More than 300 students turned out for Pseudo Stereo Showcase, a concert organized by the University of Texas at Dallas’ radio department, Radio UTD. The sun was still out as the stage was being prepared for the night, and more people gathered at The Plinth, a common area at UTD in the heart of campus. Three bands were set to play Thursday, free shirts would be printed live to the right of the stage and free boba tea would be given away in exchange for raffle tickets. It was hard to believe such a massive crowd would come to see a concert on campus, regardless of the free stuff.
While there are many gears turning behind the scenes of Pseudo, the showcase is the creation of Molly Harras, Radio UTD local music director.
“I’m pretty lucky because I get to be, to some extent, just like the creative mind behind the showcase,” Harras says. “Most people in [Radio UTD] know it’s my baby.”
The concert is seemingly an unlikely passion for Harras as she is working toward a degree in mathematics.
However, Harras says she has always had an interest in writing and art. In high school, she became a huge fan of The Avett Brothers, a North Carolina folk-rock band.
“They were my life. I said, ‘Wow, the guys at my lunch table are tired of hearing me go on and on about this band,’” Harras recalled. “‘What if I could just talk into the void about this band.’ That’s kind of what brought me to apply to radio.”
Radio UTD’s concerts seem to garner more attention today than they did when members of Picnics, a local band comprised of alumni, attended the college.
Picnics took the stage around 6:30 p.m. The trio was equipped with two guitars, a bass, drum pad and sample pad. The band has been around for three years, primarily playing house shows in Dallas, Denton and Plano. Their sound is experimental, and it was hard to distinguish what was music and what was performance art during their set.
“We’re not trying to be musical as much as we are trying to express a feeling,” says Travis Weaver, a member of Picnics.
In one moment, clanky keys sound through the monitors as subtle, low rumbling chords are struck on the bass, and high notes are lightly plucked on electric guitar. The next, ambient instrumentals rang out over the sound of typewriters, cash registers and rattling glass. Kyle McGannon-Brewer, a Picnics member, performed voice-modulated spoken poetry over all the noise.
“Sorry for the emotional roller coaster. It’ll be worth it,” Ivette Colon, another band member, told the crowd.
Playing Pseudo brings back a lot of college memories for the trio, mostly of being awkward and not knowing how to talk to people. Colon and McGannon-Brewer are both former Radio UTD DJs.
“It’s a lot more people than I expected,” McGannon-Brewer says. “There were video events when I was on campus, but not many people showed up.”
Colon said Picnics had performed with Rei Clone and William Austin Clay, the other acts on the lineup that night.
“There’s like a little DIY scene that we all kind of know each other from,” Colon says. “William Austin Clay plays a lot of house shows, so we just kind of crossed paths.”
Rei Clone, a North Texas four-piece post-punk rock shoegaze band, took the stage by force with heavy power chords, bone crushing, David Gilmour-esque guitar solos and solid lines on drums and bass. If there were moments of silence during the set, they were short-lived before an army of instruments came crashing down on the noiselessness.
Weeks before Pseudo, Rei Clone was on tour, traveling as far as Cincinnati in a Ford Focus and Kia Soul. Around the same time, the band released their album Greetings From Nowhere in February.
Harras says the crowds at UTD’s concerts were different during her first years at the college. Generally, there would be 100-200 people at events.
“Here, we have a lot more people, but they’re coming in and out of lines to get free stuff, they’re waiting for the next opportunity,” she says. “It’s kind of hitting a different group on campus, which I think is a positive thing because it exposes our campus to some different kind of strange stuff like Rei Clone.”
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As Rei Clone entered the latter half of their set, their sound seemed to mature, getting tighter and tighter. The band was sporting a new drummer, Simon Russell, who had been to only two rehearsals. Their last songs were fast-paced, with solid instrumentals and crisp vocal harmonies.
As William Austin Clay wrapped up his set and left the stage, Harras thanked everyone for coming to the showcase. As microphone cables got rolled up and the rest of the stage broken down, Harras helped distribute everyone’s free T-shirts. Since she will graduate in May, this was the last Pseudo Showcase she will ever organize.
As the DJ who has been there the longest, Harras has made an impact on Radio UTD. However, she says even if she had never joined the program, it would still have reached the magnitude of today. It would just be different.
“I certainly wouldn't like to take credit away from other people's creativity,” she says. “It's just that I kind of took the wheel on this one.”