This past Thursday, I found myself drinking chai and waiting for a new performance in the Benjamin E. Mays Center. As it has been for the past number of years, VCS was consistent – at 9 p.m. of Thursday, January 18, the audience welcomed two violinists with applause. Midnight Meow started their performance strong, with “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes. The violinists Jonathan Chan and Jan Bislin mixed the picking and bowing of the strings and created a textural interpretation of the slow-paced, sweet song. I expected the night to go on to be a simple but delicate acoustic interpretation of classic songs punctuated by sips of my warm beverage.
This was not always the case; in between songs the duo was quite awkward. They talked about travelling and their hotel and about how, after the White Stripes song, we were already friends, but nothing that really hooked my attention. “Do they even know each other?” Sydney Anderson ’20 whispered to me when the performers started to stumble over each other. At first, their lack of coordination between songs was funny, but became less so over time. They shared their social media tags and whatever once towards the beginning of their set and then some six other times over the course of the night (@midnightmeowofficial for Instagram, if you were wondering).
The second interpretation by the duo was “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. Much like the first song, the performers started softly and progressively eased their way into a lively crescendo. “They are good!” Khouloud Gargouri, French and Francophone Studies Teaching Assistant, told me while we refilled our cups of chai.
The duo’s interpretation of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” once sung by Nancy Sinatra was particularly interesting, since the duo played it all in one violin. There was a playfulness in seeing four hands and two bows moving through the tiny instrument. Towards the end of the night, Midnight Meow performed a quick improvisation piece based on audience suggestions: love and breakups. Gargouri mentioned that this part specially stuck out to her, “They make us part of their experimentation,” she told me after the show was over. “You feel the story in the way they play with each part of their body,” Gargouri emphasized the authenticity of live performances. I personally thought that part was a bit forced but interesting nevertheless.
I am a fan of VCS; everyone knows what is and when it is. While some performances are undeniably more memorable than others, I think VCS is one of the most reliable social events at Bates. Assistant Director of Campus Life Nick Dressler, direct advisor of the Village Club Series Crew, is constantly seeking to make it better for students. In regard to VCS, he said, “it was very clear to me that it was an important part of the student experience, part of the cultural fabric of the college.”
VCS has a long history and this year is its 25th anniversary, which means a quarter of a century of performances and student participation. I couldn’t help but wonder what VCS would be like in the years to come. Dressler shared with me that, when he arrived, it stood out to him that the most common performances at VCS were by folk artists. “Having only been at the college for 1.5 years, it’s hard to say what VCS will look like for the next 25… But I can tell you what to expect while I’m at Bates: variety,” he clarified, when I asked him about the future of the series. “It is my belief that VCS should embody the mission of the college by exposing attendees to performers from as many backgrounds and walks of life as possible; a diverse array of genres, and different kinds of performance types,” said Dressler.
Midnight Meow was not my favorite group, but I always appreciate live performances and the intimate space of VCS. I am genuinely excited to see other art forms and performers join the stage and share their stories with the Bates community. I also look forward to seeing more of the incredible performances I’ve seen in the past. Dressler confirms, “For those who are reading this who are avid VCS attendees: don’t be fearful of change – we’re still going to have our ‘regulars’ – in fact, Tall Heights is coming this week on the 25th!”
Suggestions to VCS can be submitted at bates.edu/vcs.