“Peter and the Wolf” refers to a single artist named Red Hunter, who performed a show in Hyde Park last Thursday night with a duct tape-patched guitar and a keyboard synthesizer. His clothing was similarly nonchalant, and his laid-back appearance anticipated his friendly rapport with the forty to fifty member audience. At 9:30 (the scheduled start time) there was no one but the show’s organizer in the ballroom of the University of Chicago’s Shoreland Hall dormitory. But people gradually gathered and by the time he began, the audience had grown enough to not be embarrassing, yet remained small enough to still remain relaxed and comfortable. Though the size of the Shoreland Ballroom dwarfed the group that had formed around the stage, it proved to be a great venue. The echo of the sound in the immense, mostly empty space disguised the quality of the old and well-used equipment, which only became really apparent when Hunter announced “this one’s a jam,” or “this one starts with a beat,” and added a synthetic rhythm with his outdated Casio to the otherwise simple tune and vocals.
Peter and the Wolf’s first album, “Lightness,” was pleasant but somewhat monotonous, consistently using similar instrumental and vocal themes. However, this same quality turned out to be fun for a live show. It was easy to sit and enjoy the effect of the seemingly continuous sound. I get the impression that most of the audience wasn’t extremely familiar with the band prior to the show, but the requests of those who had favorites were performed without hesitation. Aside from the generally tranquil atmosphere, it wasn’t without its comedic relief. You might not expect to hear the phrase “It’s not a good show until something dies!” at a typical folk show, but when you’re dealing with cockroaches in the Shoreland, there’s a time and a place for everything. Though the insect scare caused a bit of a ruckus, Hunter took it in stride and didn’t seem too offended by the subsequent laughing and talking. But he didn’t get the same kind of responsiveness as the cockroach when he asked for people to sing along, to which he responded “Yeah, I guess you guys are in college and too cool to sing along…but the fifth graders love this shit.” After the show, he hung out with the remainder of the audience for a while and signed CD cases and other merchandise. I came home with a “Yo Bonnie Kate, Thanks for the love… woo hoo” trailing the design on the homemade CD case for his newest album, “The Ivori Palms,” which I’ve since enjoyed.
It was exciting to have a legitimate artist play an interesting show on campus. In fact, even if it was just an enjoyable show from an unrecognizable artist, or even a fellow student, it still would have the same comfortable quality. Though popular and more mainstream concerts are fun, it’s easy to forget how exceptional it is to enjoy live music with some of your friends, and also how nice it is to relate to an artist who seems a little more real than a recorded sound personified on a stage. There is no doubt that Red Hunter wouldn’t have stood out from any of the students watching him, and he wouldn’t have pretended that there was too much of a barrier either.