This past Friday afternoon, March 8, the Binghamton Food Co-op at the Roots Cafe hosted its first Lunchtime Set, which borrows the National Public Radio (NPR) Tiny Desk setup to provide a platform for up-and-coming talent within the student community. For its inaugural session, the co-op hosted indie rock outfit Ben Franklin and The Electric Keys.
Liat David, a sophomore majoring in human development, and Harris Khan, a junior majoring in economics, are both core members of the Food Co-op and collaboratively brainstormed the idea to bring “Tiny Desk”-style concerts to Binghamton University. NPR’s Tiny Desk videos feature intimate, often acoustic sets, by both popular and up-and-coming musicians, including artists H.E.R. and Khalid.
Khan said the idea for Lunchtime Sets struck the pair during a recent open mic event at the Roots Cafe.
“We were just watching people perform and thought, ‘Why don’t we have this be a regular thing?’” Khan said. “I think it brings a great energy, completely congruent to the people we have here, with the mellow music and that sort of atmosphere.”
As their idea came to fruition Friday afternoon, a crowd quickly began to materialize. The band played a brief yet well-received set, the co-op served its usual hot lunch and the room was at full capacity, with Khan and other members of the co-op scavenging for more chairs.
Ben Franklin and The Electric Keys is comprised of BU students Ben Peterfreund, a sophomore majoring in sociology, Mark Poggioli, a junior majoring in biochemistry, Ben Flood, a junior majoring in music, Owen Zahradnik, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, Franklin Bade, a junior majoring in philosophy and Veronica Liszewski, a junior majoring in art history. The band, formed last October and looks to a variety of influences from the ’60s and ’70s eras of rock to jazz. At the concert, they kept their set short with four tracks: three original songs and a cover of Jerry Garcia’s “Russian Lullaby.”
Flood said the band’s ambition is to combine their musical influences into something new.
“It’s just fun to play with different setups,” he said. “We’ll be writing a song and you can kind of just feel what would sound right like ‘Oh, a trumpet would sound really cool on this.’”
While the band kept its expansive sound intact, bringing two acoustic guitars, bass guitar, percussion and a trumpet, songs had to be trimmed down and stripped back to fit the cafe location. The change of setting showed a new side of Ben Franklin and the Electric Keys created by the confines of the Co-op.
“We do bigger arrangements and louder acoustics, normally we’re electric so [the Co-op set] sounds very different then from most of the time,” Bade said.
David said the Co-op hopes to expand the Lunchtime Set brand with consistency by developing strong connections with the artists involved.
“It was a positive experience on both ends,” David said. “The performers loved what they were doing and we loved what they were doing. It’s just a really good relationship.”
Oktay Kurbanov, a senior majoring in political science, said he enjoyed what the Food Co-op brought to the table.
“I really liked it,” he said. “I really didn’t know events were happening like this in the university. Just hearing live music [on campus] is really exciting.”
The next Lunchtime Set will be March 29 at noon in the Roots Cafe featuring student-band The Landshark Committee.0