A Cool Concert: Clarkson’s Comps

By Tom Loughney ’16

Andrew Clarkson, ’16, is one of Kenyon’s resident music majors. As a member of many on-campus student musical groups, he has become one of our most recognizable guitarists. It’s quite likely that you’ve heard him play. Maybe you walked into a humid New Appt. – thick with the sweat of your peers – as Trix and the Kids brought the funk to your moistened ears. Maybe you stumbled into the VI one hazy evening, and danced to Motown so hard you accidentally beaned that cute boy you have a crush on. Beaned him right in the mouth. Or, maybe – like me – you went to Rosse Hall on April 2nd in the Year of Our Lord 2016,[1] and heard him play his comps recital.

Clarkson and co. (Sam Graf, Harrison Montgomery, Thomas Cox, Graham Hughes, Jeb Backe, Carolyn Ten Eyck, and Noah Weinman all contributed some fantastic performances as well) certainly didn’t take the easy route, with a set list that was ambitious as it was    . Some names: J Dilla, Charlie Parker, Richard Rogers. Some facts: these men are all deceased, these men are all legends, these men are all men. Oh and One More Fact I forgot to mention: Andrew Clarkson and crew absolutely crushed it.

Randy, Sam, and Harrison all walk on stage. Guitar, Drums, Bass. It begins, and it begins with a confident intro from the aforementioned Mr. Dilla. Next up is some Richardson, and then Parker, and then the next, and the next and the next. It’s all really quite good. Any visible nervous tension dissolves within 20 seconds. Tops. Harrison is positively grooving on the bass. It’s great! The bass is just as much about the physicality as it is the music, and Harrison’s got this down. Swooning, swaying, never sweating. He’s having fun playing this instrument, and – as a result – I’m having just as much fun watching/listening. Graf is having a ball, shooting his fellow performers positively massive grins. He’s got the look of a man who’s locking it down on the drums – and that’s because he is. There’s a law in this universe – an irrefutable mechanism by which the matter and space we all share behaves, like gravity – and it is this: the sound of a perfectly executed drum fill instills the greatest internal elation a person can ever know. I would trade every earthly object in my possession to hear another perfect live drum fill right now, and I would then walk naked before you knowing that I made a choice that was 100% worth it. Nasty, BUT: music is good, drums are good, and – also, sometimes – so is being naked. It seems like a fair trade.

Another pertinent element I should mention – as it is his comps recital, after all – is Andrew. Note: he’s a friend of mine, but nepotism be damned. Damn it right to heck. He’s easily the best guitarist I’ve ever known,[2] and he gave the closest thing to a flawless performance that I’ve ever seen. Go listen to your favorite song by your favorite artist right now. Do it. Listen close to the performance. Each (non-computerized[3]) recording will have a flaw in it. In fact, it will have several.


It will has several more flaws than I heard in Clarkson’s performance over the seven separate – incredibly difficult – tunes he performed. That – in and of itself – is an accomplishment worthy of praise. I have suspicions that he may actually be a robot that has decided to play guitar amongst us flawed human beings. Andrew? Are you reading this? Are you a robot? You can DM me your answer, it’s cool.

Actually, he may not be a robot – Andrew brought some real soul[4] to the table, particularly during the performances of My Favorite Things and Junk House Time (an arrangement and a Clarkson original, respectively). I was a particular fan of the MFT arrangement – Backe, Ten Eyck, and Weinman blew some mighty fine brass – and JHT was just as masterfully arranged. Frankly, I’m mad nobody took video of the event. It woulda made my job – as a ‘concert reviewer’ – much easier, but it also woulda made your job – as a ‘consumer of content’ – much easier as well. You could have real, tangible, digital interpretation of what occurred on that day – now gone, so long ago. Written word is not sound. This is a fact. Yet One More Fact I forgot to mention. Oops.

While there’s a charm to experiencing something that most other shave not, I’d encourage you to make an effort to see your friends’ outputs – creative or otherwise. We belong to a campus that’s a lot like the jazzy arrangements I heard at Clarkson’s performance. Beautiful. Moving. A little surreal. This characterizes the intelligence of many of our peers, and you should move Heaven and Earth to experience it.[5] You’ll never regret it – I promise.

This was comps, so I suppose I have to give a grade, and here it is: 100%[6]


[1] Nursing a fading – but in no way gentle – Saturday morning hangover.

[2] I say this as someone who has known and played with many musicians for almost 7 years now. This guy is the real deal. Watch the throne, yo.

[3] Btw, I don’t mean this as any sort of curmudgeonly, ‘ugh computer/synthetic music’s not real music’ sorta way – it’s just much harder to leave in ‘mistakes’ with computerized music is all. By the by, if ‘comp. music isn’t real music’ is (somehow, in 2016, still) your opinion, then you should talk to literally anyone who listens to this type of music. They will be able to prove you wrong and inform your artistic worldview.

[4] Yo okay so I know robots and AI are basically people at this point but I needed a transition, okay??? Let me have this.

[5] For real, this school is a murder of geniuses. They roam these streets in packs, y’all. You folks are so unbelievably stupid smart, and it humbles me every day. Keep making your A+ content.

[6] Does not affect GPAs, grades, or résumés, unfortunately.

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