Echo Fest promotes musicians

By Bonnie Fox – bfox2@unca.edu – Staff Editor | April 8, 2015 |

For some of the first bands in the Echo Fest lineup who normally keep late hours, 10 a.m. was too early in the morning for stage lights.

UNC Asheville’s college radio station, Blue Echo, hosted Echo Fest from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 28, in three locations within Highsmith Student Union. The fest was free and open to all students and the community, with refreshments provided.

“They put these stage lights on us which really hurt my eyes at 11 in the morning,” said Mars Sigler, guitarist for Claypool, which played at 11 a.m. “I joked it was really nice they did that, because then I didn’t have to see the lack of people that were there.”

Pablo Best, a freshman from Chapel Hill, played and worked the fest. He said he noticed a low turnout early on, but reported 375 total attendees throughout the day. This set a record for Blue Echo event attendance.

Last year, Echo Fest drew 150 attendees, back when it was called Music Fest, said Isabella Daniels, a sophomore art and new media student from West Lafayette, Indiana. She is lead singer for the indie punk band Shameful Nameless, which played the fest. She said she also serves as director of external affairs for Blue Echo.

“I feel like we advertised more this year, because I’ve been posting on Facebook about it for months,” Daniels said. “I consider Echo Fest kind of like my baby, because it started when I came here, and I feel a really big connection with Echo Fest. It really grew up this year.”

Daniels said she booked and coordinated all 30 bands who signed up, gathered from her own and fellow disc jockeys’ friends and acquaintances, as well as social media responders. She said last year’s fest featured only 13 bands.

Blue Echo Radio’s events coordinator worked with campus police to organize parking and security, Daniels said. Toan To, assistant director of student engagement for evening and weekend programming, said he served as a liaison between students and school officials as they planned the event.

Performers signed contracts agreeing to honor school conduct rules and policies in order to get on the bill, Sigler said.

“In actually planning it, my role was mostly just sitting back and making sure they didn’t break any policies,” To said. “It was mostly to hold the bands accountable for anything they did, or if they showed up drunk or anything like that, which, I mean, knock on wood, but you just never know.”

Sigler, 19, from Hampton, Virginia, does not attend UNCA, though his bassist is a former student. His band usually plays house shows and venues like the Odditorium. Of the handful of audience members who showed up to see the earliest acts, he said, the only ones moshing were two or three non-student Claypool fans. Everyone else stayed seated, he said.

Better organization and technical support would benefit future fests and bands who play them, Sigler said. Upon arrival, his band received no directions on where to load in, he said, and once onstage, there were technical difficulties. They also didn’t realize they had only 20 minutes to perform, which may have been a band miscommunication.

Best, 20, said he noticed some of that, but had a better experience. His self-described sludge metal band Erectile Destruction went on a little after Claypool, he said. He attributed communication and setup kinks to it being too early in the day.

“But, as time went by — especially when I came back to work, giving people their wristbands and scanning cards — when I saw those bands playing, they had time to sound check, they played full sets,” Best said, “and people were really out there checking it out, digging it.”

Best hosts The Sad Bastard Hour on Blue Echo, Sundays at 6 p.m. and Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. He said he noticed prospective students passing through on tours with their parents returned for more music after their tours.

Daniels addressed organizational flaws by pointing out they had a smaller staff on hand during the fest’s early hours. Also, she said they originally hoped to set up on the Quad, but chilly temperatures thwarted those plans.

Looking ahead to next year, Daniels said she hoped weather would permit Echo Fest happening on the Quad.

“It was a great chance for us to kind of get the campus community together for music,” To said. “I think it’s a great opportunity, especially with the amount of talent that we have around. Most of them were local bands, so I’m happy that they got some exposure, and that they are able to get things going for themselves.”

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