On Saturday night, enthused and nearly frozen Eagles poured into the basement of The Middle East nightclub to warm up jamming to the music of Boston College’s own student band, Juice.
The band played the smaller upstairs of the club in December and their impressive performance earned them a booking in the larger downstairs of the club, in which headliners such as Aerosmith, Passion Pit and Eminem have all played.
“It's truly a rite of passage for any up and coming band to get asked to play there,” says the group’s violinist/rapper Christian Rougeau, A&S ’17.
While at first glance the venue seemed exceedingly spacious, the environment near the stage was one of contagious energy, not at all diffused by the cavernous room. Fans of the band crowded the stage, calling out to the musicians in a relationship that made the performance feel like a playful jam session among friends.
The group’s oh-so-groovy funk sound would prove difficult for even the most adamant non-dancer to resist moving to, and the comfort and confidence with which the band took to the stage immediately set the tone for a larger-than-life performance.
The band members played, sang and rapped (yes, they do it all) with an exuberance that invited every audience member to crack a smile and let loose with them. The sweet and soulful vocals of lead singer Ben Stevens, CSOM ’17, provoked a constant stream of whistles and playful “hoot-hoo’s” from the ladies, while Rougeau’s passionate and slightly manic fiddling never failed to rile up the audience.
Stevens, Rougeau and acoustic guitarist Kamau Burton, A&S ’17, not only sang and played their respective instruments, but also alternated rapping verses with impressive rhyme and wit, bringing a strong hip-hop element to the show.
The group’s sound, a conglomerate of R&B, funk, hip-hop and rock elements evades labels or definition. As Rougeau puts it, the sound is “a new genre, a blend... a juice, if you will.”
Their flawless instrumentals (three guitars, keys, drums, bass and the show-stealing electric violin) and perfectly harmonized vocals form an incredibly robust sound to begin with. But this volume was even further amplified when the band played Amy Winehouse’s hit “Valerie” and the audience instantaneously joined in the singing, unable to resist the unreasonably catchy tune.
When the band announced the end of their set, the suddenly unsatisfied audience barraged them with hungry demands for more music. Boisterous fans chanted, “One more song,” and one impassioned audience member added, “Make it a long one!”
After exchanging regards with one another and a club manager, the band happily segued into a well-chosen final song: Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One.”
The song choice was met with a roar of approval and if “Valerie” hadn’t gotten every voice to sing along, the encore
certainly did. When the song finished, fans and friends of the band reached out to grab the band members’ hands in gratitude and the group, beaming with satisfaction, packed up their instruments and left the stage.
“We brought an awesome crowed despite all the on campus activities,” reflects Stevens, “and the band was feeling it.”
Upon joining their fans on the floor, the group was met with a seemingly endless parade of high fives and congratulations, including my own. The highest compliment I could think up was “You rock” and other similarly generic phrases, but what I meant to compliment them on seemed near impossible to vocalize.
What had amazed me were the band’s intangible energy, charm and warmth. They’ve got the je ne sais quoi that makes a good band great – or better yet, phenomenal.
Like Juice on Facebook to get updates about upcoming concerts, including their performance at halftime of the FCBC Fashion show on February 20th.