My professor can out-jam yours

One of those guys you saw playing at the bar just might have been grading your mid-term.

Becky Lang

There used to be a fork in the road on the pathway to rock, a point where one leaves one’s garage and decides whether to follow the terrain of bass amps and dressing rooms or trade in the guitar for a 9-to-5. Or maybe not. That timeless rite of passage may be a myth, because the few handfuls of educators who came out of the woodwork to play in Professor Band Night at The Whole suggest that playing music and sculpting young minds does not require a double life.

Professor Band Night

Who: Revolver Modele, the Hypoxic Punks and the Gated Community
WHEN IT TOOK PLACE: Jan. 25
WHERE: The Whole

Not that it’s all roses for everyone. For some, it requires a bit of mental gymnastics.

“It’s just something screwy in my head,” Mikal Arnold reveals when explaining why he can’t tell his students he’s in a band. “It’s a cognitive dissonance,” and like a true artist he adds, “a dark dissonant dance.”

Arnold teaches Spanish and plays lead guitar in Revolver Modele, a post-punk band whose set includes plenty of spaceship reverb and bitch-slap chords. The sound is a bit like Interpol, like postindustrial smart metal with cabaret-tinged howls thrown in.

Arnold’s identity as a music maker is so removed from enseñar el español that it once took him several rounds of questions before he realized he was giving an oral exam to a fellow musician who he shared the stage with during a Replacements tribute last November at First Ave.

Mark Pedelty of The Hypoxic Punks sees being in a band as something more than Spanish wine-fueled writing sessions and sublimation of psyche into art. As a professor in the school of journalism, he sees leading a band as a particularly intimate form of ethnographic study.

“The whole thing started as a research project,” he explained. “There is a point where all the lecturing, discussion and debate about theoretical concepts ends and it is important to jump into the messy world of performance.”

On Professor Band Night, Pedelty’s usual four piece was whittled down to an acoustic guitar and a violin in absence of their two undergrad members who are taking a break to focus on school. The result was politically charged, eerie folk music including a song called “Georgie’s War,” which, despite the lyrics, “it went a little insane Ö it was a family thing,” was purportedly written before the president was elected.

Sumanth Gopinath and the cocktail party of members in The Gated Community have condensed their band’s message into two sentences: “The children are the future” and “vote for Obama.”

On stage the eight members look like a crowded room, possibly hiding a few secrets. There’s a cowbell on the floor that gets banged periodically, and they pass the task of the occasional “meow” from mic to mic. After a couple songs, a washboard tie becomes a driving force of rhythm. The result is rebellious quirk-folk, with songs about Uptown, spy cameras and time travel.

Without the show’s very explanatory title, a listener may have trouble figuring out what unites these bands. There’s no universal formula for rock ‘n’ pedagogy, although The Gated Community point out that “drugs, sex, booze and office hours,” may be essential components.