UNCA’s Concerts on the Quad return after four-year hiatus

RETURN TRIP: “These folks are seriously high-energy, a quintessential Asheville experience,” says Holly Beveridge of local absurdist gypsy folk funk punk collective Sirius.B. The band kicks off the family-friendly, picnic-perfect Concerts on the Quad series. Photo courtesy of Sirius.B

The nemesis of Garfield and weekday warriors across the globe, Mondays weren’t always such a drag. For 28 years, UNC Asheville’s free Concerts on the Quad series brought happiness to thousands of local residents and summer visitors, transforming the start of the business week into a day of great anticipation.

“[They] had a wonderful picnic-like atmosphere that was very family-friendly,” says Holly Beveridge, the University’s director of cultural events and special academic programs, who began attending the concerts as a student in the early 1990s. “Throughout the years, this became a summertime tradition that my children really enjoyed. It was always nice to run into friends and neighbors, and meet other parents and children playing on the quad. It was a highlight of the week and really extended the summer weekends.”

Throughout this run, Concerts on the Quad maintained its informal, friendly feel with a variety of of musical acts, including Asheville multi-instrumentalist Billy Jonas, Canadian fiddler April Verch, Asheville gypsy jazz group One Leg Up and South Carolina guitarist Cool John Ferguson. Following the summer 2010 installment, however, the series abruptly stopped due to a loss of funding. Shortly thereafter, several community members engaged in a grassroots effort to raise enough funds to restart the series but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, outdoor concerts endured on campus during the academic year. Part of the university’s cultural events series, a September 2012 show by New Orleans’ Lagniappe Brass Band drew a large evening crowd reminiscent of the former summer series. In its wake, conversations began about bringing the series back to UNCA, and in the past year the support of presenting sponsors Mission Health and the Asheville Citizen-Times has made its Monday, June 15, return possible.

Choosing acts for the 2015 season, UNCA staff looked at multiple groups in a range of genres. Factors that went into the selection process included quality and variety of music, stage presence, budget and performer availability to fit into the series’ calendar. “Working out a concert series schedule can sometimes be like fitting together pieces of a complex puzzle, but this year’s lineup came together quite nicely,” Beveridge says.

The organizers also wanted to highlight a mix of of local and regional musicians. They were reminded of the memorable September 2012 performance by self-described “absurdist gypsy folk funk punk” locals Sirius.B, who kicked off the university’s academic year REAL Events series. “These folks are seriously high-energy, a quintessential Asheville experience,” Beveridge says. “We are extremely excited to welcome them back to campus and think they are the perfect group to introduce the return of UNC Asheville’s Concerts on the Quad series.”

Fellow locals stephaniesĭd brings an eclectic mix of pop-noir, jazz and rock to the stage on July 6. The scarcity of bluegrass and Americana music in the REAL Events series helped inspire the booking of Goldsboro country duo The Malpass Brothers (June 29) and Raleigh bluegrass quartet Chatham County Line (July 13). Also hailing from North Carolina is The Ulali Project featuring Pura Fé (June 22), an a capella group known for fusing First Nations music with elements of bluegrass, jazz, soul and folk.

Attendees are invited to bring blankets, chairs and picnic baskets for the 90-minute shows but should leave pets and alcohol at home. The layout of the stage and audience on the quad will be nearly identical to that of the former series, though the addition of two local food trucks at each event will be a new sight. In the case of light rain, Beveridge says the concert will likely continue outdoors, but if severe weather is in the forecast, a call to move the music into Lipinsky Auditorium will be made before noon on the day of the event. Any such changes will be published on the series’ Web page.

Thrilled for the series’ return, UNCA Chancellor Mary K. Grant sees Concerts on the Quad as “one more way to share the campus with the community, offering the beauty and comfort of the grassy quad as a place for families to gather and enjoy great music on summer evenings.” She and the university staff hope to continue the concerts for many years to come and to sustain it through community partnerships and sponsorships.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the vibrant Asheville music scene, showcase local musicians, introduce new bands from a variety of musical genres and welcome the community to the heart of campus,” Grant says. “I invite our neighbors, friends, families and area visitors to come to campus for any of the performances this summer or one of the many cultural events and academic programs that we offer throughout the year.”

WHAT: Concerts on the Quad featuring Sirius.B
WHERE: UNC Asheville, unca.edu
WHEN: Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m. Free

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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