Since the age of 13 — the age at which my mother finally allowed me to create a Facebook account — my online life has been curated by an increasingly present series of algorithms. I have no idea what actually goes into creating them, but I do know the power they have. They determine what I see on the internet, both curating my personal news feed and the ads I am most likely to click on. Most of the time, “the algorithm” feels like some omnipresent force, one with confusing and menacing intentions. They are part of the reason political experts talk about “echo chambers” online, as these algorithms tend to reflect back things and viewpoints we are already interested in and agree with. However, sometimes the algorithm chooses what music I listen to, such as when it decided to mix the band COIN’s songs into my recommended Spotify playlists. I found them to be a solid listen, especially when I needed to stay awake late at night doing schoolwork. When I found out that the band would be performing at The Underground on Oct. 19, I decided it was time to actually hear them in person.
The opener for the night was the indie band Arlie, though their performance did not seem to have been well promoted ahead of time. Listings of the concert online only mentioned COIN, though Arlie could eventually be found on some ticket vendor’s websites. Despite this, the crowd was packed with adoring fans, one of whom brought an entire package of Oreos for a band member’s birthday. In fact, Arlie didn’t really feel like an opening band at all, but a band with as many fans at the venue as COIN. The level of fan dedication was extremely impressive for a band that is relatively new on the music scene. Their debut EP “Wait” was released as recently as Sept. 2018. The band, composed of members Nathaniel Banks (vocals, guitar), Carson Lystad (guitar) and Adam Lochemes (drums), is also fairly young. All are recent graduates of Vanderbilt University.
Performance wise, the band has a confident and fun stage persona. For such a young band, they seem incredibly comfortable on stage. They also have a signature look, of which bright-colored and vintage-inspired clothing seemed to be the theme. Purple and pink stage lights remained pretty constant throughout their set. Their music, somewhere between rock, pop-punk and alternative, was quite catchy and extremely successful at engaging the audience. A favorite of the night was their song “big fat mouth.” Though I was unfamiliar with them ahead of time, the set definitely warranted a second listen.
COIN took to the stage relatively soon after, immediately showcasing a much stronger technical set. Lights flashed, smoke poured in and strobing effects were utilized. Silhouettes were a popular light motif. Lead singer Chase Lawrence had an infectious energy, dancing and moving along with the music. He often talked to the audience about how special the night was and stated that the band had not played a show in the United States for “too long.” He also indicated that COIN would need to come to Charlotte more often, though it is possible that this is something he says about all of the places the band visits. COIN’s other members, Ryan Winnen (drums) and Joe Memmel (guitar), were placed on either side of Lawrence. While they were fundamental in making the music and keeping the energy alive, Lawrence dominated the performance.
The band, though more established than Arlie, is still a fairly new addition to the music scene. Their 2015 debut album, the self-titled “COIN,” and 2017 follow up, “How Will You Know If You Never Try,” were both featured on the night’s setlist. Falling somewhere between indie pop and modern rock, the band kept concertgoers enthralled and dancing. My personal favorites of the night included “Run,” “Malibu 1992,” “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and “Talk Too Much.” Hearing them played live as opposed to on my Spotify playlist brought them to life and made them feel more high energy. The fact that the floor seemed to vibrate under my feet from the bass might also have been a contributing factor. However, I also found that many of the other songs seemed to sound the same. They rarely seem to push the genre, and while fun, I would have appreciated a bit more variety and depth.
With so much negative (and warranted) discussion of it on news and social media platforms, sometimes I forget that “the algorithm” can be a good thing. It is, ideally, supposed to help me find content I am uniquely interested in. Three of the books I physically bought this year are by authors I found and follow on Twitter. And in the case of COIN, a band I only found out about because it was in my Spotify “Daily Mix,” it seems the algorithm has succeeded once more. While COIN isn’t my favorite band, it adds to the list of musicians and songs I like and was a solid and fun concert experience. It is proof that sometimes, in an online world that can be both concerning and hopeful, the algorithm can get it right.