AfterHours hosts Denison Witmer and Northeastern’s own Maya Dengel

AfterHours hosts Denison Witmer and Northeastern’s own Maya Dengel
Maya Dengel performs at AfterHours. Photo by Albert Tamura.

By Sam Cronin, news correspondent

Denison Witmer began playing with no introduction. The Pennsylvania-based artist started off his set at AfterHours playing soft acoustic music and later progressing to more complex songs with interesting audio loops and reverb. His deliberate chord picking and soft-spoken voice can be easily compared to Cat Stevens and other popular folk artists.

In between songs, Witmer shared anecdotes from his tours and travels. He told stories of his epic struggle to open a wine bottle in a hotel without a corkscrew, his musician friend who fell asleep holding a Snickers bar and woke up wearing more of it than he ate, and his experience having to follow Lenny Kravitz in a Starbucks after his amps had shattered a window. One time, after a red-eye flight to Berlin, he apparently heard one of his own songs on the radio and did a doubletake when he wondered why it sounded so familiar.

“Even if somebody else wrote about the same thing, your own perspective is original,” Witmer said. “I think it’s important to process everything.”

Witmer, who has been recording music since high school, said his career began when he started writing poetry, which he later turned into song lyrics. He wrote his own songs and recorded them for a senior project, which then got discovered by a record label. The rest is history.

“I never even took guitar lessons,” Witmer said. “I just figured out how to play in some weird way, in my own way. You learn from your friends.”

Now, 11 albums later, he is still touring, albeit less. The father of two is spending more time with family now and said that his domestic life is going to be the focus of a new album. He is also in the process of making a lullaby album, focusing on piano and vocal arrangements.

Opening for Witmer was Maya Dengel, a second-year communication studies and media and screen studies combined major at Northeastern. She played solo as well, and her electric guitar set the tone for the evening. Her vocal performance was reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, and her set included her upcoming single “December XII.” She ended her performance with some jokes, asking for people in the audience to form a band with her.

Dengel is pursuing a career in music, citing her family — especially her late grandfather — as inspirations. She also credited Mac Demarco as a musical influence. Dengel said grew up with music around her from all sides, and said she took any opportunity to make all the music she could in high school.

“[I’ve] always had music in my background,” Dengel said. “When I was one, my dad played The Ramones for me. Maybe not what you want a one-year-old listening to.”

She primarily records and uploads music to SoundCloud, but also works with Boston-based record label Green Line.

Among the audience were several of Dengel’s posse, cheering her on from the front row. Several of them said they had actually come to Northeastern as a group after transferring from Chapman University, where they and Dengel attended for their first year of college.

“She’s the same off stage. Her stage banter is accurate to her personality,” said second-year public relations and theatre combined major Alexa Balint. Second-year communication studies majors Eirin Combs and Emma Turney both nodded in agreement and said they were there to support their friend.

Witmer is currently in the process of writing two new albums, and Dengel’s single “December XII” will be released on Green Line records soon.

“There’s so many things you can do to talk yourself out of being creative,” Witmer said. “You have to turn that brain off and just do what comes naturally to you and accept your creativity.”

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