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‘Gigs on the Grass’ promotes homegrown student music

Second iteration of festival on Wriston Quad draws large crowds, showcases 15 student artists

Droves of students convened on Wriston Quadrangle for Saturday’s “Gigs on the Grass” music festival, the second iteration of the University’s exclusively student-centered music festival. Flanked by Wriston’s Georgian architecture and enveloped by the co-mingling scents of Narragansett beer and the last gasps of summer, the event’s 15 artists evinced a breadth of styles and a depth of talent.

Student-run music groups can face a problem of visibility, with both little space for rehearsal and a dearth of publicity. Co-organized by the Brown Concert Agency and the Class Coordinating Board, the festival was a means of displaying and promoting the University’s homegrown musicality to a wider audience, organizers said.

“The main thing we’re doing with ‘Gigs’ is prioritizing student talent, which creates an environment where students are celebrating each other and their accomplishments,” said Pia Struzzieri ’18, vice-president of CCB 2018.

“The music scene here is really supportive and events are happening all the time,” Struzzieri said. “The main places I see people performing are in other students’ basements or backyards,” she added, noting the house shows that take place at such venues as Watermyn and 55 John St.

“But (those shows) just generally don’t have a very broad audience,” Struzzieri said, underscoring the self-selecting nature of the people who attend these shows. “‘Gigs’ is an event that tries to bring that same feeling of community and intimacy to an audience that isn’t necessarily connected to the music scene.” 

In this respect, “Gigs” is successful, attracting at least 1,400 people in its first installment last year. This year, organizers say the festival might have drawn an even larger audience — a phenomenon Struzzieri attributes to the change in venue from Pembroke to Wriston. The latter location “made it easier to come to the festival impulsively,” Struzzieri said.

“We were really happy we got the event moved to Wriston Quad because in our eyes, it was a way to expose more people to the artists,” said Michael Mills ’20, who, alongside Babette Thomas ’20, was the Brown Concert Agency’s chair for this year’s “Gigs.”

“The change was ultimately a positive one and we were pleased with the turnout,” Mills added.

“BCA helped CCB judge auditions and create an exciting lineup,” Mills said. “The concert agency also helped bring in judges from the local music community and made sure the event ran as smoothly as possible the day of.”

The festival featured artists across the musical spectrum, from the indie-rock outfit Attic Wood to the neo-soul collective KiwiiSour to rapper Express. According to Mills, the decision to exhibit artists representative of a variety of genres was a conscious one. “It was definitely something we kept in mind during auditions,” Mills said.

“It was really great to see representation from groups comprising people of color, as well as from different genres like funk and hip-hop,” said Nicholas Fah-Sang ’20. “There’s very little to be gained from the kind of cut-and-dry indie rock acts that are prominent on college campuses, so it was cool to see artists like DIASPORA and Express challenging that dominance.” 


Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Pia Struzzieri ’18 as the president of CCB 2018. In fact, she is the vice-president of CCB 2018. The Herald regrets the error.



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