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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

What would Gulezian do?

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, March 10, 2006

A line of students waiting to get into Michael Gulezian’'s concert stretched all the way to the Pause’s front door last Friday night. From 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., more than 400 students stopped in to see the fingerstyle guitarist perform.

In the first half of his show, Gulezian slaid the rapt crowd with his emotionally charged, technically dazzling style. Though he played a two-hour set, Gulezian provided ample variety between numbers and plenty of quirky, wandering stories to keep the audience from getting too restless.

Gulezian’s musical moods ranged from the frenzied, string-rattling "Room of Doom," to a variation on a Roberta Flack favorite, "Killing Me Softly (With Kung Fu)."”

In the second set, Gulezian, who changed into a pair of flannel pajamas at the audience's urging, shed any last remnants of formality. By that time, roughly half of the audience had left, which enhanced the intimate rapport between Gulezian and his diehard fans.

Gulezian regaled his adoring public with a blend of old favorites such as, “‘"I’'m No Seismologist,’ Chortled the Metrognome," and "Jello Moves," as well as a few surprising covers including "Singin' in the Rain."

To the unconverted, two things detracted from an otherwise stellar show. The overall length of the show was trying, and Gulezian's choice of lyrics was more than a bit sentimental.

However, the second half of the concert underscored Gulezian's warm relationship with students here at St. Olaf. Gulezian has been performing here almost yearly since the 1980s.

Despite his frequent appearances on campus, interest in his concerts has only grown stronger. Gulezian attributed his popularity here to the musical savvy of St. Olaf students.

Gulezian's praise for the St. Olaf student body hardly stopped there.

"Students here are molded and hardened into bright shining diamonds," Gulezian said. "It can be a dark, harsh, selfish world out there and these guys go out there and illuminate the world with the beauty of their own spirits."

For many students, the love is mutual.

“"I just love Mikey G. Mikey G. and his guitar are like a spider and its web,”" said Peter Midthun '02, just one of the many Olaf alumni at the concert.

A close-knit community has grown around Gulezian's performances here. Though drawn together through a shared love of Gulezian's music, nostalgia is a part of Gulezian's appeal.

"All of my close friends bonded through his concerts," said Andrew Billing '04, who drove from Madison, Wisc., to catch the show.

Many are attracted to Gulezian's intense personality and devotion to music. Gulezian’s passion was evident during an interview Sunday, where he shared thoughts on being an independent artist in a business dominated by corporate giants. Gulezian, who started his own record label in 1988, has been an outspoken critic of major labels.

"I think they’'re evil. Why would any self-respecting artist sign a deal?”" Gulezian said. “"It'’s like getting in bed with Satan himself. You may as well have ‘'whore'’ tattooed on your forehead."

To his mind, the money involved in mainstream music demeans art, which he views as a vocation. This attitude is reflected in his own creative processes, especially songwriting.

"It’'s very mysterious. The songs are already out there. I need to be open to [them],”" Gulezian said. “"I try not to write from a logical perspective. I try not to think or be there. It’s a sacred, mystical kind of experience. I think it’s a big mistake to try to analyze what’s beyond comprehension."

Likewise, Gulezian believes that he offers something that transcends technical skill.

"To be a monster guitarist is one thing, and I think that it’s pretty obvious to everyone that I am a monster guitarist, but no one is coming for that,"” Gulezian said. “"They'’re coming because I play music that resonates with their heart and soul."

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