Illuminati Hotties and French Cassettes bring spunk and softness to Bing Studio

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:31 p.m.

Eager students navigated their way to an intimate studio tucked beneath the ribs of Bing Concert Hall to see bands Illuminati Hotties and French Cassettes at an event hosted by Stanford Concert Network on Thursday night. The quasi-labyrinthine path into the belly of the beast, which winds through oak trees and down several flights of stairs, helped build anticipation and excitement.

Stanford student opener Shrinking Violet warmed up the audience with a varied set that included both original music and covers of well-known songs like OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” People swayed along to what Shrinking Violet explained was the first song he ever wrote, back in his childhood. The performance was bookended by enthusiastic shouts of encouragement from friends and others in the audience.

Lauded rock band Illuminati Hotties featured as the concert’s main attraction. They impressed early on in the concert with their popular track “Pool Hopping,” a high-energy rock song that had the audience clapping along. Evocative of teenage disobedience, the song set a defiant tone for the overall performance. Guitarist and lead singer Sarah Tudzin’s uniquely boyish, smiling voice came as a surprise to first-time listeners, shining particularly well on slower songs like “Knead” and “u v v p.” On guitar breaks, she turned to her right and jammed with fellow guitarist Sapphire Jewell; the two shared a comfortable chemistry.

Illuminati Hotties members Sarah Tudzin and Sapphire Jewell performing a song
Tudzin joined guitarist Sapphire Jewell for instrumental breaks throughout. (Photo: AYA AZIZ/The Stanford Daily)

In between songs, Tudzin toggled between her two guitars and spent time adjusting their settings. The group’s dexterity with pedalboards allowed for an impressive range of sounds, which enveloped the audience thanks to Bing Studio’s acoustics.

Tudzin kept the audience engaged with Stanford-related quips during instrument adjustments. “Do you think I could get in here on attitude?” she asked, alluding to Stanford’s selective admissions. When audience members encouraged her to join University faculty and teach a music class, she replied, “I was thinking, like, a football class.” Near the end of the set, Tudzin theatrically sighed, “It’s been a long and lonesome road, but here I am — finally at Stanford University!”

Illuminati Hotties’ youthful and jeering onomatopoeia-titled “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” stood out as a highlight of the night. Tudzin expertly manipulated her voice to oscillate between a reedy head voice and a satirical chesty baritone, coloring the song’s impish taunts. She also initiated call-and-response, grinning as impassioned fans in the crowd mockingly parroted lyrics like “The DNC is playing dirty” and “I’m so sad I can’t do laundry.”

Later in the night, the band’s skilled instrumentalists executed a satisfying, frenzied climax to their track “Pressed 2 Death.” The refrain of “You only like me when I’m feeling sad/You only want me when I’m bad” in the chorus gradually crescendoed from resignation to loud rebellion, eventually crashing down on the audience in a cascade of percussive rock sound. The lights switched to a jarring red to complete the moment, and several members of the crowd whipped out their phones to record.

Illuminati Hotties was preceded by the Bay Area’s own French Cassettes, whose melancholy sound was at times reminiscent of The Strokes. While upbeat bass lines kept the audience swaying, singer-songwriter Scott Huerta delivered haunting lyrics such as “I’ll sleep until a friend dies” and “I float entirely off the ground sometimes/Depending on where you’re standing.” Paired with Huerta’s soulful expression, they made for a certain magnetism that had the audience listening closely.

French Cassettes singer Scott Huerta performing a song
French Cassettes singer Scott Huerta joined his three fellow band members on stage. (Photo: AYA AZIZ/The Stanford Daily)

Bittersweet track “Dixie Lane” stood out both lyrically and melodically. Huerta expertly crooned along to the winding rise and fall of the melody, expressively vocalizing and humming in between verses. In the second half of the song, he repeatedly sang “cemetery cemetery cemetery” along to the casual pace set by backing guitars and drums.

“Unfermented” opened with an attention-grabbing line: “You found a place on my bathroom floor but I didn’t recommend it”; as Huerta went on, he seemed to sing the eerie, nostalgia-laden track directly into the heart of the audience. The vocals had a distinct echo as one of the band’s members played additional effects from a keyboard.

Overall, Thursday’s expert score of musicians brought a range of vulnerable and spirited performances to those gathered in Bing Studio.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Toggle Dark Mode Toggle Dark Mode
Toggle Large Font Size Toggle Font Size

Login or create an account