MIT welcomes suburban rockin#039; Ben Folds on April 25

by Beacon Staff • April 22, 2009

Ben Folds, the bespectacled troubadour of a generation of awkward suburbanites, will be headlining Massachusetts Institute of Technology's annual Spring Weekend event on April 25. Radio darling Sarah Bareilles, who had a number one hit with her 2007 tune "Love Song," will be opening for Folds.

Also on the bill is Hotel Lights, a band fronted by multi-instrumentalist and former Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee. This lineup of poppy piano rockers is guaranteed to leave any concert-goer's ears dripping with the saccharine sweetness of sing-along choruses and infectious keyboard riffs.

Folds' third solo album, iWay to Normal/i, was released in September 2008 and hit #11 on the Billboard 200 chart within its first week of release. The album is Folds' highest-charting debut in the United States.

Folds has always had a mind for melody and he doesn't disappoint on iWay to Normal/i. In a musical match made in heaven, Folds collaborates with Regina Spektor on the track "You Don't Know Me." Each song on iWay to Normal/i contains the catchy piano pop that Folds has become known for, making it a solid addition to his ever expanding discography.

On April 28, Folds is due to release a compilation album titled iBen Folds Presents: University A Capella!/i. The album will feature 14 different college a cappella groups from 12 different states covering tracks from the entirety of the Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five catalog.

Folds also takes a crack at recording a cappella versions of his own tunes, revamping "Effington," off iWay to Normal/i, and his 1995 Ben Folds Five track "Boxing."

While not featured on Folds' compilation, Emerson a cappella group Noteworthy has arranged and performed its own sans-instrumental interpretation of "Gone," a track off of Folds' 2001 album, iRockin' the Suburbs/i. Freshman broadcast journalism major Steve Selnick sings lead on the song and said the prominence of piano in Ben Folds songs allows them to be easily adapted to the a cappella style.

"He lays good ground work, a good foundation to start from," said Selnick of the a-cappellafication process.

Type "college a cappella" into the YouTube search bar and you will find a rising number of groups covering indie rock songs ranging from Animal Collective to Vampire Weekend. Folds, showing his unending propensity for knowing where it's at, was quick to realize that this is not some passing trend.

In an Epic Records press release, Folds said, "This is not a novelty. I consider this my new record. I'm incredibly proud of this. If this were Ben World, this would be my greatest hits album. I'd rather this be my greatest hits record than someone collecting my masters and slapping on a photo of me leaning against a piano. This is a better way. I'm a songwriter, and these are my songs."

Folds is not one to shy from interesting career choices. In 2004, he produced and arranged William Shatner's second musical album, iHas Been/i.

This album was then adapted into a ballet called "Common People" by choreographer Margo Sappington, famous for co-writing and choreographing the 1969 off-Broadway hit, iOh! Calcutta!/i The collaborative project is the subject of the documentary iWilliam Shatner's Gonzo Ballet/i, which is due for release some time in 2009. The film features interviews with Folds, Shatner, Henry Rollins and Sappington.

Last year, MIT's Spring Weekend concert was headlined by Third Eye Blind. While far more musically relevant than the boys who wrote everybody's favorite song about crystal meth, Ben Folds will no doubt induce some mid-to-late nineties nostalgia.

Post-April 25, Folds can be found touring the country in support of iWay to Normal/i with select dates featuring performances from his undergrad, a cappella-loving comrades.

iMIT's Spring Weekend concert will start at 8 p.m. at the Johnson Athletic Center, 120 Vassar St., Cambridge, MA./i