This year’s Boston College’s Best Competition featured Rhiannon Simpson (the University of Melbourne) as the winner of the Singer-Songwriter Competition and Little Saturday as the winner of Battle of the Bands.
The first half was intimate, with a small number of people in the seats, and presented relaxed lighting while solo artists, and one duo, played sweet music with engaging lyrics. During the later half, bands brought their fanbase with them to dance in front of the stage to their powerful and great sound.
Six artists, three in each category, competed with their own compositions in front of an enthusiastic audience. In the singer-songwriter category, each artist’s performance was unique to their personality and sound, while the bands’ styles were as diverse as the instruments used in each band. The night opened with a duo of artists, Nick Martin, LSOE ’17, and Andrew Cloutier, CSOM ’17, playing guitar and piano, respectively. The duo possessed uniquely clear and strong songwriting. Both of their sad tenor voices brought along enough charm and poignancy to give life to their songs. Martin and Cloutier admitted that their songs take anywhere from five minutes to five years to write, but all tugged on heartstrings.
Rachel Moon, MCAS ’19, the following artist, had an unusually twangy-tuned guitar, but the little slap rhythm, combined with her heartfelt and belted vocals put on an engaging performance. Moon’s songs also featured wonderful lyrics such as “I will key your car” to a guy who had angered her, or “You had the power to break my heart, boy did you ever use it.” In addition, they would be about courageous topics like “doing stuff that terrifies you and trying to enjoy it.” Moon is also the guitarist and vocalist of Unit One, a band that performed at the first round of Battle of the Bands. Unit One will be performing at BC’s upcoming “Break the Bubble” event.
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The Battle of the Bands portion of the event suffered from some production issues, such as an overly receptive microphone stationed near the bass drum. This ensured that the drums would drown out the band vocalists, which detracted from the event’s sound quality. The Outliers were the best dressed band of the evening, as the bassist wore a Scottish kilt and everyone else wore a button-down and a tie. They had a guitarist who sang, a bassist, a trumpeter, and a drummer. While the mixing didn’t help the clarity of the sound, The Outliers had the clearest vocalist, which added to their smooth, bluesy sound.
Afterward, the band O2 emerged on stage. O2 was the only group that did not have a dedicated singer. It completely went against expectations, but it was able to create music that had plenty of great licks, wild solos, and a nice jazzy feel with only guitars, basses, and drums. Its lead guitarist, Matthew Chilton, CSOM ’18, “battled” back and forth with bassist, Nicholas Rocchio-Giordano, MCAS ’18, performing intricate solos. Placing the band second-to-last was a good choice in the lineup as it gave a break for the audience on vocals. Although at some points of the evening the voices on display were too excessive and jarring, not having a voice to latch onto for O2 left everyone wanting more.
The Arts Fest coordinators must have known to save the best for last, however, as both closing artists—Simpson and Little Saturday—won their respective categories. Both had the best stage presence and dramatic structure in their music. Simpson’s writing in particular showed a willingness to tackle many issues most artists don’t speak about, like a song about “a gay woman who’s also an adult entertainer.” Her songwriting aptitude also came through with her guitar playing, as she incorporated pauses, wonderful harmonies, and resounding fervor into her performance. Simpson’s attitude won over the crowd and judges, and her award was well-deserved.
Little Saturday, comprised of Peter Toronto, MCAS ’20, on guitar and vocals; Andrew Hammond, MCAS ’18, on bass and vocals; Sunny Luo, MCAS ’17, on keyboard; Isaiah Rawlinson, MCAS ’18, on saxophone; Alex Eichler, MCAS ’20, on drums; and Zach Pugliares, MCAS ’19, on guitar, created the best stories onstage as a band, since its music had incredible variation and felt dramatic in its orchestration—there were slow and fast sections in several of its songs, and it stayed in sync throughout the evening. Nothing in its lineup felt out of place or unwarranted, even when the keyboardist unexpectedly brought out his keytar, and the drummer whipped out a trombone, because why not? Little Saturday’s electric performance will translate well to their upcoming performance at Modstock this coming Thursday where they will open up for Louis the Child.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor