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The Disruptors: Five Leading Acts Of Boston College’s Independent Music Scene

This year’s Fall Band Showcase featured five innovators of BC’s music scene: William Bolton, Atomic Pizza Slap, Seaver’s Express, Juice, and Lucid Soul.

It’s been a year since Seaver’s Express started laying down its tracks at Boston College, and a year since William Bolton, CSOM ’16, released his debut EP. Last fall, Juice was nothing more than a beverage, and Atomic Pizza Slap was an odd phrase. BC’s independent music landscape has seen significant change over the last year, and this semester’s Fall Band Showcase was emblematic of this shift. Veteran act Lucid Soul was joined by an almost entirely fresh cast of characters this weekend, even Seaver’s Express—which debuted at last year’s event—significantly changed from the November before.

This was not last year’s showcase, all five acts noticeable improvements from the 2013 dynamic. The Music Guild—in conjunction with the Campus Activities Board—also took a more professional approach to the event. Clunky, standalone speakers were replaced by a full concert sound system, and with five hours spent on setup, the stage itself was up to spec with small venues around the city. The night has the air of a ticketed music festival, and a sound quality any frequent concertgoer would envy.

It all felt quite odd. When did good independent music arrive in bulk at BC?

Act I. William Bolton

There’s no obvious explanation, but the evening’s first act could explain some of it. Neo-soul performer William Bolton—the artist formerly known as Times New Roman—started the night with a seven-song set of original work, with bandmates Dan Lyle, A&S ’16, and Victor Araromi, A&S ’17, providing trance-like instrumental backing. A producer by trade, Bolton’s live set might have been a weaker point of his music a year ago, but hardly today.

For the Detroit native, 2014 was a marathon year. A prolific performer on campus last spring, Bolton has been working persistently as a disruptor in BC’s band scene, challenging other performers to move to a professional standard. Working with legendary hip-hop producer Ryan Leslie over the summer, Bolton released his Summer Breeze album at the end of August, and he has since opened for national acts Chainsmokers and Shwayze.

Saturday’s set was grounded in Bolton’s Summer Breeze sound. A smooth, often-psychedelic mix of sounds, his performance covered several of his classics, including “Let’s Stay Together” and “Satisfaction,” while also introducing some new material. “Rockstar” showed off a more experimental aesthetic for Bolton, while “Move Around Me” harkened back to the feel-good vibes of his 2013 Satisfaction EP. Balancing tight vocals with rap verses and guitar work, Bolton showed his versatility as an artist, and he set a high standard for the rest of the evening.

Act II. Atomic Pizza Slap

Atomic Pizza Slap, the evening’s second act, is too alternative for Facebook, so don’t bother looking it up. Front-woman Julianne Quaas, A&S ’15, gave theatrical color to the seven-piece rock band, leading off the band’s set with a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Quaas dances across the stage as she sings. Limbs flying and guitars blazing, the performance was spectacle almost too big for the Cabaret Room.

One of the set’s highlights was a cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which was arguably more Freddy Mercury than Cyndi Lauper. And fittingly, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” served as the peak of the band’s set. Atomic Pizza Slap had all the theatrics of late ’70s rock infused into its live set, and while it touched on Weezer, the band’s performance was overwhelmingly a retro-inspired performance.

Act III. Seaver’s Express

Seaver’s Express, last year a fun, but decidedly unrefined jam band, has grown into one of the University’s most exciting acts. Taking in three new members over the last year—most recently, bassist Conor Gallagher, CSOM ’16, as well as vocalist-keyboardist Zoe Ainsburg and vocalist-guitarist Brian Seaver, both of Berklee College of Music—the band now stands as a developed five-piece act, with a relatively extensive repertoire of original work.

Saturday’s performance brought the often-understated Ainsburg to the foreground, showing off her impressive range as a lead vocalist with an exceptional cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Also packaged into the set was the band’s breakaway single “A Different Gravity” and a rousing gospel rendition of “Have Mercy”—prefaced by a off-color sermon from Brian.

The band has a strong live set, with guitar Sean Seaver, A&S ’16, playing off of Gallagher’s energy in the background, while drummer Chris Southiere, of the Berklee College of Music, keeps the sound punchy. Even its recent single, “2×2,” which was somewhat underwhelming as a studio recording, had tons of flair on stage. While the band has some strong material, it’s ultimately its chemistry that makes it stand out.

Act IV. Juice

By the time Juice made its way to stage, the Cabaret room was bumping. The smaller venue is Vanderslice Hall arguably was never designed for a band as big as Juice—and its members seem to multiply every couple days. All nine members of the young band, however, eventually made it to the stage.

Leading off with “Pineapple Groove,” the alternative-hip-hop-soul-throw-whatever-genre-you-like-in-at-this-point band has a frenetic energy on stage. Playing off of one another, lead singers Ben Stevens and Christian Rougeau, both A&S ’17, served as a dynamic front for the band, with other lead singer Kamau Burton, A&S ’17, missing from the first bit of the set. Rougeau entreated us to rap vocals best compared to Chance the Rapper’s work in an untitled new song, while Steven nearly perfectly channeled Sam Smith in the band’s cover of “Not the Only One.”

In what felt like a miraculous appearance, Burton rejoined the band for its last song, making his way over from a Heightsmen a cappella performance also that evening. Rounding it off with “Where I Wanna Be,” a staple for Juice at this point, the group showed off why Juice has soaked itself so deeply into BC culture over the last year.

Act V. Lucid Soul

Closing up the showcase was Lucid Soul, the winner of BC’s Battle of the Bands two years ago. Back in spring 2013—when the ’70s-inspired rockers were afforded the opportunity to open for Macklemore after winning the music competition—Lucid Soul was very much alone in the ranks of the University’s music scene. Saturday’s showcase showed how independent music culture at BC has since built around innovators like Lucid Soul.

Ostensibly a jam band, Lucid Soul lets the instrumentals do most of the talking, with lead singer James Farrell, A&S ’15, adding big vocal flavor where needed. Running through some of the strongest points in its repertoire, the band closed off with “Wasting Daylight,” a powerful, fast-paced rock ballad.

Tellingly, Saturday’s Lucid Soul performance was a actually just warmup for the band, which later that evening played a live concert in the Mods. The Cabaret Room is a favorite place for BC’s band scene—the site of many of the Music Guild’s open mic nights and related events—but it’s also a space it’s started to outgrow, the popularity of Saturday’s acts extending far beyond the venue orange walls.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor


November 24, 2014

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