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Tougher Than Slim Jim

By Daniel J. Sharfstein

Tougher than Slim Jim and smoother than butter, the Harvard Din & Tonics took a not-quite-near-capacity Saturday night Sanders Theater crowd to the a capella mountaintop. With skilled solos, snappy ensembles and assured stage presence, the Dins laid to rest any doubts that their performances would be on the blink at the Dins on the Blink Jam.

From second one of the second act, the Dins covered the blushing audience with sweet a capella kisses. The opening number, "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long," started the set off on an exhilarating note. The song's wit, the group's polish and Hoon Lee's fetching solo overflowed with excellence.

The jam never let up from there. The next song, "Spreadin' Rhythm Around," presented a skilled ensemble who could sing on key and snap brilliantly at the same time. The singing was intense, but the mood was relaxed.

Like no other a capella group on campus, the Dins maintain a looseness that takes the pressure out of their jams. These events can get very tense. The Dins not only provide quality entertainment, but they also serve a valuable psychological purpose in the a capella community.

Standards such as "Istanbul" featured similarly tight ensembles and loose moods, as did "Route 66," even though Gavan Meehan's scatting sounded sickly. A daper Albert Hsia did great things for Cole Porter's great song, "Night and Day," and Peter Wardle's thick solo in "Body and Soul" earned high accolades from the gleeful Sanders masses.

Among the other bright spots of the evening were the James Bond medley--featuring one fiendishly memorable solo by Brian Martin in the theme song from "Goldfinger"--and the choreography for the one encore of the evening, "You Can Call Me Al"--which proved that the Dins can pat themselves like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The group's humor was rather well conceived and executed. A parody of the TV show, "A Current Affair," a commercial for wacky orange Din basketball shoes and a new installment of "Din Impressions"--when the group does kooky things with their formal wear--earned hearty stomps of approval from the audience.

Opening for the Dins, the Yale Redhot & Blue performed an inconsistent set, but they did show promise in the a capella innovation department. A spunky "42nd Street," a stylized "Summertime" and a student-composed version of the William Butler Yeats poem, "When You Are Old," provided refreshing angles to old songs. Hopefully, the group will return to Harvard in the near future.

The evening's emcee, Larry Finer, meant well but was not always funny. Oftentimes his routine had potential for some hilarious moments, but at crucial moments it seemed to lack an important ingredient of most comedy: the punch line. At least he was succinct.

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