From rap, to prose and power chords

After Leo Mahaga and Andy Oliva had finished setting up their instruments, they approached the edge of the Rathskeller stage and introduced themselves. Mahaga, junior criminology major, had a baby-blue electric guitar around his neck, and Oliva, senior marketing major, was gripping a pair of drumsticks.

They looked on the hushed crowd for a few moments until Oliva shrugged and said, “We’re just going to be jamming out.” With that, the guitarist and drummer began a scorching, largely improvised set that lasted nearly an hour.

Oliva’s casual attitude summarized the spirit of The Goods, Ink’s semiannual display of all things creative, which took place April 26 at the Rat.

The literary portion of the show was highlighted by The Goods’ headliner, Aaron Belz, a deadpan poet from St. Louis. Belz read selected poems for the last hour of the show, displaying an affinity for abstract metaphors, pitch-black humor, oddly placed allusions and sudden streaks of poignancy.

For such an offbeat performance, the audience was positively enraptured by Belz.

“The response varies all the time. I never know what to expect,” Belz said after receiving a lengthy round of applause. “It was great, though. I was honored to be here.”

While The Goods has largely been a showcase of the College’s literary talent in the past, this year’s six-hour show was more diverse, with poetry placed next to power chords in last Sunday’s lineup.

“There was definitely more music this year,” Alyson Greenwood, senior English major and president of Ink, said. “The variety was great. We had to pull some stuff together at the last minute, but I think it went really well.”

A rap about the Iraq war, a reinterpretation of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and multiple poetry and fiction readings were among the performances.

Mahaga and Oliva’s set was arguably the most free-form performance, with the former’s display of string-bending and finger-tapping matched by the latter’s pounding kick drum and overpowering cymbals.

For Mahaga, who has played at The Goods many times, the variety of performances is always a draw. “It’s just a really chill event,” he said. “It’s free, which you can’t beat, and it’s really long. They let me play for an hour.”

Greenwood echoed an appreciation for the all-day format. “If somebody wants to be onstage, we have six hours to work with,” she said. “And for a show this long, the turnout was really good.”

Other performers veered toward more accessible, light-hearted fare. There was a cover of a “Flight of the Conchords” tune featuring a rap breakdown and an acoustic, soulful performance of Miley Cyrus’ “See You Again.”

“My friend had the Miley Cyrus songbook, and I thought it’d be cool to do,” said Enrico Bruno, freshman English major, who helped orchestrate the song, along with a country-tinged cover of Nelly’s “Hot In Herre.” “I was worried about the audience reaction, but once they started laughing, I was a little more relaxed,” he said.

For Greenwood, this is her last semester as Ink’s president. She felt that Sunday’s Goods was a fantastic farewell. “It was a great event this year,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how The Goods changes in the future. It was a little different this time, but I think it worked.”