Kenyon Collegian

Jake Laufer strums musical chords at Middle Ground

Youthful musician and songwriter will rock and roll all night, tour Ohio and Pennsylvania every day

By Ted Hornick
Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2003

Jake Laufer is a young American musician who has been compared to everyone from They Might Be Giants to The Clash. Regardless of what you may find in the man’s music, there is a talent in him that can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be missed.

Laufer’s visit to Kenyon is just one stop on a four-day tour taking him across Ohio and Pennsylvania. This “quick jaunt,” he says, “feels just right [because] my hockey team misses me if I stay away too long, even if they’d never admit it.”

Laufer is a captivating songwriter with a sweet voice reminiscent of a kid with his first guitar. His lyrics are full of intriguing stories and feelings, with such influences as The Who and Black Sabbath. He also has a grasp of the best ways to balance his lyrics with his instrumentation, in order to make his songs send the strongest messages possible. Consider “Walkabout,” in which Laufer’s lyrics explore his search for something that he can’t explain. After listing nearly every possible description for what he could be looking for, a burst of guitar and saxophone kicks in and takes over, showing the importance of his search is really too strong for words.

Laufer is also able to convey a sense of humor in his music. In “Paste-Eating Johnny vs. Mrs. Edison”—which, by title, recalls a Moxy Fruvous piece (and there are moments when Laufer’s work certainly sounds a bit like that quirky group)—we find the funny and poignant story of a grade schooler’s crush on a cool kid’s mother.

The vigor Laufer puts into singing that he’s “wicked awesome” is an example of the humility he brings to his art. He combines the experience of Bob Dylan with the enthusiasm of Jad Fair in order to present songs that illustrate how much he loves music. In addition to singing and playing guitar, he also plays an Arabic drum called a dumbek. He insists he does not know how to play the instrument, and that it’s “for the neighbors to decide” if he sounds any good.

Laufer is also the leading force behind the band Sherpa Underground. They are a quartet that combines the sounds of punk, rockabilly and pop, “sometimes within the same tune.”

Starting in Washington, D.C., the group has been steadily working to become one of the best acoustic experiences in the mid-Atlantic.

Laufer is a talented man with a sound that he describes as “all over the place.” His strongest incentive when making music is to “just try not to be boring, [to] give a little incentive for paying attention.” His favorite crowds are the diverse ones that “are really nice and appreciate those who try to entertain them.” This Saturday, come out, watch and try to be enthusiastic.