Why You Should Be at The Mohawk Tonight with Attendance Records and Belaire

caught_in_the_food_chainIn a book called Break Point and Beyond by George Land and Beth Jarman, they cite a study conducted by land in which he tested a group of students for their aptitude at divergent thinking. Divergent thinking, the ability to think in diverse ways to invent multiple solutions or ideas, is a hallmark of creativity. The students were kindergarteners. How many kindergarteners could possibly have scored at the highest tier, so-called “genius level” for divergent thinking? 98%. Shocking and impressive to be sure, but the real power of the study lies in the fact that it was designed to be longitudinal and the same students were tested at five year intervals. At age 8-10, how many of those same students scored at the genius level? 32%. By age 13-15 it had dropped to 10%. As a control, Land tested over 200,000 adults over age 25. Only 2% scored at the genius level.

Young people are some of our most important thinkers, full of wonder and idealism. It’s unfortunate that contemporary culture’s puzzled stare at wild-eyed youth often comes with a perhaps innocent but far less than benign desire to “educate” young people to the ways of the world, to “logical” and “practical” thinking. Which makes the work that Attendance Records does all the more important. Many readers of this blog will know that it’s accomplished solely in spare time, nights, and weekends. I’m a full-time high school teacher. So this review admittedly may have a chip on its shoulder, because sometimes it seems that it’s an anomaly when students are treated like actual people even by their teachers. The ageism approaches deplorable. Under the leadership of Jenna Carrens, the team over at Attendance Records pair high school students with local musicians and songwriters to create collaborative songs that students are able to see reach fruition as tangible records.

The most recent of those records, Caught in the Food Chain, features songs by Anderson High School students in collaboration with celebrated Austin bands Marmalakes and Belaire. Tonight at the Mohawk, Attendance Records will host a show at the Mohawk to share some of these songs with the community. If the all-too-common feeling that this project might be sub par because it incorporates high school teens, fight the easiness of that systemic ageism. The creative minds of all parties involved have conferred to produce a marvelous record.

Marmalakes handles duties for the first three songs, which feel cohesive and explore 90s-leaning indie rock with buzzing guitars, feedback, and busy, thundering drumming. Chase Weinacht’s vocals shine on “Not the Sun” with soaring climbs that devolve into a captivating punky squawk. “Kids in the Snow” provides beautiful imagery with a more delicate take on songcraft. Belaire handles the songs for the latter half of the album and delivers tracks as solid as ever. As on their most recent LP Resonating Symphony synths waft and waver as upbeat percussion moves the songs forward. The surprising shifts and multi-tracked vocals of “Up to Cloud” may even outshine most of what the band has produced before, and should make us all lament that they’re on something of a hiatus (which makes seeing tonights show all the more important).

The lineup tonight will feature Belaire as well as readings from some of the album’s songwriters and more local music from The Baker Family, Major Major Major, Whalers, and Knifight. The lineup provides reason enough to get out to the Mohawk tonight, but your support of Austin’s young people makes it a must. One of my favorite songs from 2010 is Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from The Suburbs. On the track, Régine Chassange sings “They heard me singing and they told me to stop; quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.” It rings heartbreakingly true to me. Attendance Records broadcasts the opposite message to the lives it touches. Their work reflects a message of hope and inspiration: “Sing without inhibition, loudly, confidently, and never, ever stop.” It’s the message we should all instill in our community’s young people. And you can help. Tonight. At the Mohawk.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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