The Black Keys

Sarah Gorman

Spring Carnival: it's the most anticipated event at Carnegie Mellon. As students push through piles of schoolwork, they dream about those four days of sheer bliss. There's Booth, Buggy, and, of course, the big concert. AB Concerts has never seemed to disappoint with fantastic past acts like the Roots, Spoon, and the New Pornographers. This year is no different, as AB brings Indie Rock darlings the Black Keys to our very own campus.

Their name may not have as much hype as one like Kanye West, but that certainly does not make The Black Keys lightweights in the world of music. The Black Keys first broke out from recording songs with basic equipment in basements when they collaborated with the acclaimed producer Danger Mouse, who has also worked with Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz. The Black Keys artfully combine Blues and Rock and have been known to work with Hip-Hop acts like Mos Def, Ludacris, and the Roots. These guys are no joke; they've opened for the likes of Beck and Radiohead, appeared on both Conan and Letterman, were named one of the "10 Best Acts of 2003" by Rolling Stone magazine, and are often compared to the White Stripes. Even if you didn't know it, you are probably familiar with their music from some of your favorite TV shows like The O.C., Dexter, Friday Night Lights, and Entourage.

But still, a band is much more than just its impressive credentials. So who are these guys really? Akron, Ohio natives Daniel Auerbach and Patrick Carney make up this bluesy Rock duo, who produce a much richer sound than do most bands with twice as many members. Auerbach's roaring vocals and forceful guitar combined with Carney's thrashing drums synthesize into a sound all their own. One would have to imagine that their sound would be lost with the addition of a bassist, or any other instrument for that matter. Auerbach's vocals ooze passion and beautifully blend themselves into unique, unrecognizable noises and syllables. It's no wonder they credit one of their earliest influences and the title of their band to a schizophrenic friend who referred to enemies as "the Black Keys."

The Black Keys first came on the scene in 2002, with their debut album The Big Come Up, gaining critical acclaim and attention in particular for their cover of the Beatles' tune, "She Said She Said." The band soon proved themselves as apt songwriters with raw talent for Rock 'N Roll with 2003's Thickfreakness, recorded in just one thirteen hour session, and 2004's Rubber Factory, filled with both deep lyrics and a textured sound. Rubber Factory quickly launched the band into the world of mainstream Rock, housing their first breakout track, "10 AM Automatic." This song grew in popularity because of its catchy beat and Auerbach's delightfully smooth vocals, not to mention a hilarious music video featuring comedian David Cross of Arrested Development fame.

At the peak of "10 AM Automatic's" popularity in 2005, the band released its first live concert DVD, followed by an EP of classic blues covers titled Chulahoma. The following year, the group solidified its place in the realm of modern Rock by signing with its first major label. This new collaboration brought a moodier side to the band's tougher sound in 2006's Magic Potion. With 2008's Attack and Release, the Keys took their new moody influences to the next level, establishing themselves as true Blues-Rock artists with the help of Danger Mouse. This album served as the band's greatest triumph, debuting at #15 on the Billboard Chart and receiving rave reviews. One of the most notable tracks on the album is an unfinished duet with the late Ike Turner, who passed away before the recording was finished. Since then, the band has experimented with various side projects, including Auerbach's solo album, Keep it Hid. Most recently, the pair teamed up with Hip-Hop producer Damon Dash to form Blakroc and is expected to release another album in the near future.

So now that you know a little bit about these guys, it's time to see what you can expect from their show. In my opinion, a concert is at its worst when a band spends more time playing "new stuff" and ends up forgetting to cover the classics. Now, I'm not saying I don't want to hear any new material, I love being introduced to an album before its release, but half the fun of a concert is shouting along to the lyrics you know and love so dearly. An ideal concert finds a balance between the two, and I think we can expect nothing less from the Black Keys. They have been known to cover all the fan favorites, including "Same Old Thing," "10 A.M. Automatic," "Girl is On My Mind," "Psychotic Girl," and "Your Touch. "But, since they are expected to release a new album this spring, I think it is safe to assume that we will be hearing some new tracks, too.

Another key element to a concert is the band's showmanship. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean backup dancers, costume changes, and pyrotechnics, but rather just some entertainment value to keep the audience interested. College students can be harsh and antsy, and they're not necessarily going to be fans of whoever is playing, so bands need to step up and put in extra effort to keep their audience engaged. Once again, this is an area I expect the Black Keys to excel in. Drummer Patrick Carney is known for his ability to keep the audience's attention. Don't be fooled by his gangly frame; he can tear up a drum set like no one you've ever seen! He has been described as an "animal on the skins" and a "joy to watch," which is rare in a drummer since the lead singer is normally the center of attention.

This must be especially hard for Carney as well, as the leading man is the infectious and energetic Daniel Auerbach. Auerbach plays without a guitar pick and doesn't care who knows it, he rocks all the harder without one. He'll so effortlessly switch between bass lines and main guitar parts that it's hard to believe that the sound is coming from just one person. These guys are both known to escape into their own world within the music, often not even making eye contact throughout an entire show. They both truly throw themselves into the music and bring the audience along for the joyful ride.

The Black Keys seem to be a perfect fit for CMU Carnival, as it's a time to let loose, have fun, and release your inhibitions. For just two guys, they produce a complex and soulful sound that Carnegie Mellon students can rock out to. Their shows are often described as raw and dirty, but still coming from the heart. Carnegie Mellon is definitely in for a good show this Carnival, as the Black Keys seem to do no wrong. I think this year's show is going to be one to remember.