Student musicians and spectators alike flocked to the tent on O’Neill Plaza Thursday night for BC’s Best, an Arts Fest event jointly organized by the Arts Council, the Campus Activities Board (CAB), and Music Guild. An evening dedicated to BC’s homegrown music scene, three singer-songwriters and three bands took to the stage to compete for the opportunity to open for Ayokay, Jeremy Zucker, and Chelsea Cutler at the upcoming Modstock festival.
The event was restructured this year to give the Singer-Songwriter competitors a chance to open for Modstock. In past years, only Battle of the Bands competitors were considered for the performance. Isobel Knight, a soloist, won BC’s Best and will open at Modstock. Unit One won the Battle of the Bands portion of the event.
Dalton Letorney, MCAS ’21, kicked off the Singer-Songwriter portion of the competition with two original songs: “Fantasy” and “Heart on Display.” Letorney opened with comedic quips about his “angsty” songwriting, but ultimately captivated the audience with lyrics like “But I know inside / You don’t see what you’re doing to me.” Both powerful piano ballads that highlighted his impressive vocal ability, the songs spoke to unrequited love and overcoming the fear of being authentic. The audience was on its feet and aggressively cheering long before Letorney finished his last resonating note.
Knight was the next to take center stage, quickly charming the audience with her indie-folk acoustics and intimate vocals. The Sydney-based artist began her three-song set with “Copenhagen,” a track from her debut album The Nest, released on Spotify in early 2018. A song backed by serene fingerpicking, it had the audience swaying along to lyrics like “I’m not gonna kiss people who don’t love me anymore.” Knight followed with “Kitchen Table,” an unreleased song about a serious car accident she had experienced. Although more subdued than its predecessor, the track was just as moving, with Knight’s vocals rising in intensity at the bridge to match the song’s dire subject matter. Knight concluded her set with “Ring a Bell,” an upbeat love song that’s steady guitar thrummed with tangible desire throughout.
Brendan Ronan, MCAS ’19, rounded out the Singer-Songwriter portion of the evening with deft musicality. Performing three original compositions from his band Alpacka, “BC’s resident mountain man” enraptured the audience with his earthly vocals. Ronan opened his set with “Pines,” a song with moving, intimate lyrics like “Have you heard the battle call / Do you know why we’re fighting at all?” The song entered a new cadence at the chorus, taking on a heavier tempo to match the weight of the words. The result was a superb performance that invoked images of the rugged yet peaceful wilderness.
After a brief intermission, the Battle of the Bands portion of the evening commenced with an explosive performance by indie-rock group Word on the Street. Beckoning the audience off their seats and closer to the stage, the band opened its four-song set with “Stuck,” an uptempo track with snazzy guitar riffs and plenty of summer fun. The group also took the time to debut “Superman,” a new song that featured an impressive drum solo from Alex Eichler, MCAS ’20, and skilled vocals from Madeleine McCullough, MCAS ’20.
Shady Lady, a clear crowd favorite and Battle of the Bands incumbent, took the stage soon after. Opening with “Ride or Die,” a bluesy track off its 2018 EP, the five-piece, all-female band commanded the stage with practiced ease. Lead singer Nicole Rodger, MCAS ’19, cruised through the set, delivering impressive vocal runs with little effort. Stevie Walker, MCAS ’21, took the reigns on “Icarus” for a head-banging drum solo that earned her a raucous round of applause from the audience. The group’s chemistry was both palpable and refreshing, the ladies feeding off of each other’s energy for what proved to be a memorable performance.
Unit One wrapped up the evening with indie-rock flair. Despite being the smallest band in the competition, the trio hardly lacked stage presence. Opening with “Came Around,” a track off its debut album Altered State, the group effortlessly roused the audience with its groovy basslines and explosive drum hits. Guitarist Rachel Moon, MCAS ’19, stole the show in the last song of the set, jumping into the middle of the crowd to deliver a rambunctious electric guitar solo that left the audience speechless.
Featured Images by Celine Lim / Heights Editor