The Blind Pig was crowded with a swarm of head-bobbing college kids this past Saturday. A European-looking San Cristobal opened the college band showcase with their smooth and sultry chords, followed by the big sounds of the big-haired Detroit rock group George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus. But at around midnight, the headliner, Caves, took the stage. Five college students humbly gathered up on the seasoned platform of The Blind Pig and flipped open their Mac computers to begin the set up. 3-D visual projections are mapped up onto square-shaped screens on both sides of the stage, later matching every audio with its respective visual. A couple of quick sound checks and the excitement of the student fans that have circled the front is jumpstarted. And then the music began.
Individually, each member of Caves has incredible talents. Sam Naples, an Elk Ridge, Mich., native and Performing Arts major in the School of Art & Design, shreds into his guitar from the beginning to the end of the set. Peter Leonard keeps the bass very relevant, and Alex Koi transforms her vocal cords into an instrument of her own, with an explicit melodic tone that would have otherwise been missing. The classically trained yet rock ‘n’ roll pianist Summer Krinsky acts as the glue that sonically synthesizes the many sounds incorporated into each of the band’s songs. And so Caves enveloped The Blind Pig, filling the establishment to the brim with a unique sound and Technicolor visuals that mesmerized the audience.
Have Caves list off its influences and you will watch an incredible conglomeration of sounds form in front of you. Ranging from Björk to tUnE-yArDs to Baths and a touch of Phish, this college band is unlike most; their iTunes libraries do not define them or provide them with cheap steals. Rather, their musical interests inspire and motivate their preexisting talents and creativity.
Guitarist Sam Naples defined their inspiration, saying, “We’re not really interested in creating something that sounds like something else.”
And at times, they don’t even sound like themselves. To replicate themselves on any given night would be an incredible difficulty for this band. Each performance is treated as an empty canvas for them to expand upon their multi-dimensional and visceral talents with the added value of audiovisual aspects.
The reason as to why the band cannot pin down a specific influence was distinct in Saturday’s performance. Summer’s jazzy piano and Koi’s sexy scatting interlude that lead into a steamy, hard rock guitar and drum crescendo had a vehement effect on an already thoroughly enthusiastic crowd. Sonically, the band vacillated from genre to genre throughout the hour-long set. The only constant to be found, perhaps, is the change.
Koi said the band’s goal is to create “boundary-pushing music where people are taking things that have already existed and looking to the future to create something that is exciting or powerful.”
Caves is a band made out of convenient talent; they are friends brought together by their similar skills, interests and home — most of the band shares an address. They are a group of random, extraordinary kids brought together when pianist Summer Krinsky and lead guitarist Sam Naples decided that their independent study venture had a performative and musical future. Sam and his guitar can, undeniably, capture the audience’s attention for parts of each song, but Alex’s voice, Peter’s bass and Summer’s piano equalize the talent every song.
The band members themselves warn that the upcoming Caves album, which is bassist Peter Leonard’s senior thesis, may be a little difficult to create. With each performance more effusive and beautifully uncontrolled as the next, Caves is a band best digested live. Therefore, the worry remains that with a studio album the band could lose some of the random sonic artistry and specificity that makes their sound so special. Nevertheless, they are more than anything a band of individuals so jam-packed with talent, variety and black lipstick that their growth is surely moving upward.
As a 21st century band emerging from the breeding ground of talent that quietly exists on the University of Michigan’s North Campus, Caves couldn’t be described as a quintessential college indie rock band.
Guitarist Naples and the rest of Caves gushed about their intentions to expand their audience to include young people in Detroit.
“(Detroit is) right in our backyard and with so much potential,” Naples said.
The city’s warehouse music scene will perfectly accommodate a band as interesting, experimental, viscerally and musically aware as Caves — a band working with no desire other than to sound like themselves.