By Anthony Garcia
As the fall semester comes to a close, Student Soloist Night offered an opportunity for students to escape the stress of upcoming finals and listen to original music by their peers.
Students escaped the cold weather and dined at Traditions on Nov. 27 while enjoying two sets of music organized by CUB Alt in the Traditions Lounge at 8 p.m.
The first to perform was Christian Simpson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, whose set included a mixture of piano, guitar, synthetic production and vocals.
Simpson opened the night with an original song titled “Chasing My Dreams,” which featured textured piano and passionate vocals. The layered instrumentation provided an ambient landscape for Simpson’s rich accompanying vocals.
“Chasing my dreams and not my fears,” Simpson sang.
His second song, “Reach Out,” began with a futuristic synth line and a solid drum beat before adding vocals. Flawlessly, the set transitioned into two Lauv covers, “Never Not” and “I Like Me Better” in which Simpson threw a guitar over his shoulder and belted emotional lyrics.
Although Simpson has performed before, he admitted he was nervous doing a complete set on his own.
“It takes guts to get up on that stage, but I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
The fourth song, titled “Eighteen,” was a self-composed tune, which induced a sense of nostalgia as the audience reflected on their youth. Simpson’s style echoed the sound of groups such as Coldplay and Owl City, as the song featured a memorable hook and atmospheric production.
“I’ve been playing piano since about the age of 6,” he said. “I picked up the guitar around 12,” he said.
Next up was a song off the artist’s debut album, which was released last year. The title track, “Time Thief,” was the highlight of the night. The song had a bold pop beat that pounded rhythmically behind a punchy chord progression. Simpson’s rap vocals showcased the artist’s versatility in expression, and his high-paced rhymes had students bobbing their heads to the beat. Heads nodded — the song was a fan favorite.
“It’s great to see someone who’s truly a musician through and through,” said Stephanie Sonbati, a sophomore English and communication studies double major. “He definitely killed it.”
The musician finished his set with a heartfelt cover of the holiday song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
“This song is dedicated to my mother, who is thousands of miles away and won’t be home on Christmas,” he said.
This song appropriately capped off his set especially as the year is transitioning into the holiday season.
Next up, Alex Gerlach, a junior English major, and Ryan Fields, a junior finance major, took the stage to perform a compilation of covers. The musical chemistry of the tandem was evident as they joyfully entertained the audience with compelling singing and instrumentation.
The set began with Fields strumming guitar chords while Gerlach’s piano playing and soulful voice instantly captivated all of those within the restaurant. The groups cover of “Flume” by Bon Iver came to a climax when Fields joined Gerlach with vocals during the chorus, which was how they stylized their duets throughout the four-song tracklist.
Fields and Gerlach showed off their individual talent through the song “Jolene” by Ray Lamontagne. They performed with strong vocals and music production.
The two said they threw this set together after only playing with each other a handful of times. Through some mistakes and technical difficulties, the duo approached their performance with both humor and professionalism.
“Maybe we’ll play together again in the future,” Gerlach said.
The third song, a cover of “Just When I Needed You Most” by Randy Van Warmer, was full of jazzy vocals and Gerlach’s melodic piano solo that accompanied Fields’ guitar chords and soft backing vocals.
The last song showcased the musicians at their best. The upbeat cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty engaged the crowd as students began to clap along or tap their feet.
Their set was filled with confident guitar ballads, classical piano arrangements and fervent singing from both members.