In a dimmed Casadesus Recital Hall, a picnic basket and two acoustic guitars lay in the front of the room. After a few minutes of the crowd shouting out adjectives and nouns, prompted by host René Neville, assistant to the chair of the music department, the set was named “Beautiful Dog Park” and became the scene for a peaceful night of folk songs.
“Americana Concert” was performed on Friday, March 13 as part of a series that brings in artists, poets, dancers and musicians from the campus community and provides a venue for them to perform and encourage liberal arts studies. Neville put the series together and explained its importance to the student community.
“The artists that we bring here, they are difference makers in their own communities, and the … series serves to show and act as a road map so liberal arts students can see how they too can make differences in their own communities,” Neville said. “It’s just a little snapshot of what you can do with a liberal arts education.”
The concert was performed by Dan Forsyth and Joe Kollar, two members of the nationally touring folk band Driftwood. Forsyth is the primary songwriter and guitarist for the band, which originated in Binghamton and has played on shows for NPR and music festivals such as FloydFest, AMERICANAFEST and the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. Kollar is the concert manager for BU’s music department and a founding member of Driftwood.
The show consisted of a mixture of traditional Americana folk songs, including songs from Doc Watson and Townes Van Zandt as well as songs that were passed down by generations with no known creator. Forsyth and Kollar discussed how these songs and artists inspired them with their stories, including one about folk singer Van Zandt.
“The first song [Van Zandt] wrote, when he was married at a young age and came from a pretty rich family, he sort of just decided that he was going to be a songwriter one day and turned his closet into a space to write songs,” Kollar said. “He went into the closet and worked and worked and worked until he came out with a song. His wife was pretty excited because she probably assumed it would be a love song about her and he said the song was called ‘Waiting Around to Die.’ The marriage didn’t work out, but he ended up writing some beautiful love songs.”
Kollar also mixed in a few original songs into the set, explaining that his mother chose what songs they should play. He performed one called “The Moon” at her discretion.
“I played this entire set for my mom, who, believe it or not, is quite the critic,” Kollar said. “Very supportive, don’t get her wrong, but if we’re not on fire, she’ll let us know. So I tried all these songs out and I wasn’t going to play this one because it’s brand new, but she said it was good, so here you go.”
Allison Suttenberg, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she enjoyed the show and that it was an escape from the stress of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns on campus.
“I’m not the biggest Americana music fan, but I really enjoyed the songs that they played,” she said. “It’s been a stressful week so it was nice to go to something relaxing.”