07/05/14 – The Middle East

It was the perfect escape on a sweltering summer night. Small, intimate clusters of music fans dotted the dance floor in The Middle East’s downstairs venue in anticipation of Western Education’s performance of their debut album, Let Your Secrets Out. Audience members clutched clear plastic cups of beer and struggled to hold conversations over the general commotion as guitarist Georgio Broufas called for a mic check. As soon as the band struck the opening chords to their upbeat single “Peace,” however, the crowd reorganized into loose rows and turned to soak in the waves of synth music radiating from center stage.

The fact that drummer Mark Ragusa is known to break his sticks within the first few lines of this catchy dance track is a testament to the energy Western Education pours into their live shows. Their sound, which the band describes as a blend of The Killers, Interpol, and Muse, inspired onlookers to nod their heads in time with the beat while red and green stage lights swirled above. Because they had little choice but to stand within fifty or so feet of the enormous speakers beside the stage, many people also chose to wear earplugs. But even with this protective measure spectators could physically feel the bass thudding through their limbs.

Western Education was founded “grass-roots” style at UMass Lowell in 2011, when singer Greg Alexandropoulos plastered campus with fliers calling for fellow musicians interested in starting a band to reach out to him. While their personal style may differ — Alexandropoulos looked semi-formal in a vest, dress shirt, and tie while Ragusa donned a plain cotton tee — the bandmates share many (admittedly nerdy) common interests. Alexandropoulos claims to own “every horror video game out of Japan,” while Broufas has been dubbed “ a Guitar Hero fiend,” and Ragusa is participating in National Novel-writing Month.

Their third song, “Geneva,” was a standout with playful staccato piano chords contrasted by more a drawn-out melody sung in harmony by Ragusa and Alexandropoulos. When asked about the band’s composition process, Alexandropoulos mentioned that such melodies, whether vocal or instrumental, are almost always the first part of the song they write. “We have to make sure it’s going to be catchy,” he explained, emphasizing that one of the goals in recording Let Your Secrets Out was to make each track equally distinct and important. Thematically, many of the songs deal with relationships and facing fears about life and love.

In the middle of the song, Broufas, who had been dutifully rapping a tambourine against his leg during the first few verses, suddenly walked over to Alexandropoulos and placed the instrument on the singer’s head. Alexandropoulos was unfazed, however, when it fell to the ground a few moments later. He continued singing as if nothing had happened, to the amusement of the audience. Meanwhile, bass player Will Hunt remained curled over his instrument, apparently too focused to notice his bandmates’ antics.

While “Geneva” certainly captivated the audience members — many of whom clapped and cheered as the last few notes died away — some began to lose interest toward the middle of the set, checking their phones or leaning in to shout to one another over the music. Broufas’ rousing cry of “can we get a little clap action?” was met with mixed results, and the jaunty guitar riff at the beginning of “Rivals” was not quite enough to recapture the crowd’s attention. Enthusiasm reached a low point during the slow ballad, “Lost Art.”

Nevertheless, the band quickly regained momentum with the rumbling drums and sudden crescendos of “Yong Love,” the song from which the album title was derived. Alexandropoulos explained that for him, “let your secrets out” is a way of saying that he will admit certain things through the lyrics that he might not say in person, though it was occasionally difficult to distinguish the lyrics during the live performance.

The band concluded their roughly forty-minute set with “Loyal Satellite,” Alexandropoulos’s personal favorite track from the album. The song, which is a tender reflection on how to make the most of the moment, was evidently personal to him, and he briefly folded over his keyboard at the end before springing up to join his bandmates in thanking the audience for their support.

“Let Your Secrets Out” can be purchased on iTunes.

Loud, Spirited, and Catchy: Western Education
Pros
  • Band very appreciative of their fans
  • Upbeat, dance-worthy music
  • Began and completed the set on a strong note
Cons
  • Lost momentum during the middle of the set
  • Sometimes difficult to understand the lyrics
7.5Overall Score

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