Soloists bring original flavor to classics and pop hits

Student soloists strutted and strummed their stuff to the standing room-only crowd at the Rat on Friday night. Ishi, Chris Cantalupo, Mike Heitmann, Dave Salge and Jesse Szuch all played acoustic sets that ranged in material from homespun, heartfelt originals to classic Beatles covers to a reworking of Incubus.

Szuch, junior communication studies major, played the longest set to close out the night. The highlights of Szuch’s performance were originals like “Dance with Me” and “Waves Crash Over Me,” which were emotionally wrought love songs featuring energetic and inventive guitar work. Szuch’s sincere voice resembles Nick Drake and Ben Harper, whom he covered later in the night. This was Szuch’s first time playing at the Rat and judging by the crowd’s reaction, it won’t be his last.

Returning from last semester’s Soloist Night was the duo of Dave Salge and Mike Heitmann, who were both unfortunately suffering from sore throats. In spite of illness, Salge and Heitmann still put on a good show. Their scratchy voices even adding an extra twist to their cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Their set provided the most diverse song selection and the most upbeat feel of the night with bright songs like the Barenaked Ladies’ “Brian Wilson” and “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows. Heitmann’s original song, “This Tonight,” reflected his lyrical sophistication and songwriting talent. Salge covered the acoustic Beatles classic “Blackbird,” showing off his finger-picking skills.

The shining moment of Cantalupo’s performance was his cover of Mayer’s “Quiet,” which gave him the chance to show off some of his soloing skills on guitar and the depth of his vocal integrity. He followed this up with Mayer’s crowd-pleasing “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” which had most of the Rat singing along and swaying to Cantalupo’s staccato precision.

Ishi, a graduate student here at the College, set the trends for the night as he jammed out to extended and rearranged versions of the Beatles’ “Too Much,” Al Stewart’s “The Eyes of Nostradamus” and his original composition “Let the Skies Open Up.”