful last year. They released their first album, Barefoot Blondes, in October, and have played alongside large acts such as Cute is What We Aim For.
“That show was actually fun,” Jeff Roalson said. “It was a blast from six years ago.”
Philadelphia-based Free Energy followed The Olympics with a resounding, palatial rock show. Lead vocalist Paul Spranger’s shirt—which read, “Attitude is Everything”—summed up the band’s ethos. Polk of The Olympics had described Free Energy as “pump up music,” which proved to be an apt description.
“One more time, one more night…there are dreams in your eyes,” Spranger crooned to the bouncing crowd.
As their set progressed, it became evident that Free Energy, while epitomizing the musical talent of ’70s garage rock, had updated its lyrics to be evocative of the angsty teen songs that we all once listened to.
These sensitive ballads, however, rode past their lovesick lyrics and were carried with finesse and a resounding ebullient spirit. Throughout the show, Free Energy got Grinnell jumping, clapping and pumping their fists.
“I’ve been listening to Free Energy since 11th grade, and they were better live,” Varun Nayar ’15 said. “This is going to be a tough act to follow.”
Tuesday’s shows were a fantastic beginning to the Grinnell Concerts spring lineup. Be sure to check out the mischief that will happen tonight, Friday, February 1, as DJ Sliink, Brenmar and Sasha Go Hard bring the dancing groove back to Gardner.