The Brown Folk Festival’s coordinating committee held its fifth annual Battle of the Bands Friday to decide which student folk artists will have the honor of performing alongside professional acts in the Brown Folk Festival in April.
The competition, which was held in the Underground and was widely attended by both Brown students and community members, was judged by a 12-member student committee that books performers from across the country and coordinates adjunct activities for the two-day festival. According to Thea Monje ’19, one of the festival’s leading coordinators, the committee holds Battle of the Bands because its members love to integrate on-campus folk groups into the lineup. The committee aims to make the Battle of the Bands’ selection process as inclusive as possible. “We like to make the festival really inclusive to everybody’s definition of folk, … anyone who wants to play can play,” Monje said.
This year, the winners were Charlie Steinman ’20, a solo artist who sang a number of poignant-yet-humorous original songs, and sisters Kate Reed ’21 and Herald senior staff writer Allie Reed ’21, a cello-violin duo who performed a set of playful American, Scottish and Gaelic fiddle tunes.
“I wasn’t expecting there to be so many people. … They were all really enthusaistic after each song, which was comforting,” Allie Reed said about the Battle’s atmosphere. Steinman and the Reed sisters will open for seven to eight professional folk acts from across the country, including a number of “snazzy headliner” bands whose names will be revealed in the coming weeks, Monje said.
Other performers at the event included Patrick Nugent ’21, who performed a mixture of original songs and covers, and David Wingate ’20, who sang covers but occasionally changed the lyrics to appeal to the Brown audience. For example, when covering James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” Wingate cheekily swapped the line, “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus” with, “Won’t you look down upon me, C-Pax.”
The competition was informal and relaxed, and audience members were unanimously supportive of their onstage peers. Zack Even ’20 said he “enjoyed the low key atmosphere,” adding that, “everyone was really nice even when (the acts) messed up.”
Wingate said that while he didn’t think he was “particularly ready for the performance,” he thought that Battle of the Bands would be the “kick in the ass” that he needed to start performing.
The Brown Folk Festival will be held April 20 and 21.