Rockin' the Horn

Andrew Irvin '08 makes Kenyon a destination for indie bands.

The Narrator, Daedalus, The City on Film, Kind of Like Spitting, The Dead Science, Pompeii Upon Pompeii. These may sound like the names of postmodern movies, but they're actually a few of the more than forty indie bands that have performed at Kenyon's Horn Gallery in the last year, thanks to the efforts of rock impresario and rising junior Andrew Irvin.

"When I arrived here, we had about five bands a semester coming to play at Kenyon," says Irvin. "I knew we could do better."

To amp up the music scene at Kenyon, Irvin made use of band contacts he had established over a period of years. As a Granville, Ohio, resident (he's a stepson of Gregg Parini '82), Irvin spent his high school years exploring the central Ohio rock scene, both by playing guitar in bands of his own and by attending shows at Columbus venues. At every opportunity, he meets band members, researches their recording labels, and establishes contact with their booking agents.

Irvin lives, eats, and breathes rock, and he knows that many Kenyon students consider live music essential to their well-being. The fact that Oberlin had a more thriving indie scene than Kenyon bothered him and spurred his competitive spirit. "I set out to make Kenyon as
much of a destination for bands as Oberlin is," he says.

And he has been doing exactly that. As Irvin sees it, when he books bands to play the Horn, everybody wins: students gain cutting-edge entertainment and experience the latest sounds; the bands get wider exposure; and Irvin gets the opportunity to promote. His professionalism in dealing with bands and booking agents has already brought him a job offer from Saddle Creek, an independent record label based in Omaha, Nebraska. Last summer he held an internship in sales and retail at Flame Shovel, a Chicago label.

The bands come to Gambier from all over the country--Portland, Oregon; Chicago; New York City; Washington, D.C., and Washington State, for example. In a busy week, Irvin books two to three concerts. His biggest coup so far was bringing Tilly and the Wall to Gambier in May 2005. "There were about two hundred fifty people out on Ransom Lawn the week after Summer Sendoff," Irvin recalls.

Irvin also works to promote Kenyon student bands such as Marquis de Rad and Pontius Pilate. Through Irvin's efforts, student rockers get to meet the touring bands and play with them. To help Kenyon bands gain exposure, he's started a label, Horn Records, using the WKCO recording studio in the basement of Farr Hall near the radio station's premises. "There's a ton of talent here," says Irvin.

He's especially pleased by the positive response he gets from visiting bands. Kind of Like Spitting, a band out of Portland, Oregon, found Kenyon so enchanting when they played last September that they plan to come back in fall 2006 to cut an album on the Horn label for a 2007 release, with backup from members of Kenyon's wind and string ensembles and other campus music groups. Irvin calls it "a dream."

Because he likes "the recording end of things," Irvin thinks he might like to run a label one day. But his vision is actually bigger than that. Dismayed that success in the music business is judged in an all-or-nothing way, where only megastar bands are considered to have made it, Irvin hopes to create conditions that would allow for what he calls "a musician's middle class." "Musicians should be able to make a living doing what they love," he says. "They wouldn't be superstars, but they shouldn't have to hold down a day job, either. They ought to be able to support themselves and a family."

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