Last Friday and Saturday, several student bands – alongside musicians from the North Adams, Williamstown and Pittsfield areas – participated in Billstock, Williamstown’s music festival. The event was held at the Red Herring bar, but was open to guests under 21 as well. The participating student bands included Gentleman Art Thieves, Bread Helmets and Axolotl. This was the first year for Bread Helmets and Axolotl performed in Billstock, but the third consecutive year for Gentlemen Art Thieves.
I spoke with Logan Jester ’16, the lead guitarist for Gentlemen Art Thieves and proud owner of one of the most luscious beards on campus, to get his thoughts on the event. In particular, Jester reflected on the differences between this year’s iteration of Billstock and past years’ versions, which were held at Hops & Vines and a local church. Playing in a small venue like the Red Herring “made the acoustics kind of challenging, but fortunately the sound turned out really well,” Jester said. He also appreciated the intimate nature of the venue. By the time Gentlemen Art Thieves performed, the venue was mostly full, with a healthy mix of local residents and College students, which fostered a fun, lively atmosphere in the audience.
With respect to the College music scene, Billstock is a great opportunity for student bands to garner some publicity. Furthermore, the prospect of playing in major events like this one promotes the formation and sustainability of bands at the College, thereby injecting vibrancy into the College music scene. As Jester put it, “it’s a great opportunity for student bands to get their names out there, and is a really fun opportunity to see and meet other local musicians – a great comingling of students and other, older local musicians.”
Students in attendance as audience members also enjoyed their experience at Billstock. Mike Navarrete ’16 noted how difficult it can be to find live music in Williamstown, and that he couldn’t remember the last time he attended a concert. “I think people always really enjoy when these kind of things happen,” Navarrete said. “I wish we had more opportunities to go see live music, especially when it’s our peers.”
One of my favorite aspects of the event was the opportunity to see so many of my classmates perform, many of whom I had no idea were so talented. It is so easy to forget how multidimensional people are here at the College, but musical showcases like Billstock serve a pleasant, healthy reminders that the College is filled with young adults who are not only scholars, but also are passionate men and women with passions that extend far beyond the classroom.
Although I and most everyone else with whom I discussed Billstock said they had a thoroughly enjoyable time, some students felt as though the event would have been more successful had there been a stronger advertising push. Many students simply did not know that the event was this weekend, while others were unaware of the event’s existence. To illustrate, one person I asked about the concert responded, “What’s a Billstock?”
Given that events like these are usually a great opportunity to get away from the day-to-day grind of Williams, and given that many of these events depend on the attendance of College students to succeed, it seems reasonable to suggest that events like these ought to be heavily publicized in order to maximize each events respective potential. This suggestion, however, does nothing to change the fact that Billstock this past weekend seemed to be a success, and served as an entertaining, rewarding way to spend a Friday or Saturday night in Williamstown.