Allen Q and Jammin’ with Phil to open WUStock
After winning Battle of the Bands and nabbing an opening spot at WUStock for the second year in a row, Allen Q and Jammin’ with Phil promise a performance full of surprises. Last year, the group opened for Macklemore, the WUStock artist for 2013. Now, even though the Congress of the South 40’s chosen artist remains unknown, Allen Q and Jammin’ with Phil is already planning a performance it calls “epic.”
“We’re going to have a string orchestra stage left, brass orchestra stage right,” sophomore Sasha Tettenhorst, the band’s bass player, joked. “I plan on blowing at least two speakers out by turning my bass up to 11.”
“We need a choir, too, and four soul singers. Something mundane,” sophomore Allen Qiu, lead vocalist, chimed in.
“Huge pipe organs,” sophomore Andrew Orenstein, tenor saxophone player, added.
But all joking aside, drummer Phillip Sutherland said the band fully plans to make their opening act at WUStock a concert in its own right.
“I don’t want to spread any secrets, but it’s going to be big—it’s going to be huge,” Sutherland said. “I don’t even think some of the band members know about some of the surprises.”
Sutherland is also a staff member of Wash. U, and it is no secret that he is loved by many across the campus. Earlier in the year, he gained even more fame across campus with Dining Service’s release of his Phillipe sandwich—a glorified PB&J that was a secret menu item in Cherry Tree Cafe for years. Now Sutherland can expect even more popularity among students with his second opening at WUStock.
“Phil is really amped for this. He’s got some things in the works,” Qiu said. “I’m curious and slightly scared for what’s in store.”
“Gotta have faith in Phillipe,” Tettenhorst said. “At the end of the day he can do it; you gotta believe.”
There is no doubt that the show will be an entertaining one, but the preparation and practicing is always time-consuming. After fighting flus, busy schedules and nerves, the band was in disbelief, but ecstatic, when it took first place at Battle of the Bands. The entire band praised its fellow competitors, each of whom brought something unique to the table according to sophomore T.J. Lewis, the band’s keyboard player. Qiu believes one of the band’s standout characteristics is their ability to cover all genres of music in a single performance.
“We’re all over the place. I don’t like limits,” Qiu said. “That’s something the judges said about us at Battle of the Bands, that what they really enjoyed was our range of styles—jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, blues, gospel, garage rock.”
Lewis agreed, saying that it is this versatility that truly allows the band to “jam.”
“Allen [Qiu] will usually play us a beat that he’s heard or made that he wants to rap over, and we’ll listen to it and try to play it as best we can,” Lewis said. “Some of the beats have just been born out of spontaneous jam sessions, and we’ve used them for songs.”
Tettenhorst also agreed that the band is an interesting mix of influences, which lends to no one specific type of music per show. Consequently, each band member is able to show off his strengths within a song.
“Everyone has room within each song to have a level of musical dexterity to show what we can do,” Tettenhorst said. “We all have the ability to freely improvise together. Once the groove is set, everyone gets to do what they do.”
There is undoubtedly a family-like atmosphere surrounding the band. Sutherland describes the group dynamic as a “brotherhood, [like] a frat but without all the craziness, and our biggest frat parties are our concerts.”
The band said that one of its biggest and craziest concerts was last year’s WUStock, where the band opened for now four-time Grammy award-winning artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
“Opening up for Macklemore…words can’t describe it really,” Sutherland said.
Orenstein said one of the coolest things about opening for Macklemore was the opportunity to meet Ray Dalton, whom he deemed “very inspirational.” The singer, who is featured on Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” even hung out at Bear’s Den while he was in town.
Qiu also noted that he had a memorable interaction with the singer. “[Dalton] said I was the best Asian rapper he’d ever heard. I don’t know what that’s worth,” Qiu laughed. “I was like ‘Yeah…thanks…’ but he said, ‘No, I’ve actually heard a lot of Asian rappers.’ I don’t know how much that really means, but it was nice to hear.”
For the group’s newest band member and guitar player, freshman Noah Jodice, this will be his first time at WUStock.
“My goal coming into college was to form or join a band—to be able to play music with other people, so I think I was able to succeed in that and go beyond it,” Jodice said. “The fact that I can be in a band that opens for WUStock is way more than I thought would happen, so that’s really exciting for me.”
Even though he is the newbie in the tight knit group, Jodice explains that he has been able to find his own place. Sutherland, in fact, praised Jodice for what he’s added to the band.
“Noah is one of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting since I’ve been here,” Sutherland said. “He’s the missing piece of the puzzle we needed.”
Like Jodice, Orenstein and Tettenhorst each feel they found their place on campus when they joined the band.
“Personally, I’m really satisfied that I was able to join a group like this because I came here freshman year and I couldn’t find any musicians to play with,” Orenstein said. “I was frustrated and having music withdrawals.”
Tettenhorst echoed Orenstein’s sentiment, explaining that in high school he found limited opportunities to be the type of musician he wanted to be and to play the genres he wanted to play.
“To be able to come here and find this group and work with Phil, [Qiu] and everyone is great,” Tettenhorst said. “I remember sitting in my room playing bass alone—it’s just not the same…a good group makes you progress as a musician.”
Sutherland said that as the group continues to evolve, it stays true to its purpose of sharing a bond through music.
“Playing with a band is a very energetic and communicative experience,” Jodice said. “For me, music is partly an escape and a de-stresser, but it’s also very much a communal experience and a way of sharing energy with people and communicating with people that you couldn’t otherwise reach without it.”
Students will be able to see the group bring their grand show to life at this year’s WUStock on Saturday, April 5.