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The KickDrums rock IUP for Relay for Life

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04/15/2014
Andrew Milliken
Staff Writer

Brooklyn-based electronic indie-rock outfit The KickDrums played a concert Friday at the Indiana Theater.

While admission was free, donations were accepted at the door for Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Relay for Life, scheduled for April 26.

The show was also meant to promote WIUP-FM (90.1 FM), IUP’s radio station run by assorted faculty and students.

WIUP-FM is a diverse media outlet on campus, that plays music almost all the time and hosts a sports talk show Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4-5 p.m.

Opening for The KickDrums was Doug Kallin (senior, music), who, acoustic guitar in hand, delivered seven songs to the audience in preparation for The KickDrums.

Relationships were the focal point of Kallin’s set, as they are with many indie singer-songwriters.

Kallin’s guitar playing and tenor vocal range combined to form an act that fell somewhere between Jeff Mangum, Tom DeLonge and Ben Gibbard.

The KickDrums, led by the effortlessly chill Alex Fitts, delivered a performance that threw genre to the wind.

The KickDrums filled the Indiana Theater with music at once unique and familiar, singular and listenable.

Some of the grimiest garage rock possible flirted with electronic backing beats and hip-hop drum tracks, complete with a vocal sample to fill space between songs, while Fitts’ own vocals vacillated between a smooth baritone and a hoarse shout as his band alternated between styles.

This apparent hodgepodge of stylistic elements makes more sense when Fitts’ career as a producer is taken into account.

Fitts has produced for the likes of 50 Cent, Kanye West, Adele, Lana del Ray and IUP Homecoming headliner Machine Gun Kelly.

Fitts cited the MGK track “Stereo” as one of the more popular songs he has produced.

While hip-hop and rap’s influences can clearly be heard in The KickDrums’ music, other groups can be heard creeping into the band’s unique sound.

The merging of rock and electronic music was perhaps most successfully accomplished by Radiohead, a band that Fitts mentioned as a major influence on The KickDrums.

Nirvana’s grunge can also be heard in the group’s heavier songs.

Fitts’ extra-cool personality is reflected by his willingness to reply to any fans from the band’s Twitter account (@TheKickDrums).

The idea to have the band perform at IUP was spawned when WIUP-FM staff attended the College Media Journal Music Marathon, an event held annually in Manhattan, said John Rockenbach (senior, communications media), who is on the staff for the radio station.

Rockenbach said that he and Ron Zeiber (senior, communications media) – student station manager for WIUP-FM – intended to see The KickDrums at a small venue but missed the performance.

Zeiber then sent Fitts a direct message via Twitter asking if The KickDrums were playing any more shows for the CMJ Music Marathon.

Zeiber and Rockenbach were invited to a KickDrums’ private show, where Fitts invited them to his private show, which the duo attended.

Afterward, Zeiber asked Fitts if he was interested in playing a show in Pennsylvania, and so they appeared at a free concert for students.

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